With 11 Bundesliga goals so far, Silas Wamangituka has been key to Stuttgart's successful season. Ahead of Saturday's trip to Leverkusen, the Congolese winger is ticking all the right boxes off the pitch, too.
When Silas Wamangituka picked up the ball on the edge his own box, the counterattack was on for Stuttgart. Teammates piled forward with him, but Wamangituka went it alone.
With his first touch, he drove into midfield. With his third, he left Mainz's Kevin Stöger for dead. Three more touches took him to the edge of the Mainz box, where he cut inside onto his right foot and fired the ball home.
It had taken just eleven touches in 12 seconds for the 21-year-old Congolese winger to cover 70 meters, put Stuttgart 2-0 up and secure three more Bundesliga points.
"I know that Silas doesn't like passing the ball," joked teammate Sasa Kalajdzic. "But as long as he puts it away, I won't say anything."
Silas, as he is known, certainly knows how to put it away. His solo effort against Mainz was his 11th goal in the Bundesliga this season. And five days later, he did it again, this time in the German Cup.
Borussia Mönchengladbach captain Lars Stindl bounced off him, World Cup winner Christoph Kramer was nutmegged, and Austrian international Stefan Lainer was sent sprawling as Silas again rampaged through the entire opposition half to open the scoring.
Stuttgart went on to lose 2-1, but a cup exit is an insignificant blemish on an impressive season which is all about re-establishing the club in the Bundesliga after a year in the second division.
Silas is key to that, not just in terms of his goals and threat he poses when cutting in off the right wing, but in terms of the sort of characters with which sporting director Sven Mislintatwants to restore the 2007 Bundesliga champions to their former glory.
"I was recruited to give this club a face again, to develop a strategy," the former Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal chief scout told DAZN earlier this season.
"There are certain players who have a cheeky streak in them, who haven't come through the conformity of a youth academy, players who break out from time to time, who perhaps skipped school or argue with their coach," Mislintat continued.
"These are often the sort of players who later show leadership in difficult situations on the pitch. They have no fear, they're brave, they attack — one-on-one players like Silas Wamangituka who have no fear of failure."
Mislintat has often looked to France for young players who meet those criteria. He brought Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele to Dortmund from St. Etienne and Rennes respectively, and he spotted Wamangituka at Ligue 2 side Paris FC, for whom the Congolese winger scored 11 goals in the 2018-19 season.
'A good lad with a good heart'
Silas has continued to demonstrate his goalscoring talents in Germany. A neat, side-footed finish against Mainz last season was calculated as having only an 11% percent chance of going in, according to the Bundesliga's official statistics. But Silas had the deftness of touch to place the ball perfectly.
And, in the closing stages away at Werder Bremen in December, he demonstrated that cheeky streak Mislintat is looking for, too. Having capitalized on a mix-up in the Bremen defense, Silas found himself alone in the box front of goal. With everyone else having seemingly stopped, he slowly and casually walked the ball into the net, earning a telling off from Bremen's Davie Selke and a yellow card for unsporting behavior from the referee.
For his coach, Pellegrino Matarazzo, it was somewhat out of character. "He's a good lad with a good heart which beats with humility," he said ahead of this Saturday's trip to Bayer Leverkusen. "He's more shy than arrogant, and he listens. He laughs a lot and has a good sense of humor."
Silas' combination of character and talent has already seen him pick up "Bundesliga Rookie of the Month" awards for November and December — only the third player to win back-to-back awards after Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Gladbach's Marcus Thuram.
That's impressive company for Wamangituka, even if he prefers to go it alone on the pitch.