Jeremie Frimpong to Man Utd or Chelsea makes no sense - but a £35m move to this Premier League rival does

Manchester United and Chelsea may have been linked with Jeremie Frimpong, but as it stands a divisional rival look like the Dutchman's most enticing option.
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It’s not even been two months since Bayer Leverkusen wing-back Jeremie Frimpong signed a lucrative new long-term contract with the German league leaders – but that hasn’t stopped speculation from mounting that a number of Europe’s biggest teams are looking to sign him next summer. Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have all come up in the continent’s gossip columns over recent weeks, and the Dutch defender is certainly a man in high demand.

The speculation has only increased since the recent revelation that Frimpong’s new deal, which theoretically ties him to Leverkusen until 2028, includes a release clause of €40m (£34.7m) – not the kind of figure that will put a superclub off for very long. The odds on Frimpong making it all the way to the end of his five-year deal certainly seem rather slim.

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The question is less about whether he leaves his current club than where he goes next – which itself essentially can be read as “which big teams really need an extremely attacking right wing-back?”. Because while Frimpong’s quality is essentially undeniable at this point, he would not be a natural fit for every manager’s scheme.

Frimpong is an almost entirely attacking player, and even the most generous scout would be hard pressed to describe him as a highly effective defender. He doesn’t contribute many turnovers, doesn’t attempt many tackles and doesn’t have a very high success rate when he does – and spends considerably more time in the opposing half than his own.

In other words, he can best be described as Trent Alexander-Arnold, only more so – turned all the way up to 11. Teams that want a balanced right-sided defender, one who keeps attacking sides at bay as well as playing a role in the final third, need not apply. Frimpong started his senior career as a right-back at Celtic, but at this stage in his development is essentially a winger who starts from deeper positions, and playing him in a system which doesn’t want to maximise the attacking output of wide wing-backs would make very little sense.

That’s likely why he’s been such a hit at Leverkusen, where Xabi Alonso lines his team up with a three-man central defence to allow the wing-backs the freedom to push upfield. It’s also why he looks like a strange player for United to look at, at least under Erik ten Hag. Bringing Frimpong to Old Trafford only makes sense if the club are contemplating a complete reimagination of their tactical make-up. He may as well be the Anti-Wan Bissaka.

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Frimpong would certainly boost the attacking output of a team like United, but he would be a radical departure. By comparison with Diogo Dalot, for instance, Frimpong scores more than four times as frequently and provides assists five times as often. He both shoots and dribbles the ball well over twice as much – all while Dalot triples Frimpong’s number of tackles and makes more than ten times as many interceptions. Frimpong has succeeded in making exactly half of his attempted tackled so far in the 2023/24 season, while Dalot is at 77.3%. In other words, while they may nominally play the same sort of position, they are poles apart in every regard as players.

Frimpong would suit a hard-pressing, heavy metal football team that look to attack as often as dangerously as humanly possible. Perhaps United could stand to have a little more of that attitude in their lives, but it certainly doesn’t match the way they play under Ten Hag. Liverpool, however, are a much more natural match.

There’s only one reason a player whose playing style and attacking output resembles Alexander-Arnold so much wouldn’t necessarily fit in at Anfield – Alexander-Arnold himself. Jürgen Klopp has never shown much inclination towards rotating his first-choice full-backs before, so the only logical reason for Liverpool to sign Frimpong would be if they were serious about making Alexander-Arnold a full-time central midfielder. There certainly don’t seem to be many other rational ways to get them both on the field at the same time.

But from a philosophical standpoint, Klopp would love his pace, his directness, his willingness and ability to get into the box from deep areas and the amount of space he’s capable of finding down the right flank to receive passes. He’s a huge overlapping threat and excellent at coming inside of a forward who stays wider – and very few attacking full-backs can threaten the opposition as effectively in both ways.

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Chelsea could make some use of Frimpong too if they went back to a back three, but that doesn’t seem likely under Mauricio Pochettino. If they’re playing a back four, Reece James’ more well-rounded game surely fits the bill better, although given the England full-back’s recurring injury issues having another player who can play the role doesn’t seem so ridiculous. That said, we haven’t seen any sign that Chelsea want their full-backs to get so far up the pitch, so often since Pochettino took over, so Stamford Bridge doesn’t seem like a very sensible destination.

Frimpong will have plenty of suitors and plenty of time to make up his mind. With Leverkusen looking to become the first team other than Bayern to lift the Bundesliga title since 2012 and the ink barely dry on his current deal, he’ll surely stay put until next summer at the very least – and who knows if sides like United and Chelsea will have the same management by then. Circumstances could easily change. Wherever he goes – he’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

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