Hits, misses and lessons for Bristol City as they expand transfer horizons in striker search

Bristol City’s need for a striker was recognised throughout last season, but the specifics around the identity of who that be have been slowly revealed since the end of the January transfer window.

Technical director Brian Tinnion wants a “runner” possessing suitable physical attributes, with head coach Liam Manning desiring an individual of a different skillset to that of Nahki Wells and Tommy Conway.

Tinnion has also declared that the individual may be discovered from beyond traditional borders as he mentioned an overseas option back in March, while in speaking to the Forever Bristol City podcast earlier this month he revealed the shortlist comprised one option in England and "two or three" from abroad.

Outside of Nikita Haikin and Dire Mebude, the bulk of City’s business post-Covid has been within the EFL, but prior to the downturn of the transfer market outside of the Premier League, the Robins regularly looked further afield for signings.

Particularly in the striker market, Jonathan Kodija, Famara Diedhiou, Milan Duric and, gulp, Gustav Engvall and Lois Diony represent the scale of success and failure of purchasing from unfamiliar marketplaces.

That is matched across the Championship where, over the last five years, there have been some unqualified hits but also some troubling misses, the details of which should serve as cautionary tales for City and others when conducting their respective business.


Haji Wright (Coventry City)

Signed from: Antalyaspor (Turkey) for £7.7m

The Sky Blues split the burden of Viktor Gyokores’ sale to Sporting last summer by bringing in Ellis Simms and American international Haji Wright; the former was more of a known quality following his strong loan spell at Sunderland, but it was the latter who was perhaps the more enticing addition.

After being earmarked in his teens as a future star, Wright has been something of a journeyman in his mid-20s, playing in America, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Turkey with mixed results, but that experience has also probably helped him become a more adaptable individual.

He didn’t hit the ground running for Coventry with just two goals in his first 15 appearances, but the promise was there, and slowly but surely his output improved and he was prolific over the second half of 2023/24 finishing with 19 goals in all competitions from 51 appearances.

Possessed with pace, height, aerial ability and finishing ability, he possesses all the attributes that City are looking for in a frontman this summer. Patience has been key in integrating him into the Sky Blues side and he looks set to improve on his encouraging first campaign in 2024/25.

Emmanuel Latte Lath (Middlesbrough)

Signed from: Atalanta (Italy) for £4.2m

The Ivorian caught the eye when he played for Boro at Ashton Gate in November and if it wasn’t for ankle and groin injuries, he’d undoubtedly have breached the 20-goal mark and potentially fired Michael Carrick’s side closer towards the top six.

Similar to Wright, although not quite as geographically diverse, Latte Lath had bounced around seven different clubs in Italy on loan from Atalanta, plus a temporary stay with Swiss side St Gallen, before Middlesbrough paid just over £4m to bring him to the Riverside.

With nine goals in the final eight games of the season it’s no wonder Carrick has high hopes next season for the 25-year-old who also made his international debut as reward for his breakout campaign, which also included winning the April Player of the Month Award.

Latte Lath is another example of having to wait to see his best form as Carrick noted at the start of the season, and similar again to Coventry, with considerable player turnover last summer, he needed time to find his rhythm and build connections with his new teammates.

Boro had been tracking him for some time and after Chuba Akpom’s exit to Ajax, acted quickly to bring him to the north east.

Another Championship striker with pace and directness among his key attributes but with 18 goals in 36 games in all competitions, and one every 130 minutes in the league, his finishing prowess perhaps stands above them all.

Joel Piroe (Swansea/now Leeds)

Signed from: PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) for £1m

Given the Swans sold Piroe last summer to Leeds United for £12m, representing a sizeable return on their original investment in the Dutchman, it’s an unqualified success for their recruitment team before you delve into his numbers in south Wales.

Piroe arrived in the wake of Andre Ayew’s departure and was just 21 when Swansea took a chance on him, albeit with the striker having built a reputation in his homeland as one to watch, albeit unable to make a consistent senior breakthrough at PSV.

If anything, his 20 goals in 45 games probably exceeded expectations that season and he was undoubtedly their star man as they finished three points shy of the play-offs, prompting Leeds United to invest significant money in him.

His time at Elland Road hasn’t been half as spectacular, as he’s had to compete for minutes within their stacked forward line, whereas at Swansea he was very much the main man with his power, movement and the strength of his shooting. Not quite as physically-imposing as the two strikers above, but his skillset still fits the prototype of what a club in the Championship would want from a forward.

Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford)

Signed from: Troyes (France) for £5.8m

We’re going back a little further here as Mbeumo has been a regular for Brentford for five seasons now, predominantly in the Premier League, but he was signed when the Bees were in the second tier and in a summer where they had lost Neal Maupay to Brighton & Hove Albion.

There’s also a link with City given that Lee Johnson revealed in 2019 that Mbeumo - then dubbed “the Mbappe of Ligue 2” - had been on the Robins watchlist before Brentford decided to spend significantly on him.

He’s also a little different to the players mentioned so far in that he’s more of a wide forward, to the extent you’re probably hard pressed to classify him as a “striker” per se but that’s not necessarily the point because there’s no doubting his impact in west London and the way he’s grown with the club as they’ve moved up the standings.

Mbeumo has 50 goals and 38 assists in 178 appearances, which is an excellent all-round return, and it began with a strong debut campaign in the Championship in which he netted 16 times and provided seven goals for others as Brentford eventually lost in the play-off final to Fulham.

His consistency perhaps wasn’t hinted at by his opening 10 appearances in which he found the target just once, offering another example of imports requiring a degree of time to properly find their feet, as Mbeumo evidently has done.

