He’s not quite Albert Einstein but there are few footballers that can get within an E = mc2 of Manuel Akanji in the intellect stakes.
You see, our cultured defender has a head for figures as well as footballs. He crunches into numbers as well as tackles.
24 x 75. For us, that’s rocket science. For Akanji, it’s as easy as 1,2,3. Well 1,800 actually.
Akanji, you see, is a maths genius, who excels at mental arithmetic.
He showcased his skills when he was a star at Borussia Dortmund by appearing on German entertainment show ‘Wetten, dass?'
In a complex numerical head-to-head challenge, the presenter used a calculator to multiply two numbers given to him by the audience – while Akanji calculated in his head.
Needless to say, there was only winner!
Akanji repeated the feat in an interview with Sky Sports News earlier this year, too.
He was quizzed on a series of Manchester City-related multiplications, which the defender solved with ease.
“City have won 23 major trophies, you've won 41 caps for Switzerland. 23 x 42?" Akanji, quick as a flash: "966."
The sums kept coming. But so did the answers.
It's an astonishing gift and one he honed in the classroom – and, interestingly also, on the way back and forth from school courtesy of car licence plates.
It was a different kind of calculation that Akanji had to do when City had an offer accepted from Borussia Dortmund for his services this past summer – although the classy defender says it was an easy one to figure out.
“I knew last year when I was at Dortmund that I wanted to make a next step to get better and see where I could go with my football career,” said Akanji in his first City TV interview.
“To make this step here at Manchester City with Pep Guardiola, I think it can’t get any better.
“The combination of coach x club is perfect for me here.”
Akanji didn’t hesitate when City approached and he signed a five-year deal, which will keep him at the Etihad until the summer of 2027.
He began his career at FC Winterthur in his homeland before moving to Basel, where he impressed enough in his three seasons to convince Dortmund to swoop for him in January 2018.
He made 158 appearances during his four-and-a-half year stay with the Black and Yellows, winning the German Super Cup in 2019 and the German Cup in 2020/21.
That impact made Guardiola sit up and take notice. Continuing our earlier theme of Akanji as a man of rare intellect, Guardiola saw high acumen and aptitude at work in one of their earliest training sessions together.
“With [assistant manager] Carlos Vicens on set pieces, he said: ‘you only have to tell him once [and] he knows it’,” Guardiola said of the centre-half.
“The movement defensively and offensively, he executes it perfectly. This is a gift for the manager.
“Some players, you have to explain ten times or train ten times to show what you are thinking or what you want to do. This guy needed just one training session and he got it.
“The movement he has to do as a full-back, the high pressing, he didn’t train once, and he did it perfectly.
“With the ball he is a magnificent player.
“He was absolutely perfect. Proof again that intelligent people, always it pays off.”
After those early sessions, Akanji made an accomplished start to his City career across September, starting in the 4-0 Champions League victory away at Sevilla.
Akanji had 86 touches of the ball in an assured display at the back, while also playing two key passes in the 90 minutes.
He followed that up with another start in an action-packed 2-1 home win over former side Borussia Dortmund and eventually made his Premier League debut in another confident win, a 3-0 away success at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He endeared himself to supporters with his performances in October, winning Player of the Month.
Akanji took 45% of the vote as he starred in home victories over Manchester United, Southampton and Brighton, an away win at Leicester, Champions League draws at Copenhagen and Dortmund and a tight defeat to Liverpool in the top-flight at Anfield.
After completing the first part of the campaign, against Fulham and Brentford, Akanji – like 15 other City players – departed for the winter World Cup in Qatar.
The defender represented the Swiss at the 2018 edition of the tournament, where they were narrowly beaten by Sweden in the Round of 16.
It was one stage further in Euro 2020.
After progressing from Group A in joint-second spot behind eventual winners, Italy, they defeated world champions, France, in the Round of 16.
After a frenetic 3-3 draw in regular time, the Swiss won 5-4 on penalties, Akanji scoring his team’s third goal in the shoot-out.
If they excelled from the spot in that game, it was a different story the following round as they exited at the hands of Spain in the quarter-finals.
The 1-1 draw was followed by a deflating 1-3 loss on penalties.
Alongside four other Premier League players in Murat Yakin’s squad - those being Newcastle’s Fabian Schar, Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler and Chelsea loanee Denis Zakaria – Akanji is now eyeing more progress in tournament football.
Competing in Group G over in Qatar, Akanji started as the Swiss won their opening game 1-0 against Cameroon, Breel Embolo scoring the decisive goal.
He was in the starting line-up four days later as they succumbed to tournament favourites, Brazil, 1-0, United midfielder Casemiro winning it late on for the Samba Boys.
Akanji and Switzerland are now second in the group as they look for a positive result against Serbia on Friday to get through to the elimination part of the competition.
It's an exciting prospect but, with so many permutations still possible as Brazil take on Cameroon in the other game in the group, all parties will have to do their sums as the matches ebb and flow throughout the 90 minutes.
It’s a shame that Akanji will be playing because he’d be just the man for the job.