Former England forward Gary Lineker believes there will be a host of clubs looking to sign Belgian Jeremy Doku after his performances at Euro 2020.
Although Belgium were knocked out of Euro 2020 at the quarter-final stage, losing 2-1 to Italy, Doku has been one of the highlights of the tournament, filling in for the injury-hit Eden Hazard by causing problems down the left.
Against Italy alone, Doku completed eight take-ons, the most a teenager has managed in a single game at major tournaments in Opta’s records, dating back to the 1966 World Cup and Euro 1980. It was also the most a player has managed in a single game at Euro 2020, with Alexander Isak (six vs Slovakia) Doku’s closest rival at the tournament.
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The game against Italy was just Doku’s second appearance at Euro 2020, with the previous outing coming against Finland in the final game of the group stage as top spot was all-but guaranteed. An unused substitute against Russia, Denmark and Portugal, Doku played 166 minutes of Euro 2020 before Belgium’s exit and averaged 5.45 take-ons per 90 minutes, created 1.64 chances and had 1.64 shots, albeit without scoring or assisting.
His performances had fans watching from home purring and dreaming of a potential big more for Doku, including Lineker, who was covering the game for BBC.
“Young Jeremy Doku is making me dizzy,” Lineker tweeted after the game.
“There’ll be a queue of clubs wanting a Doku sign.”
Doku plays his club football for Rennes, joining the Ligue 1 side from Anderlecht last summer, playing 37 games across all competitions including six in the Champions League. The move to Rennes came after Doku had previously been linked with a move to England in 2018, having made a name for himself as part of Anderlecht’s academy with clubs looking to sign him for his first senior deal.
Liverpool were the team that advanced furthest with their talks, as Doku got as far as meeting Jurgen Klopp and a variety of other big names at the club, though he ultimately opted to stay with Anderlecht.
“I was going to be 16 and that was the age you can sign a pro contract. A lot of teams came to see me,” Doku told Ouest-France in March.
“Everyone talks about Liverpool because it was the most concrete interest but there was also Arsenal and Chelsea.”
“I was able to discuss with Jurgen, [Sadio] Mane, [Georginio] Wijnaldum… [Steven] Gerrard too. I talked a lot with Mane but we didn’t really talk about football.
“We talked about everything. He told me that I was young, that I still had time, he wasn’t trying to convince me or to say to me ‘come here, you will succeed’.”
“I needed to stay at Anderlecht”
According to the player’s father, David, Doku had been tipped to be a potential successor for Mane at Liverpool, with the club his personal preference.
“Klopp explained how he saw a potential successor to Sadio Mane in Jeremy,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
“At the age of 16, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, Ajax and PSV were interested. We then visited clubs like Liverpool and Ajax. My preference was Liverpool.
“Steven Gerrard showed us videos with tactical analysis. At the training complex [Simon] Mignolet, Mane and [Georginio] Wijnaldum came to talk to us. How we were received there – damn!”
But Doku opted to remain at Anderlecht, later admitting it was the right decision for his career at the time.
“I preferred to be careful,” Doku added.
“I knew what my trajectory had to be. That’s why, at 15, I told myself it had become serious, because I’d seen my career. I know what route I needed to take and I knew at that moment I needed to stay at Anderlecht.”