Emil Riis Jakobsen (Preston North End)

Signed from: Randers (Denmark) for £1.2m

His record, 34 goals in 136 games, doesn’t exactly scream runaway success for the Preston North End recruitment team to broadcast to anyone willing to listen but Riis’ time at Deepdale has been interrupted by injuries and that 20-goal season in 2021/22 would surely have been replicated across other campaigns had he managed to stay on the field more.

Another player who fits into the profile of being a big, strong frontman who can operate on his own in leading the line, offering an outlet but also opening up attacking options for others and changing the focus of a team’s offensive strategy.

PNE reportedly valued him at £10m when Boro came calling two years ago, and lesser bids are believed to have been rejected, but his progress was then curtailed by an ACL injury in 2023 which kept him out for 11 months.

He arrived as something of a battering ram who could strike a ball with ferocity but has brought nuance to his approach beyond just pure physicality and can justifiably be described as a top-level Championship striker who we’re probably yet to see the truly best of due to that injury last year.

It should be noted he experienced a lean first season with just five goals in 42 appearances but Preston’s perseverance and belief in his abilities ensured he was able to deliver his best the following term.


Oscar Estupinan (Hull City)

Signed from: Vitoria de Guimares (Portugal) as free agent

Twelve months ago, the Colombian would have been included in the section above after 13 goals in his first 38 appearances in England which included seven in four games in the month of August and a strong case can be made that season alone made him a success, irrespective of what followed. There are more than a few Hull fans somewhat confused to how it's panned out for him.

He looked like an alarmingly astute pick-up with his finishing ability and penalty box movement really standing out. But Estupinan burned brightly and then gradually faded away as Liam Rosenior didn’t value him nearly as highly as predecessor Shota Arvelade.

He gradually fell down the pecking order and the following summer transfer window saw him relegated further, prompting a loan move to Metz in Ligue 1, where he offered little while admittedly dogged by injuries, but did find his scoring boots with a second temporary stay at Bahia in Brazil, which will run until December.

Bahia also have the option to make the move a permanent one for £1.5m, which would seem a wise piece of business given Estupinan is out of contract next summer. Then again, new Hull manager Tim Walter may want to take a look at him over pre-season as the Tigers have the option of a recall clause.

Daryl Dike (West Brom)

Signed from: Orlando City (USA) for £7m

It’s harsh because Dike looked an outstandingly smart signing when the Baggies utilised his loan spell at Barnsley as a suitable period of integration into English football before signing him on a permanent move in 2022, but the American is also a lesson in the pitfalls of paying so much for a player and the inconsistencies of professional sport.

A series of serious Achilles injuries have limited Dike to just 32 appearances over two and a half seasons and with West Brom’s parachute payments now over - having been in receipt of them in some capacity for 20 years - it looks a huge black hole in their finances.

Dike still has two years on his contract and, at 24, is of a suitable age to overcome what have been some devastating set-backs, but his unfortunate struggles are proof that even the surest of surefire bets in the market can go wrong.

Milutin Osmajic (Preston North End)

Signed from: Cadiz (Spain) for £2m

There are echoes with Riis’ first season for the Lillywhites as Osmajic has enjoyed moments of quality - a hat-trick against Huddersfield in April being one - and possesses qualities in which you can clearly see why Preston paid a club record fee to bring him to Deepdale, but the production and consistency simply hasn’t been there.

The hope will therefore be that he can follow in the footsteps of his teammate and build on the positive elements of his debut campaign in his sophomore season. In the context of City it’s of relevance because the likelihood is the incoming striker will instantly become Liam Manning’s first-choice option and with that status, plus the expectation of his fee there will be a requirement for near-instant results.

In so many cases, with Estupinan being among the outliers, that doesn’t happen with foreign imports into the Championship, and time is required as much as anything for them to realise their true qualities.

Robert Glatzel (Cardiff City)

Signed from: FC Heidenheim (Germany) for £5.5m

Neil Warnock a magician in the transfer market, you say? Glatzel obviously has ability as he’s just finished a third straight season of scoring double figures in the German second division for Hamburg but looked completely unsuited to Championship football when he arrived in 2019, having only ever played in his homeland.

Tall and rangy but he never seemed comfortable within the physical confidence of the second tier, admitting as such in interviews, and after Warnock’s departure, Mick McCarthy didn’t take too long before ruling Glatzel “wasn’t for me”.

Cardiff cut their losses by loaning him to Mainz which then led to a permanent sale to Hamburg in 2021 for around £1m, with Glatzel a reminder of needing to conduct due process in bringing players from overseas, however talented they may seem when operating in environments comfortable to them.

Matthew Hoppe (Middlesbrough)

Signed from: Mallorca (Spain) for £3m

Boro are preparing to sell the American this summer after two challenging years in which he’s made little discernible impact - 65 minutes over six substitute appearances - whereas other forwards such as Akpom and Latte Lath have flourished.

Signed by Chris Wilder in 2022 after Boro had considered buying him 12 months previously, the club probably thought they had secured a knockdown fee as he failed to kick on at Mallorca but that campaign in Spain proved a red flag they failed to properly understand.

Michael Carrick has shown little inclination in wanting to start the 23-year-old, with his time at the Riverside also spent away on underwhelming loan spells at Hibernian and San Jose Earthquakes.

Given what was invested, and what has been produced, he has to go down as one of the biggest transfer flops in the Championship this decade and begs the question as to what was seen in him when Boro agreed to part with that fee, especially when they had been watching him for at least a year.

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