When it comes to blooding young wide forwards, an argument can be made that AS Monaco are peerless.
That list could soon be added to. With the club now stable after a fraught relegation battle last term, manager Leonardo Jardim could opt to give 17-year-old Willem Geubbels a starring role in his forward line during the 2019/20 campaign.
A certified wonderkid, Geubbels was part of the Lyon academy and looked set to be the latest in a long list of players to head straight into the club’s first team.
However, Monaco flexed their financial muscle and in the summer of 2018 parted with €20million to capture the talented teen, with Europe’s elite reportedly circling.
His debut season with the Monégasque club was a disappointing one. The 2016/17 Ligue 1 champions struggled and on a personal level, a series of injuries prevented Geubbels from having any sort of impact.
He missed the majority of the 2018/19 campaign with muscle strains, hamstring issues and a knee injury. He made just one appearance in the French top flight for Monaco, a seven-minute cameo against Lille in August.
If Geubbels is able to shake off the injuries and do enough in training to show Jardim he can be part of the first-team this season, he could explode onto the scene in a similar manner to Mbappé.
In the Portuguese tactician, the former Lyon youngster has the perfect coach to help him develop. It was Jardim who helped nurture Mbappé before his big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain. It was Jardim who realised the French wonderkid would be best served as a centre-forward alongside Radamel Falcao as opposed to playing as a winger.
The Monaco manager wasn’t solely responsible for Mbappé’s transformation but he built an environment which allowed the future superstar to flourish. The team is now completely different but that doesn’t mean Jardim can’t set up Monaco to get the best out of Geubbels.
He’s potentially a world-class player so making him pivotal to the attack, even at a young age, is vital if he’s to fulfil his potential.
In many ways, Geubbels is similar to Mbappé. He uses his acceleration to exploit spaces others couldn’t. He’s always eager to get in behind and his trademark run is across the centre-backs, something the PSG man has already mastered despite his tender years.
Geubbels has a great sense of when and how to make these runs, breaking the line of the last defender and charging through on goal to find himself one-on-one. He’s able to finish with both feet and is calm under-pressure. But he’s not yet and proven and reliable goalscorer, that comes with experience.
Not just a one-trick pony, regardless of what team he has played for, he also attempts to drop deep into the midfield, using his 6ft 1ins frame to link up play, then using his pace and ability to gallop up the field to get in behind.
Geubbels often displays great intelligence both in and out of possession. His passes highlight his vision and his movement shows he thinks things through as opposed to relying on pace like others with a similar skill set.
Monaco will have a better season this time around but if they’re to break into the top three again then they’re going to need a wildcard. An unpredictable player capable of making something happen out of nothing. All of those clubs looking to finish as the best of the rest in Ligue 1 have one.
Lille had Nicolas Pépé last term. Lyon had Nabil Fekir the season prior. And Ronny Lopes emerged for Monaco and netted 15 in the French league.
A fully-fit Geubbels is a potential game-changer, a match-winner and a difference-maker all rolled into one. If all goes to plan, Jardim and the club could be fending off interest from Europe’s elite for their teenage star.