Inside the rise of Jeremie Frimpong: From hat-tricks in two games on the same day before joining Man City's academy to the heart and soul of Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga title party – and now he's a key target for Man United
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Inside the rise of Jeremie Frimpong: From hat-tricks in two games on the same day before joining Man City's academy to the heart and soul of Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga title party – and now he's a key target for Man United

May 10, 2024

Amid Bayer Leverkusen’s once-in-a-lifetime celebrations after finally winning a Bundesliga title, Jeremie Frimpong was asked what’s his secret for a happy life.

‘Just have a smile, just enjoy life because you only live once. So whilst we’re on this earth just have fun, love others and give positive energy and then life is good,’ he answered.

Frimpong certainly has plenty to smile about at the moment. The Dutch right wing-back has played an important role in Leverkusen’s extraordinary season.

Xabi Alonso‘s side have broken Bayern Munich’s 11-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga title, winning their first one ever and remained undefeated into the bargain.

They could yet add the German Cup and the UEFA Europa League to their collection, with the second leg of their quarter-final tie against West Ham ahead on Thursday. They lead 2-0.

Jeremie Frimpong was at the heart of Bayer Leverkusen's celebrations as they finally ended their long wait for a maiden Bundesliga title last weekend

Jeremie Frimpong was at the heart of Bayer Leverkusen’s celebrations as they finally ended their long wait for a maiden Bundesliga title last weekend

The wing-back has enjoyed an excellent season as Leverkusen finally ended decades of hurt

The wing-back has enjoyed an excellent season as Leverkusen finally ended decades of hurt

Frimpong has become a fundamental player for Xabi Alonso, with his system a perfect fit

Frimpong has become a fundamental player for Xabi Alonso, with his system a perfect fit 

Frimpong, 23, went viral at the weekend after he mocked team-mate Granit Xhaka’s failure to win the Premier League at Arsenal and then propped himself on broadcaster Archie Rhind-Tutt’s shoulder while giving a TV interview that just oozed happiness.

It hasn’t taken long for him to be linked with a move to Manchester United this summer with his contract reportedly containing a £34million release clause – if activated before Euro 2024.

If it happens, the move would take him back to the place where his football career started, in the academy of Manchester City.

He didn’t make the first-team there, instead coming to attention at Celtic, where the youngster’s raw pace and tenacity brought him to attention and won plaudits.

But it’s after signing for Leverkusen in January 2021, that Frimpong’s career has really taken off – and in particular under Alonso’s tutelage.

Because Frimpong likes to station himself firmly in the opposition’s half, some coaches consider him too offensively-minded to work effectively as a wing-back.

But his abilities suit Alonso’s favoured 3-4-3 system perfectly and while Leverkusen were second-bottom of the table when the Spaniard took over in October 2022, they are transformed now.

In truth, Frimpong has progressively moved backwards on the pitch. He was a striker when he first pitched up at Clayton FC in east Manchester aged eight, not too long after mum Bernice and her seven kids moved to the UK from the Netherlands in 2007.

Jeremie Frimpong's jubilant interview after winning the Bundesliga has gone viral

Jeremie Frimpong’s jubilant interview after winning the Bundesliga has gone viral 

His older brother Jeffrey used to offer incentives to score goals – money to put towards buying a PS3 – but that became pretty expensive when Jeremie started netting 50 a season.

The youngster spoke little English when he first moved to Manchester but made friends through playing football, which was all he ever wanted to do.

Some Saturdays would see him play for AFC Clayton in the mornings and then for Clayton Villa in the afternoons – often he’d score hat-tricks for both.

There was interest from Blackburn, Bolton and Liverpool but City’s academy not only offered opportunity but was within travelling distance of the Frimpong home.

Mind you, that still required taking three busses so mum Bernice, when not working multiple jobs to keep the family fed, would travel with her little football prodigy, the pair enjoying chicken and chips after the training sessions.

Frimpong rose rapidly through City’s youth team ranks and was in their squad for two FA Youth Cup finals – but the pathway to Pep Guardiola’s first team was far from clear.

‘I think when I was in the under-23s at City, I remember going in for a new contract and that’s when I knew my path at City was different,’ Frimpong told SportBible earlier this year.

‘They were talking about how I couldn’t get into the team and were comparing me to other players in the academy that were doing better than me.

Frimpong (left) in action for Manchester City's under-23 side against Arsenal's Bukayo Saka

Frimpong (left) in action for Manchester City’s under-23 side against Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka

It was following a £300,000 move from City to Celtic that Frimpong's career really took off

It was following a £300,000 move from City to Celtic that Frimpong’s career really took off

‘I thought, ‘yeah, I clearly don’t have a future here,’ so I’ve got to take a different step.’

Celtic came in for him in September 2019 and a £300,000 move north of the border proved the springboard for Frimpong’s career.

On his debut in senior football, a Scottish League Cup tie against Partick Thistle, he was man of the match.

He was rewarded with a starting place in the final against Rangers but was sent off for fouling Alfredo Morelos in the box. Fortunately for Frimpong, Morelos missed and Celtic went on to win 1-0.

Fans voted him Celtic’s young player of the year for 2019-20 and within 18 months, Leverkusen had come in with a £10million bid.

23 goals and 31 assists later, Frimpong will now forever be engraved in Leverkusen history as part of the team that lifted a 119-year curse.

Frimpong saw red for Celtic against Rangers in the 2019-20 Scottish League Cup final

Frimpong saw red for Celtic against Rangers in the 2019-20 Scottish League Cup final

But Celtic went on to win the final 1-0, meaning Frimpong's (left) red card didn't cost them

But Celtic went on to win the final 1-0, meaning Frimpong’s (left) red card didn’t cost them

His dribbling and chance creation have reached new heights this season in a winning side, with Alonso’s three-man defence offering him licence to storm forward.

Eligible to play for the Netherlands, Ghana and England, Frimpong was part of Louis van Gaal’s Dutch squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but didn’t get on the pitch.

Ronald Koeman handed him a debut in a Euro 2024 qualifier against France in October 2023 not long after upsetting him by turning down a call-up for the Under- 21 Euros.

Frimpong has played twice for the Netherlands, including against Scotland in March

Frimpong has played twice for the Netherlands, including against Scotland in March

Frimpong made his second appearance in March’s 4-0 win over Scotland and his Leverkusen form makes him a strong candidate to play in this summer’s European Championship.

His club contract runs until 2028 but interest in Frimpong will only intensify and his value could well soar with a good Euros.

In the meantime, Leverkusen’s happy-go-lucky wing-back will just keep on smiling.


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