And so it’s finally happened. For the first time since George Hannah moved to Lincoln City in 1957, (fingers crossed) we’ve got a palindromic striker!

Given that Hannah also holds the distinction of being the last United player to score in a Wembley winning team – he scored the third in the 3-1 defeat of Man City in 1955 – I think we all know already what’s going to happen on 3 June 2023. Stick a tenner on wor Hugo for the Cup final, cancel all your plans for that month, and someone put the NHS on alert for mass hysteria and catastrophic alcohol poisoning across the whole of Tyneside.

Of course, what we’ve also got is one of the continent’s hottest young properties, a 19-year old coveted by Borussia Dortmund as a long-term replacement for Erling Haaland, if the rumours are to be believed.

After pipping Arsenal, Juventus and others to Bruno, this is dangerously close to looking like a concerted strategy to reduce the average age of our squad and secure world-class talent that we can develop and improve. I do not understand this. Pass me the smelling salts.

Whatever happened to the line across which no target could ever ultimately be got?

Ah, but is Hugo Etikite actually any good?

Well, the first thing to say is that he’s only played 1458 minutes of football in the French top division, the equivalent of 16 full matches. Having joined his hometown club as an 11 year old, this is his breakthrough year after a short loan spell with Vejle Boldklub in the Danish Superligaen in early 2021. So, his body of work is thin, to say the least.

Frighteningly so, we might suggest for a fee reported to reach as much as £30m (or 1.2 Chris Woods to use the universally accepted post-takeover Newcastle United striker conversion currency).

But despite that paucity of playing time, his headline figures are excellent, especially for a teenager: ten goals at one every 128 minutes in Ligue 1 this season and four assists (one every 320 minutes).

For comparison, Wilson has scored a goal every 173 minutes this season and Wood one every 643; St Maximin has an assist every 560 minutes this season, Fraser one every 500 minutes  and Almirón one every… errr… never.

It’s also worth pointing out that Reims is hardly a free-scoring team: 43 league goals in 38 matches.

Having spent today watching every one of his goals and assists this season – never let it be said that we’re not committed to the highest standards of journalistic research here at TF – what immediately becomes clear is that Ekitike has quick feet, makes good runs off the shoulder of the last defender, and seems to find a variety of effective ways to finish, not all of them necessarily elegant. And that’s most definitely not a criticism.

As his shot map below indicates, six of those ten goals (the green circles, courtesy of understat.com) have come from inside the 6-yard box, proper striker’s goals.

Three of them were the result of clever runs to convert low crosses – getting in front of everyone to meet a cross at the near post against Nantes; pulling back to the edge of the six-yard box to guide the ball across the goalkeeper against Rennes; and accelerating clear of the final defender against Marseille to finish on the run (think Louis Saha in the Cup replay at Blackburn).

In all these cases, he uses his pace and movement intelligently to create high-quality chances, the hallmark of his play this season. He doesn’t take many shots, but those that he does take tend to be in dangerous positions.

Notably, the other three close-range goals were all cleverly improvised finishes to capitalise on defensive mistakes – off his knee from a deflected free kick delivery against Bourdeaux; stabbed into the ground and back across goal to beat a lunging defender on the line against Strasbourg; and, the best of the lot, impressive poise and dancing feet to beat the final covering defender after a goalkeeping error against Lyon.

These all suggest encouraging predatory instincts.

Otherwise, he has one fortuitous long-range effort against Nantes to his name that took the most amenable of deflections, a distinctly unconvincing penalty against Angers, and the rebound from his own saved penalty against Bourdeaux (note to Eddie: ask if Shearer’s available for consultancy work).

Finally, proof that he can strike a ball cleanly came against Nice two weeks ago, his first goal after three months out with a hamstring injury. Capitalising on a stray defensive pass he picks the ball up in space thirty yards out, advances towards the edge of the box and unleashes a low powerful drive that looks faster and cleaner every time you see it. Another box ticked.

Positionally, Ekitike has played most often at Reims as one of a pair of strikers in a 352.

That’s given him licence to drift out to the right or left, and it’s those positions from which he’s provided his assists. But he’s also played as a left winger, and there’s no doubt he could offer much needed pace and incisiveness as a wide forward in our front three instead of Fraser or Almirón.

In fact, for a young forward who’ll no doubt need time to develop and adjust to a new league, this could well be the best option if Wilson remains fit. He would then be able to step up to play through the middle in Wilson’s (inevitable) absence(s).

Downsides? Well, any big money signing is always a risk – a teenager from an overseas League who’s not even played half a season, even more so.

At 6’ 2” and with scope to bulk out, physicality won’t be a problem, nor will the demands of an all-round game, dropping deep, linking play, or pressing as required.

There’s no evidence of his aerial finishing ability in his highlights reel (or of a left foot, come to that), but statistically he wins a good number of balls in the air.

His only real weaknesses in the data relate to ball retention, both misplaced passes and miscontrolled touches.

Otherwise, eyebrows might be raised by the two red cards he’s already managed to collect in those meagre appearances. We can safely assume the new Barrack Road brains trust no longer neglects due diligence on temperament and character.

Should we expect instant results?

Not really. Might we get them anyway? Quite possibly. Should we be excited?

Most definitely. Or as an esteemed TF colleague put it the other day – I hope we don’t burden him with excessive expectation, but he doesn’t half remind me of Thierry Henry. Va va voom!

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731

 For more Hugo Etikite analysis we would recommend the enclosed from Richard Becker of the Scout Report – click here