As Stefan Bienkowski reported earlier this week in the Gegenpressing podcast, Bayer Leverkusen have secured their first signing of the winter transfer window in Noah Mbamba. Die Werkself confirmed that the 18-year-old Belgian youth international would join the club immediately. The midfielder signed a contract until 2028 and Brugge will receive a small fee of around $100,000.
That’s a fantastic deal for a talent with a current transfer markt market value of 3 million euros ($3.3 million). Mbamba was available on a below market value transfer after Leverkusen had already agreed a free transfer in the summer of next summer. With Mbamba’s contract about to expire in Bruges, all parties believed that it was in the best interest of the talent to join the Bundesliga side now.
“Bayer 04 is known for offering young players the best opportunities to reach the highest level of football,” Mbamba said in a club statement. “I’m looking forward to the next few years here.”
Securing Mbamba is a great success for Leverkusen. The defensive midfielder is considered one of the brightest talents born in 2005, and Leverkusen beat Manchester City, Chelsea and Barcelona to sign him.
“Noah Mbamba is one of the great talents in his position as number six in midfield,” Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes said in a club statement. “He has outstanding technique and is tall and fast. If he continues to develop at this level, he will be able to play an important role in our Werkself in the future, given his class.”
It is an acquisition with an eye on the future. In the short term, Leverkusen have the likes of Charles Aranguiz, Exequiel Palacios and Robert Andrich filling that space. But Aranguiz, in particular, has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and has also expressed interest in returning to North America.
With his 6’2 frame, Mbamba adds much-needed size to a midfield that, apart from Andrich, lacks height. But Mbamba is also described as incredibly quick and can play in defensive midfield and midfield and as a central defender.
But what exactly can Leverkusen fans expect from Mbamba? Although the sample size is small, with Brugge denying Mbamba playing time after he refused to renew his contract, Wyscout highlights what the defensive midfielder will add to the Werkself.
What stands out the most compared to the other midfielders in the Leverkusen team are Mbamba’s solid defensive numbers. The Belgian talent leads Andrich (6.65), Aránguiz (6.99) and Palacios (7.95) with 9.83 defensive duels per 90 minutes. Mbamba also leads the four players with 65.35% of defensive duels won.
In other words, Mbamba will add some much-needed defensive steel to the team. The Belgian midfielder does just that while tactically aware and a neat pass.
What Mbamba has lacked is the proper guidance in Bruges. That should now change under head coach Xabi Alonso. Alonso himself was a world-class number 6, winning every title at club and national team level.
With all that in mind, Leverkusen fans should be excited to have Mbamba join the club. Leverkusen have won the market by signing a highly talented midfielder at below market value. The skill set is currently highly sought after and with Premier League clubs already interested, Mbamba will quickly increase the market value of him.
Manuel Veth is the presenter of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the US Area Manager at transfer markt. It has also been published in The Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA and various other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth