It’s taken Serhou Guirassy a long time to really find his feet in top-level football, but now he’s breaking records most weeks. This is his modern-day Cinderella story.
Bayern Munich’s signing of Harry Kane from Tottenham was supposed to be what elevated the club back to their dominant best. Although they did just about win the Bundesliga title last season, there was an overriding sense they’d failed to replace Robert Lewandowski.
Kane’s arrival, considering his remarkable record in England with Tottenham, was seen as fairly ominous by nearly everyone else in Germany. And to be fair to him, he’s enjoyed a sound start to life in the Bundesliga – he may yet end up inspiring them to the most comfortable of title retentions, who knows?
But it wasn’t a signing that was completely free from criticism given Kane’s age and cost of about €100 million. Bayern great Lothar Matthäus saw potential elsewhere, an option that would have saved the club roughly €80 million (and that’s ignoring wages).
Matthäus told BILD in early May: “I would get [Serhou] Guirassy. He caught my eye again against Eintracht Frankfurt. He has everything a top centre-forward needs. Guirassy is just as good as [Randal] Kolo Muani but costs a lot less. Why shouldn’t Bayern try for Guirassy? At almost 30, Kane is already too old; [Victor] Osimhen would’ve been far too expensive, Kolo Muani will also cost more than his market value, which has increased since a strong World Cup with France – if Frankfurt lets him go at all.”
Five months on and the rest of the world is waking up to the talents of Serhou Guirassy, the most lethal striker in Europe on current form.
Although Guirassy was a France youth international with a decent record in front of goal as a teenager, it’s fair to say his record-breaking 2023-24 form feels like it’s almost come out of nowhere. The player currently devouring Bundesliga defences at will looks unrecognisable to the one who first arrived in Germany seven years ago at the age of 20; it’s been a long journey.
After a promising loan spell away from Lille at Auxerre in Ligue 2, Köln were confident they’d landed a well-rounded young striker with significant potential they could unlock, but he struggled.
Guirassy made just six Bundesliga appearances in his first season as he failed to settle; injuries didn’t help. In the 2017-18 campaign, he was given more opportunities and played in 15 league games, but Köln went on to be relegated. Guirassy couldn’t fill the void of the departed Anthony Modeste, who’d netted 25 top-flight goals the season before to help them qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
The 2017-18 season also brought the incident that came to leave an indelible mark against Guirassy. With Köln bottom of the table in late October having scored just three times, for a moment, they looked set to get a late winner over Werder Bremen, who were also struggling. The ball was drilled across the six-yard box, seemingly leaving Guirassy with a tap-in, but he failed to sort his feet out. The ball struck his foot three yards out before going back across goal and behind for a goal-kick. Guirassy just laid there in sheer disbelief.
And so, the German term ‘Chancentod’ – loosely translated as ‘killer of chances’ – started to follow Guirassy around. To this day, it’s still readily recalled in the German media such was its widespread association with the young forward.
The outlook didn’t get much better for Guirassy despite dropping down a division to the 2.Bundesliga. He was still only used sporadically, with his January 2019 move back to France – initially on loan – with Amiens a necessary circuit breaker. At last, first-team football; all 13 of his Ligue 1 appearances between then and the end of the season were as a starter, and his three goals, while a modest total, helped them preserve their top-flight status.
Amiens triggered their purchase option and Guirassy continued making positive strides, scoring nine times in 23 league games. His haul wasn’t enough to stave off relegation, as Amiens were 19th when the 2019-20 season was brought to an early conclusion because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he’d earned a move that kept him in Ligue 1.
A False Dawn at Rennes
Julien Stéphan convinced Guirassy that his exciting Rennes side was the best next step for his development, with Amiens sporting director John Williams claiming the striker turned down Chelsea to make the €15m move happen. It started fairly well; he was playing regularly and his coach and teammates appreciated his talents. “It’s everything he does for the team, the runs he makes into space, the defensive work that he puts in, the way he puts himself about,” Stéphan said.
“He’s going to be an important player for us, his ability to hold the ball up is precious,” Benjamin Bourigeaud added. There was room for improvement, sure, but Guirassy more than played his part in another decent season for Rennes, scoring 10 times as they finished sixth in Ligue 1, and he even netted the club’s first UEFA Champions League goal ever.
In hindsight, however, the August 2021 arrival of Gaëtan Laborde proved a major obstacle. Guirassy started just three league games between his rival’s signing on August 31 and the start of March. Stéphan was dismissed on March 1 and replaced by Bruno Genesio, who afforded Guirassy only another three Ligue 1 starts; he scored a hat-trick against Metz in one. He then got a last-minute headed equaliser against Lille on the final day of the season to secure Europa League football.
At the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, Guirassy had scored at a rate of one league goal every 144 minutes since the start of the prior campaign; that was better than players such as Victor Osimhen (148 mins), Neymar (148 mins), Son Heung-min (153 mins) and Kane (157 mins), and only marginally worse than Lionel Messi (143 mins). Guirassy’s future had long appeared to be away from Roazhon Park, however, and during the early weeks of the 2022-23 season, he found himself training away from the rest of the squad.
“In his situation, it’s better that we train him individually,” Genesio said as Stuttgart prepared to pounce for an initial loan deal. “He’s had a great attitude since I’ve been here. Whatever his situation, he’s always left his feelings away from the training pitch. Top-level football is [harsh], and I hope we can find a solution for him, so he can develop more than he has here.”
You could say it’s turned out that way…
Proving Everyone Wrong in Germany
There were signs last season that Guirassy – who netted 11 times in 22 league games – finally found himself in the right place at the right time, but no one expected this. He’s scored 13 goals across the first seven matchdays of 2023-24, which is a Bundesliga record. His haul of 10 in five had matched Robert Lewandowski’s best start, but the Poland star – now at Barcelona – never managed more than 11 across the opening seven matches.
Even if Guirassy doesn’t score in his next game after the international break away to Union Berlin, whose entire squad has amassed just 11 goals between them, his total of 13 across the first eight matchdays will still be a record. In the context of the club – who are second after narrowly escaping relegation in 2022-23 – no Stuttgart player has ever even netted 13 times in the first half of a season; he’s still got 10 games to spare.
Guirassy’s goal glut is nothing short of astonishing, like the kind that’s never been seen before in Germany – he only needs three more to match the totals of last season’s top scorers, Niclas Füllkrug and Christopher Nkunku.
Suffice to say, no one in Europe’s top five leagues has scored more than Guirassy, whose goals have propelled Stuttgart up to 51st in the Opta Power Rankings from 94th at the start of the season. Lautaro Martínez of Inter is the only other player to have reached double figures at this point (10), though his output comes from one extra match.
Of course, when a player like Guirassy suddenly emerges in such a manner, it’s only natural to wonder how long they can keep it up. If he was doing this at 19, we’d be declaring him a “generational talent” or something, but he’s 27. Is he a one-season wonder, or just a late bloomer?
One thing we have to consider is the fact he’s overperforming compared to his expected goals (xG) at an unrivalled rate; those 13 goals have come from 7.2 xG. The variety has been remarkable: there was a screamer against Darmstadt, a poacher’s finish after brilliant movement against Freiburg, and a delicate chip at Mainz, which was followed by a headed lob that he set up himself by cheekily flicking the ball over the head of a defender.
Of the 13, just one has been a penalty, and only the 25-yard piledriver in Darmstadt and his effort away to RB Leipzig – which went in off the goalkeeper – would you look at and suggest he potentially got “lucky”. The quality of Guirassy’s goals has been so high, but before anyone gets too attached to the idea of him just being fortunate, it’s worth highlighting that his 7.2 xG is the third highest in the top five leagues after Victor Boniface (8.1) and Erling Haaland (7.9).
So, even if he has been occasionally aided by questionable goalkeeping or defending, Guirassy’s doing a lot of the work himself because you can’t have such xG figures at this stage of a season if you aren’t getting into great positions.
We can get an even clearer view of his effectiveness in this respect by looking at the average xG value of his non-penalty shots, which is 0.21 – that’s the same as Haaland (30 shots), and the three players (minimum 15 shots) to have better records at this stage of the season have all had significantly fewer attempts (16 or 17) than Guirassy (30).
The quality and variation of Guirassy’s goals also speaks to his style of play as a very well-rounded player, the complete striker.
“I would say I’m similar to Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, and Harry Kane,” he told Bundesliga.com recently. “I watch Kane a lot, and I like his style. He’s good at everything; he can bring his teammates into play, he can score goals. Lewandowski is almost the same. He’s great, he can score goals, he can dribble, he can pass. Benzema is the same, he can do everything. These are the type of players I like; I relate to them because of my style.”
Granted, each player has his own nuances and abilities that makes him unique, but you don’t need to watch Guirassy for long to understand why he compares his style to Kane, Benzema and Lewandowski. He’s very adept at dropping deep and linking with his hold-up play, while in the box he possesses a wide skillset, just as capable of taking his man on with a feint as he is getting on the end of a cross.
It seems highly unlikely he’ll continue scoring at this rate for the rest of the season, as Guirassy is currently converting 42% of his shots, which is the best record of all players with at least 20 attempts in the top five leagues this term. Were a player to score 13 goals every seven games over an entire Bundesliga season, they’d end up with 63.
Playing in the Africa Cup of Nations early next year will restrict Guirassy a little depending on how well Guinea do, but even taking that into consideration, he’s on track to smash all the records before him.
When Lewandowski scored 41 times in the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, many felt his record for the most goals in a single campaign would never be broken, or at least not for another generation or two given Gerd Müller’s feat had been the benchmark for 49 years.
Then, when Kane arrived, it seemed Lewandowski’s accomplishment might have a new challenger to contend with. It does, but from a rather less predictable source.
Guirassy may not ultimately eclipse the greats or Kane, but it’s thrilling to watch him try.