When Jonathan David completed his 2020 transfer from Gent to Lille, becoming the most expensive Canadian men’s national team player ever, it was largely assumed the Ligue 1 club would not be his final stop.
And through the last two seasons David has shown what he’s capable of, scoring 28 goals in 75 appearances. In that time, only five players have more goals in Ligue 1, all of whom are older than the 22-year-old.
Given that goalscorers are always in high demand, it makes sense that David’s name continually pops up in transfer rumours. By failing to qualify for the Champions League this season and missing out on the financial windfall that comes with it, Lille appear to be in a position where they must sell players this summer.
Though David is under contract until 2025, we know he is open to a move.
“It’s a World Cup year, so I think it’s important for me to keep playing and getting minutes,” he told The Province earlier this month. “And I think it’s all about going somewhere that you know that you’re in a good environment.”
He doesn’t appear to be leaning one way or the other, either.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a particular team,” he added. “I think anything could come. It just depends on the project. What I can offer them or what they can offer me. I think everything has been coming together.”
What David can offer is a proven goalscoring ability and value as a player who only appears to be improving.
David can function well as an aggressive, pressing sole target man up front, but he is at his best when he’s playing as a second striker, dropping deeper to find his own pockets of space and making runs into the box.
So, which club would provide the best fit for David if a summer transfer materializes?
With the help of The Athletic UK’s writers, let’s examine 10 teams that have (mostly) been linked with David this summer.
There’s been reports of David potentially moving to the North London side for some time now, and there’s some sense to a deal. You could make a case that playing for a club as scrutinized as Arsenal would not only boost his profile for the future, but harden him ahead of the World Cup.
But there appear to be more pressing priorities for Arsenal up top. Adding Portuguese Fabio Vieira on Tuesday means they now have someone who can play as a second striker, though it’s worth noting that’s not a set-up Mikel Arteta uses regularly — not exactly a tick in David’s favour. Then there’s their pursuit of Gabriel Jesus, which had been their priority earlier this month. Would landing Jesus close the door on a deal for David?
James McNicholas’ take: Based on my admittedly limited exposure, he appears to be a really interesting player who has added goalscoring to his excellent work-rate. But Arsenal have decided he isn’t for them.
Manchester United (Sixth place last season, Europa League place for 2022-23)
We know Canada head coach John Herdman wants his players in pressure-filled situations with their club sides to help raise their level of play while wearing a Canada shirt. Well, after not qualifying for the Champions League, there aren’t too many big clubs under more pressure than Manchester United.
United have never been shy about spending big on players, but is David the right fit? There would undoubtedly be competition for playing time.
Carl Anka’s take: If – and it’s a big if – he went to United this summer, he’d likely play second fiddle to Ronaldo in the central striker position. New manager Erik Ten Hag will have to offset any back-to-goal weaknesses in David by playing an additional on-ball creator behind him in midfield to help Bruno Fernandes. Jadon Sancho should be that player, but both David and Sancho will need the assistance of an attacking full-back to make it all work. If David was not used as a central player for United, he would be one of a long list of dribbly inside-forwards who work on the left of a 4-2-3-1 for United before cutting inside and shooting on goal.
He doesn’t really strike me as a Ten Hag No 9 (just yet), but he is a cheaper option than other players the club has been linked to, and he’ll be a boon to any team that can dominate possession and sustain pressure on opponents.
The Athletic’s Liam Twomey and Mark Carey covered where David might fit at Chelsea in great detail recently. Could David serve as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku?
That would mean David playing as a true, lone No 9 at Chelsea. And that would lead to a question that came up repeatedly while compiling this list: is it better for David to have more of a soft landing with a team that doesn’t have the expectations of Chelsea, for example, but can offer him playing time in his preferred position? Or would a move to a side like Chelsea help David rise to the challenge and then, if all goes well, establish himself as an elite striker? Even at 22, everything we’ve seen from David suggests that his ice-cold demeanour and willingness to learn could help him achieve the latter.
Tottenham (Fourth place last season, Champions League place for 2022-23)
Getting to play alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min would provide David with the kind of exposure to world-class forwards that could benefit his development. But that’s the rub: in Tottenham manager Antonio Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 system, two of the three forward spots will always be occupied by that pair. Add another potential forward signing this summer into the mix and it becomes even more difficult for David to carve out a role here, even with the prospect of playing in the Champions League.
Overall, it doesn’t feel like David is high on Spurs’ priority list.
Jack Pitt-Brooke’s take: David is clearly a very talented player, and the sort of young star that Tottenham traditionally would always want to look at. But right now it doesn’t strike me as the most obvious fit. Tottenham are not looking for 22-year-olds this summer, they are looking more for established names who can help Conte deliver quick success for Spurs. Maybe it would make sense for Spurs in terms of investing for the future, but equally David may prefer to go to a team where he can be an instant first choice.
Liverpool (Second place last season, Champions League place for 2022-23)
Playing for Jurgen Klopp could do wonders for David’s future, but a move to Anfield doesn’t seem like a plausible option, at least for now.
Though there was some interest from Liverpool when David was up and coming with Gent, it doesn’t sound like the club are going to be making any more additions this summer.
West Ham United (Seventh place last season, Europa Conference League play-off place for 2022-23)
The idea of moving to more of a mid-table Premier League club to place a priority on playing time and to grow into the rigors of playing in a demanding environment makes sense.
After reaching the Europa League semi-finals, West Ham remain an ambitious club who are approaching this summer with a serious need to make additions after finishing seventh in the Premier League. As The Athletic’s Roshane Thomas explained recently, West Ham manager David Moyes made the fewest changes to his starting XI of any Premier League side this season. The need for increased depth — particularly up top — is evident.
With change possible for the squad, where would David fit?
