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They say the hardest thing in football is putting the ball in the back of the net. But, for Alexandre Mlinde, challenging that age-old cliché is simply second nature.
“I always say to myself; ‘you must go home having scored at least one goal’. I always want to score more. In my last league game, we won 4-2 and I scored all four!” says this 18-year-old Marseille fanatic, speaking exclusively to HITC.
France has given the world game so many natural-born goalscorers since the turn of the century, from fleet-footed sorcerers like Thierry Henry and Alexandre Lacazette to classic ‘number nines’ in the mould of Olivier Giroud.
And Mlinde, a young striker with an insatiable desire for goals, certainly his heart set on following in their footsteps by making his name across the Channel.
He enjoyed a trial with West Ham United in July 2018 after hitting the net at a remarkable rate for French minnows AS Minguettes. And Mlinde admits to HITC that he wouldn’t think twice about a return to the London Stadium – or England in general.
“If West Ham offer me another trial of course I’ll come back. It’s a really great club and it’s a club that will be playing at the top of the table in the years to come,” Mlinde enthused. “I’d like to play with (Manuel) Lanzini and Sebastian Haller.
“I love West Ham, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City. I like all English clubs; the standard of football, the atmosphere, the fans. It makes me dream.”
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In Haller, the club-record £40 million signing who joined in July after a superb season in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt, Mlinde has a fellow Frenchman now leading the line in claret and blue.
But while Haller is something of an old-school throwback, the prototype targetman with a formidable leap and steel-capped elbows, Mlinde instead models his game upon two inimitable, modern-day legends who continue to trouble the scoresheets for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on a weekly basis.
“I compare my style to Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane; Aguero’s speed and dribbling and Kane’s physique and instinct. They’re incredible,” says Mlinde, who also spent a short spell at Luton Town three years ago.
“I try to be as skilful as possible in front of goal.”
'I'm thinking about Leeds'
After plundering 14 goals in 16 games for FC Venissieux, a local outfit based in the suburbs of Lyon, Mlinde is currently on the lookout for a fresh start in new surroundings. He recently came close to joining 2017 Ligue 1 champions Monaco while Luxembourg outfit F91 Dudelange also expressed an interest.
But there’s one proud old club in West Yorkshire who has caught Mlinde’s eye.
“I’m thinking about Leeds,” the teenager admits. “I really like this club and I hope they go up to the Premier League.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s reputation might be forever tainted in France thanks to that horrific 19-month spell at Lille but Mlinde is in no doubt of the Argentine’s famed ability to eke every drop of potential out of his budding young talents.
And in Victor Orta, Leeds’ bespectacled talent-spotter, Elland Road is home to a director of football who loves nothing more than sifting around in the dirt for unpolished, uncut diamonds, signing Mateusz Bogusz, Illan Meslier and Liam McCarron from clubs in Poland, France and, erm, Cumbria.
“Marcelo Bielsa is a coach who makes you progress a lot and I know that if I have the chance to have him as a coach I will become a real striker,” Mlinde gushes.
With only the erratic Patrick Bamford and the 20-year-old Eddie Nketiah to rely upon, promotion-chasing Leeds look worrying short of options in attack as they embark upon another gruelling Championship campaign.
They, like so many clubs in England’s first two divisions, could certainly do worse than to take a chance on Mlinde, a natural-born goalscorer who just needs a platform to show what he can do.
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