Arsenal, Leicester City, and Everton have been linked with Gent forward Jonathan David this week by outlet Jeunes Footeux, but who exactly is the Canadian phenom?
Jonathan David is probably not a name that many European football fans are familiar with – at least for now.
While yes, we all love to hear about the next big football stars on social media and in video games, some go frustratingly under-the-radar, while others undeservingly get the spotlight. As a Canadian who has been watching Jonathan David closely for years, I can comfortably say that he belongs in the former category.
Because he is from Canada, a nation that isn’t normally a talent hotbed in football (until now…), Jonathan David has not been receiving the attention he deserves, as European and South American talents tend to draw more eyes.
Now, it’s time to shine the spotlight on him, especially since his Canadian compatriot Alphonso Davies has been earning it at Bayern too.
Just 2 years ago, Jonathan David, who is now 20, was still playing amateur football in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa – his hometown. He earned a trial with Belgian side Gent in 2018. and the rest was history, as the club was so mesmerized by his talent that they brought him over permanently into their youth system.
Since then, David, who plays primarily as a second striker but is also experienced on the flanks or as a lone centre-forward, has been nothing short of a star for Gent. He broke into the first-team at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, eventually finishing the campaign with 14 goals and 5 assists in all competitions.
This year, his level has gone up significantly. In 24 Belgian Pro League matches, David has managed a whopping 17 goals and 8 assists, making him arguably the most impressive player in the entire division this year. Add his Europa League tally of 4 goals and 2 assists to the mix, and Jonathan David is on pace to hit a mind-boggling 40 goal contributions this season, which again, is just his 2nd as a professional.
International football has also been an absolute cakewalk for him so far, as he is already among Canada’s top 10 all-time goalscorers with 11 goals and 5 assists in just 12 senior caps.
2019 was an exceptional year for the youngster on the international scene, as he picked up the golden boot award at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, along with making an appearance in the team of the tournament. He also won Canada’s 2019 player of the year award.
What are his qualities like?
As I mentioned earlier, Jonathan David can play all across the forward line, but it’s his play in central positions behind the striker that really makes him stand out. He is not necessarily a creative, slow-tempo player like a classic number 10, but he is someone who loves driving forward with the ball from deep positions, using his brute-like physique and exceptional pace to his advantage. As you can tell by his stats, the Canadian is a brilliant final-third player, whose movement and decision-making moves at 100 miles per hour in the crucial moments.
Plenty of his goals come through late and dangerous runs into the box, which highlights his ability to think on his feet and find space in the final third. Defenders constantly find it difficult to track David’s movement, since he is so direct and unpredictable.
If I was to compare David to a more well-known player, it would likely be to Marcus Rashford, Nabil Fekir, or Heung-Min Son – players who have great physical quality matched with the ability to drive forward with the ball and cut through the opposition with ease, especially on the counter-attack.
From a physical standpoint, David is actually rather suited to Premier League football, even at his young age. Of course, this doesn’t mean he would be a star right away, but he would certainly have less “growing up” to do both physically and mentally than players who come straight out of English academies. His experience in Europe and on the international stage proves that.
With many teams in world football reverting to 2-striker formations (See Juventus, Lazio, Atalanta, Leipzig, PSG, etc), a player with the qualities of Jonathan David was bound to become hot-property sooner rather than later.
A host of big European clubs have been linked with the forward in recent months, including Leipzig, Ajax, Porto, and Lyon. Although he might be better off moving to a league like the Bundesliga, Eredivisie, or Ligue 1, it’s difficult for a player of his level to say no when Arsenal comes calling.
His market value is currently listed as £18 million on transfermarkt, which is a very modest price for a player of his ability. I would assume that a bid between £20m and £30m would do the trick.
Jonathan David’s physical and technical capabilities, matched with his versatility, give him the potential to become one of the most complete forwards in Europe in a few years. With the future’s of both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in doubt, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta could be looking at the versatile Canadian youngster to help fill some holes up top.