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Yankuba Minteh: The Gambian gem thriving at Feyenoord

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Despite the success of its neighboring countries, The Gambia, a West African nation, is not typically associated with producing football talents. However, it has recently begun to nurture a budding star amidst its neighbors Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal, all renowned for their football prowess and production of superstars.

Born on 22 July 2004, Yankuba Minteh’s hails from Bakoteh, a small district in the large and bustling city of Serekunda, Gambia’s capital city. Minteh’s clear determination, zeal and passion became evident from a young age and precipitated his eventual rise.

He earned himself a move away from his neighbourhood club Bakoteh United to Gambian top flight club Steve Biko FC. Seeking to further his development even more, Minteh made the ambitious leap to Europe at just 18 years of age, joining Odense Boldklub (OB), a Danish Superliga side based in the city of Odense in southern Denmark. This pivotal move was all made possible by Bakary Bojang, a Gambian-born former player turned agent.

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Ambitious moves

At OB, Minteh quickly ascended through the youth ranks, spending just two months in the youth side before earning promotion to the first team due to his exceptional abilities. He marked his debut for OB with a remarkable performance, netting a sublime strike against FC Copenhagen in the 86th minute, just three minutes after coming on as a substitute in a Danish Superliga match in September 2022. Minteh’s goal secured a 2-1 victory for OB over Copenhagen.

Minteh’s exceptional speed remains one of his standout qualities, allowing him to trouble opposition defenders as he adeptly cuts inside from the right onto his favoured left foot. His directness on the pitch is also unmistakable, its large contributing factor in his burgeoning reputation as a rising football talent.

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On the 12th of June 2023, English Premier League club Newcastle United announced they had reached an agreement to sign Minteh from OB for €7 million and also disclosed plans to loan out Minteh to the Dutch champions Feyenoord for the 2023-24 season.

Under coach Arne Slot, Minteh was convinced that his development as a footballer would be a main focus as Feyenoord have a very successful track record of growing their own academy prospects. The teenager was handed his first foray into Dutch football in a substitute appearance in a 1-0 loss to PSV in the Johan Cruyff Shield.

Despite the debut defeat, Minteh possesses enormous potential and has continued to excite in Feyenoord’s colours. He has featured in 16 Eredivisie games this season, starting in eight of those including Feyenoord’s last two matches against Sparta Rotterdam and RKC Waalwijk and has 3 goals and 3 assists to his name so far in the Eredivisie, recording his first goal for Feyenoord in an emphatic 5-1 win against Utrecht on September 3 before grabbing two goals and an assist in his next three league matches.

Minteh’s key qualities

The young talent operates fearlessly on the right wing, effectively leveraging his phenomenal pace, agility, and tactical awareness. Standing at 6ft 2, he possesses formidable ability in the air. This is evidenced in his aerial duel success rate of 48% which is in the 85th percentile for wingers in the Eredivisie.

His combination of physicality and technical prowess makes him a valuable asset for any team. Arne Slot’s team like to counter press and Minteh is very useful in this due to his imposing and aggressive out-of-possession actions. No winger in the Eredivisie has more tackles in the final third per 90 (0.79) than Minteh.

He showcased solid performances during Feyenoord’s campaign in the UEFA Champions League this season. Notably, he scored his first-ever Champions League goal, an equaliser against Scottish giants Celtic in the 82nd minute of their final Group E match. However, despite his efforts, Gustaf Lagerbielke’s goal in the first minute of additional time secured the win for Celtic.

Additionally, Minteh is part of the many young football talents in The Gambia’s rising national team having received his call-up to the national team on 4 Nov 2022 by their Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet.

He was crucial to The Gambia’s second ever qualification to the African Cup Of Nations in their final group game against Congo. His side were 2-0 down at halftime and clearly headed for elimination when they staged an unlikely comeback through his late strike and another from teammate Mohammed Badamosi to ensure that they shared the spoils which was enough to secure a second successive AFCON appearance for The Scorpions in the 34th edition of the tournament.

His next big step

The youngster’s impressive and positive outings for Feyenoord gaining valuable experience, attaining immense growth and overall development will be a great addition to Newcastle United’s team when his loan spell at Feyenoord comes to an end by the end of the season.

With Eddie Howe keen to utilise highly intense wingers out-of-possession, Minteh could be like a new signing next season. When compared to Anthony Gordon, who is having an excellent season nonetheless, Minteh fares better in the numbers in many ways.

For example, Minteh averages 10.7 touches in the opposition box per 90 compared to Gordon’s 4.02. For shot creating actions per 90, Minteh’s 7.33 stacks up against Gordon’s 3.68. Lastly, Minteh trumps Gordon for tackles completed per 90, with Minteh on 1.60 and Gordon at just 1.05. 

Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that while the Premier League is a huge jump from the Eredvisie, Minteh does possess many of the attributes we associate with Newcastle’s wingers under Eddie Howe and is even displaying them more often in Feyenoord colours.

By: Ogenyi Paul / @234programmer

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