Luka Jović had a dream 2018/19 campaign for Eintracht Frankfurt. For many, it was unexpected. The highly-rated 21-year-old Serbian had struggled to adapt to life with Benfica following his move from Red Star Belgrade.
His stock had fallen. He was edging towards the failed wonderkids category when Die Adler made their move, signing him on a two-year loan during the summer of 2017.
During his first season with the Bundesliga club, he was used sparingly, appearing in just 929 minutes in the German top flight. Yet despite the lack of playing time, Jović finished the season with eight goals to his name, 0.77 per 90 minutes.
Even more impressive was the fact his expected goals per 90 average was 0.81. Although the sample size was fairly limited, it showed Jović’s return was sustainable and he wasn’t just running hot.
He was given more of a starring role in Adi Hütter‘s starting XI and he validated his manager’s faith with goals. Plenty of them. He netted 17 times in the Bundesliga and found the back of the net on ten occasions in the Europa League.
His expected goals per 90 average for the season was 0.6. Nowhere near as high as last season’s 0.81 but still an impressive average to maintain in over 3,000 minutes of action.
Europe’s elite are reportedly queuing up to sign him with young, talented forwards being at a premium these days. But he isn’t the only one out there aged 21 or under with impressive numbers.
Here, we take a look at four players who could well be the next attacker to catch the eye.
Inter got in early to land the Argentine starlet. Linked with Atlético Madrid and Liverpool before the move to the San Siro, the Serie A side parted with close to £20million to land the Racing Club forward in the summer of 2018.
He announced himself to the Nerazzurri faithful with a stunning goal in the International Champions Cup game against Atlético.
He was thrust into the spotlight this season after Mauro Icardi’s indiscretions and he performed well. He finished 2018/19 with 0.47 goals per 90 but what was even more impressive was his expected goals average of 0.64.
Yes, he underperformed it but the fact he was getting such high-quality opportunities on a regular basis is positive. It shows he’s a natural chance-getter and with experience, he’s likely going to improve.
Inter are rumoured to be interested in signing Romelu Lukaku this summer with Icardi believed to be on his way out. Antonio Conte might be best served to keep that £80million and to give Martínez the chance.
RB Leipzig have a knack for unearthing previously undervalued talent. Naby Keïta, Timo Werner, Dayot Upamecano and Emil Forsberg were all known, to an extent, before their move to the Red Bull Arena, but it was only after performing for the Bundesliga side that the mainstream masses began to take note.
As an 18-year-old Cunha netted 10 goals for FC Sion in the Swiss league. RB Leipzig then signed him during the summer of 2018 and the move went a little under the radar.
Manager Ralf Rangnick then started to bed him into the team and his class quickly became apparent when his goal against Bayer Leverkusen went viral.
While his return of 0.21 goals per 90 isn’t anything to write home about, his expected goals average was 0.49. The sample size is small but so was Jović’s during his first season in the Bundesliga.
Cunha is another who just seems to be chance-getter. The more experience he gets in the first-team, the better he’ll be. Leipzig once feared losing Timo Werner, but they might have someone even better.
Lyon don’t make mistakes in the transfer market. Not recently anyway. But letting Mateta leave for £8million is starting to look like a bit of an error.
The 21-year-old needed minutes at the top level to show what he could do and he wasn’t going to get that at Lyon. However, another loan away from the Groupama Stadium may have been a better solution.
He spent the 2017/18 season on loan with Le Havre in Ligue 2, scoring 19 goals in 37 appearances. He continued that close to a goal every game record after joining Mainz, finishing his debut season with the club having averaged 0.5 goals per 90.
His expected goals average was 0.48, meaning his return is sustainable, and he managed it while playing for a mid-table club. With better players around him and better service, that figure could well rise.
Inter seem to have a knack for finding these talents. Pinamonti has been tipped as the next great striker for the Nerazzurri for a number of years now. However, with Icardi standing in his way he wasn’t going to get the minutes needed at the San Siro to really kick on.
Martínez’s arrival pushed him further down the pecking order and a loan move was on the cards for the 20-year-old.
He was loaned to Frosinone and appeared in 1,622 minutes as the club finished 19th in Serie A. From a club perspective, it was a season to forget. However, from Pinamonti’s perspective, it was just what he needed.
He finished the 2018/19 campaign with five goals but his expected goal average was 0.4 per 90 minutes. Remarkable given the team he played for and the chances were fairly limited. In a stronger XI, the youngster could do some damage.