Though he won’t be the biggest move of the transfer window, he could well be one of the best signings made by any team across Europe.
Southampton parted with £14million for the 20-year-old. On paper, the price may seem a little steep. The Mali international only moved to Europe in 2017 and has just one season of regular first-team football under his belt.
But when looking at his profile, it becomes abundantly clear that the Premier League side have signed a potential gem. A player with all of the traits needed to terrorise top-flight defenders for the next decade.
The £14million fee could soon prove a bargain and his arrival suggests the Saints are moving back towards what made them successful. Shrewd scouting is what will help them return to being the poster club for every team outside of the top six in the Premier League.
— Standard de Liège (@Standard_RSCL) June 13, 2019
Djenepo could emulate Sadio Mané at St Mary’s. The comparison may seem like a lazy one but the former Standard Liége man shares a number of traits with the Champions League winner.
It’s perhaps one of the main reasons the club felt like he was worth the investment.
Like the ex-Saint, Djenepo is aggressive when in possession. He looks to isolate defenders before beating them on either flank. His unpredictability makes him difficult to stop. He had a lot of joy in the Belgian league, completing an impressive 2.71 dribbles on a per 90 minute basis.
But beating a man is only half the challenge. The important part is having a final ball, and the 20-year-old, despite his tender years, delivers.
He was involved in 11 goals in the Jupiler Pro League last term having appeared in 2,109 minutes. Of the eight goals he scored, seven arrived in the penalty area. It shows his output is sustainable and he isn’t relying on 30-yard stunners to boost his tally.
Of those seven in the area, four came within the six-yard box, which highlights how he regularly gets into high-quality scoring positions.
Another indication that Djenepo is a genuine goal threat is the average number of touches in the opposition’s box that he has. The higher that is, the more likely the player is going to be involved in a goal. For added context, during his Southampton days, Mané averaged 4.61.
He’s not a high volume player in the sense he doesn’t rely on many shots for his goals. Last season, he averaged a goal for every three shots he registered on target.
His trickery resulted in him winning two penalties, a stat only two players could better in the Belgian league.
Furthermore, his eye-catching form wasn’t exclusive to domestic competition. He also performed in the Europa League, netting three times in just 376 minutes for Les Rouches.
Though primarily a wide forward, there’s no reason he couldn’t be developed into a player who could lead the line. Ralph Hasenhüttl did just that during his RB Leipzig days when he transformed Timo Werner from a left winger into a centre-forward.
Djenepo could be a key part of the Southampton forward line next season. His acceleration could be vital to Hasenhüttl’s pressing style, with him being used to close down passing angles which then allows the Saints to set traps elsewhere.
His high energy approach will quickly endear him to the supporters as well as his team-mates. He’s the perfect signing for Southampton and Hasenhüttl. A bargain buy in the making.