Club: LOSC Lille
Position(s): RW, LW
Preferred Foot: Left
Strengths: dribbling, creativity, ball-striking, acceleration, agility
Development Areas: lack of minutes, aerial ability, strength
From Gabriel Magalhaes to Victor Osimhen, from Sven Botman to Mike Maignan, few clubs have done a better job of signing young talents for cheap and selling them for a massive fee than LOSC Lille. The latest talent to get a big move away from Stade Pierre-Mauroy could be Edon Zhegrova.
Born in Herford, Germany, Zhegrova developed at various Kosovoan and Belgian clubs before joining Basel on loan in February 2019, with the deal eventually becoming permanent. After a spell that would see him score 15 goals in 89 matches and make his Kosovo debut, he joined Lille in January 2022 for €7 million, where he has since emerged as a key figure in attack for Paulo Fonseca’s side.
Zhegrova is very agile and constantly tries to beat his man. He’s a very direct winger who loves to cut in off from the right flank onto his left fiit. He has 9.28 take-ons attempted p/90 & 4.34 are successful (top 1%). All of Zhegrova’s carries, progressive, carries into the final third, into the penalty area, attempted take-ons & successful take-ons are in at least the top 4%, the majority coming in the top 1%. His drop of the shoulder helps him escape tackles.
An indicator of a potentially world-class winger is a high shot volume p/90. Wingers like Kylian Mbappé (4.68), Lionel Messi (4.03), Serge Gnabry (3.76), Rodrygo (3.70), Raphinha (3.49), Leroy Sané (3.49), Rafael Leão (3.49), Marcus Rashford (3.38), Mohamed Salah (3.31) all take a high amount of shots p/90. It’s as simple as the more you shoot the more you score. It also illustrates the quality of a player to consistently create the opportunity & space to shoot.
Zhegrova has this ability too. He has 3.38 shots p/90 and 1.13 (1/3) of those are on target. He only needs an inch of space to shoot accurately. Now considering that he hasn’t had a lot of minutes and games, if he can sustain that shot volume, we could be looking at a potential 15-20 goal season. Along with the volume of shots, the quality is very high too. Zhegrova has top-ball striking and finishing ability. His composure in & around the box helps him take his time when shooting to pick out higher-quality shots in the corners.
Shooting isn’t the only weapon in his arsenal. He also is a very creative winger who ranks highly in his passing stats. He has great vision and can pick out passes that others can’t always see, cutting in on his left opens up crossing opportunities or to making key passes (2.34 p/90). He has quality delivery and execution when crossing & is always passing into the danger zone.
Zhegrova is a top outlet and has a high pass volume for a winger (50.38 passes attempted), showing that he’s a controller who can dictate the outcome of the game. He has 49.16 passes received & 16.47 progressive passes received. Again, displaying that his team makes look for him to make things happen. Rightly so too, because he has 6.24 shot-creating actions p/90.
Above all, he is a difference-maker who can come up big for his team, as seen in their match against Lorient on April 2. Rémy Cabella broke the deadlock early on but Ibrahima Koné equalized for Lorient in the 77th minute, with Zhegrova coming on in the 81st minute for Timothy Weah. He restored Lille’s lead in the 89th minute before adding another two minutes later to secure the three points for Les Dogues.
One area for development would be his upper body strength. He’s not lightweight but he could definitely be a bit stronger which would help him when going shoulder-to-shoulder and taking on defenders. This is a fairly easy fix through strength training and conditioning. That being said, Zhegrova has real determination in his play and gets stuck in defensively too.
Another clear area of concern is his lack of minutes. In 2021/22 he also had fewer minutes with 1283 in 29 games (44.24mins p/game). Again during these reduced minutes, he had a high output of 6G 7A (0.45 G&A p/game). During 2021/22, he missed a handful of games due to a meniscus injury but has seemingly recovered from that, but this would nevertheless be a key area for physio’s/S&C coaches to focus on due to the nature of his play style (high dribbling volume).
One thing to consider about his stats is that he often comes on as a sub late in the game and makes a big impact so his stats per 90 are inflated due to this. Out of his 21 Ligue 1 games, only 11 were starts & 10 were as a sub. That being said, his quality is clear to see. He’s a similar player to Raphinha, Bukayo Saka and Khvicha Kvaratshkelia, but in order to make a similar leap and emerge as one of the best wingers in football, he needs to choose his next club wisely where he can feature regularly under a great manager.
The team that he eventually joins must play with wingers that hold the width during attacks or that play a more direct counter-attacking style, such as Arsenal, Napoli, AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, or Borussia Dortmund. However, his technical ability makes him a great creative outlet for possession-based teams when facing a low block.
After finishing fifth and qualifying for the Europa Conference League play-off round, Lille could very well be playing in three different competitions next season which would open up space for Zhegrova to gain even more game-time, but it is undeniable that there will be a few major departures for Les Dogues over the next few months. Timothy Weah has joined Juventus for €12m, and at 24, it’s surely only a matter of time before Edon Zhegrova becomes the latest Lille player to earn a big move as well.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Sylvain Lefevre / Getty Images