Moyes prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation, which might put David as the lone striker. That’s not necessarily ideal for how he plays, but it would mean plenty of time on the pitch. Thomas also indicated on Wednesday that the club is intent on signing forward Armando Broja from Chelsea.
Roshane Thomas’ take: David is a young, exciting forward who on paper fits the profile West Ham want to recruit this summer. The only issue is he is unproven in the Premier League. There have been a number of occasions where the club have experimented with forwards who are unproven in the English top-flight. Many struggled to have an impact and were sold shortly after. David’s market value would be in excess of £40 million, and I can’t see West Ham paying that much for the forward.
Newcastle United (11th place last season)
What do you get when you mix a young, highly-touted, goal-scoring forward with a club suddenly able to spend big? The perfect mix for a transfer rumour cocktail.
With the addition of Bruno Guimaraes from Lyon, it seems like the club are intent on using the new cash this summer.
In theory, a move to Newcastle could work for David: he’d get to challenge himself in the Premier League and do so on a team that might not have the competition for starting spots that some of the other teams on this list do.
George Caulkin’s take: This feels more like a case of club plus new money plus available player equals easy story than anything vastly more substantive. Certainly at the moment. Newcastle have been in the hunt for a new striker for a while and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ivan Toney featured in discussions, but the strong form of Callum Wilson after a long lay-off through injury towards the end of last season blurred priorities. If Wilson can stay fit he is as good as anybody and Calvert-Lewin and Toney would be expensive. And funds are an issue, in spite of Newcastle’s Saudi-led takeover, with Financial Fair Play expected to cap their spending this summer to somewhere between £60-80 million this summer, potentially a little more if a special player becomes available.
Newcastle appear to be focusing their spending elsewhere, including on 20-year-old Reims forward Hugo Ekitike and 22-year-old Lille defender Sven Botman.
Tactically, David wouldn’t necessarily be the best fit at Newcastle. Manager Eddie Howe often plays with a front three, and the spots at the top of the three are usually occupied by Callum Wilson or Chris Wood, with his other forwards usually playing in wider roles that David isn’t always accustomed to.
So, should Newcastle shift their spending focus towards David?
Caulkin: Newcastle need reinforcements and they need upgrades. David would tick both of those boxes. Whether he is what they need right now at the price he would cost, is less obvious.
Aston Villa (14th place last season)
Villa are familiar with David, having tracked him for some time now, which you’d think might help increase the chances of a move. But that’s not to suggest that they’re specifically targeting him right now.
Gregg Evans’ take: As part of a wide-reaching scouting set-up, Villa have had eyes on David since his early days at Gent. Villa did a lot of their transfer business in 2019 in Belgium and that’s where David first began to make a name for himself. Villa would be interested in having a player of his quality in the squad but there hasn’t been a serious push to sign him yet.
Yet their forward group — including Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings and Cameron Archer — is largely assembled. The need for a player like David, even with his talent, seems low. This is compounded by the fact that manager Steven Gerrard generally likes to play with two creative midfielders behind a striker. Herdman sees David as more of a No 10, but it’s a work in progress. Relying more on his passing, especially in the Premier League, as opposed to his work rate and dribbling, seems onerous.
So does a move to Villa make sense?
Evans: The only reservation I have is whether it blocks Archer’s pathway into the team, and given the England U21 international’s blistering form in front of goal, that would be a real shame.
If you’re of the belief that David needs to take another smaller step before leaping to the Premier League, then there’s reason to like a move to Milan.
Room to play with a second striker? Check.
Champions League play? Check.
Inter Milan were previously linked with David, but the club’s move for Lukaku and a possible push for Paulo Dybala may end up squashing any chance of David joining Inter. A significant player sale by Inter seems necessary to accommodate David, and while Lautaro Martinez might make sense given the incoming additions, all signs point to Martinez now staying in Milan. That’s a shame for David, considering Martinez plays as a second striker too.
In many ways, Dortmund would be the perfect landing spot for David: Moving from Ligue 1 to the Bundesliga would represent a step up, but perhaps not an overwhelming one. He would still get to play in the Champions League. And even if Dortmund were interested in challenging Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title and starting spots became tough to come by, David would still be with a club renowned for developing young players.
Dortmund’s impending move for Ivory Coast forward Sebastian Haller as a replacement for Erling Haaland all but nixes a deal for David, though.
That’s a shame for a number of reasons — including the fact that it would be fun to see David and his friend and Canada team-mate Alphonso Davies face off at least twice a season.
Red Bull Leipzig (Fourth place last season, Champions League place for 2022-23)
Like Dortmund, a potential move to Leipzig would offer plenty for David to chew on — be it Champions League exposure or a flexible tactical set-up that could accommodate him as a second striker. It stands to reason that the tactical flexibility David would gain by playing in a pressing system could then benefit him and the Canada team under Herdman, who likes to deploy his side in a variety of ways.
One final consideration: Lille (10th place in Ligue 1 last season)
It might not satisfy those refreshing Twitter regularly for transfer news, but David staying with Lille is another option to be considered. Perhaps another team jumps into the mix, but given that many of The Athletic’s writers weren’t sure if a move for David would work this summer, Ligue 1 might be where David remains.
Lille appear to be close to hiring Paulo Fonesca as their new manager. After leaving Roma in 2021, Fonseca was linked with Premier League teams as well as Atlanta United. What’s pivotal here is that Fonesca has deployed a second striker behind the target man who can provide dribbling as opposed to creative passing. That suits David’s profile.
What if David spent another season in Lille honing his game, becoming the face of the club, and banking on a strong performance at the World Cup to further boost his profile? If the right fit isn’t out there for David, a little bit of prudence with his future could go a long way.
(Photo: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
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The best fit for Jonathan David? Transfer destinations from Arsenal to Dortmund
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