Karim Adeyemi: An Elite German Talent Smashing Preconceptions at RB Salzburg by Adam Khan

Karim Adeyemi: An Elite German Talent Smashing Preconceptions at RB Salzburg by Adam Khan

Adam Khan 28/02/2022

Like peanut butter & jelly, milk & cookies, or FC Bayern and cruising to the Meisterschale, there’s something about Red Bull Salzburg and young forwards that simply goes together.

From Sadio Mané to Patson Daka with a stop at Erling Haaland between, the Red Bull schooling and the Austrian Alps seems to have found the perfect formula to turn raw attacking genius into domineering forces on the European scene.

Now on course for their 9th consecutive Austrian title, and through to the Champions League knockout stages, it is a new young starlet who is leading the line and grabbing headlines this season.

Though he’s barely finished blowing out the candles on his 20th birthday cake, Karim Adeyemi is already playing like an experienced veteran in Matthias Jaisle’s entertaining outfit. The young forward is scoring freely and routinely using his energetic pace to leave the continent’s best defences on their backside.

With a starring role in Salzburg’s Champions League run, and a convincing substitute presence in Hansi Flick’s national team, the Münich native has caused quite a stir around the world of football. With the likes of Liverpool FC, Borussia Dortmund, FC Bayern, and FC Barcelona all expressing interest, it seems like only a matter of time before Adeyemi becomes Salzburg’s next big export to a major European league.

In Adam Khan’s monthly column, the German football writer takes us through one of his nation’s brightest young talents with a thorough analysis of Adeyemi’s key strengths and attributes. 

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One of the most obvious aspects of Adeyemi’s game is the youngster’s elite movement. The 2-time Austrian champion possesses a rapid change of pace which has undoubtedly caught the eye of countless European scouts. Against subpar domestic defences it allows Adeyemi clear chances on goal, but even in the UEFA Champions League – the pinnacle of the club game – the German youngster continues to tear opponent’s apart with this electric intensity.

In the 6-game groupstage Adeyemi scored 3 times and set up a further 2; an impressive output for an unproven youngster, but just a fragment of what has truly made him such an interesting proposition. Rather, Adeyemi’s well-timed forward runs, and surges in possession, are what have been causing the outrageous clamour across the continent.

In Adeyemi’s 461 minutes of groupstage action, the young forward routinely left defences flat-footed, and in the process even drew a record 4 penalty kicks. By driving directly at an opponent, or looking for a quick move in behind, Adeyemi puts opposition centerbacks in a precarious situation where they are either forced into a foul, or obligated to allow the youngster to continue his run unimpeded.

Karim Adeyemi has been an unstoppable presence at times across Salzburg’s Champions League run. Alongside his record-breaking penalty statistic, the young German has also drawn the most fouls of any centre forward, the most yellow cards, and even got his opposition sent off on one occasion.

In addition to his spectacular speed and intelligent movement, Adeyemi is on course to become one of the most in-demand finishers in the next decade of European football. With 14-goals Adeyemi is not only leading the Austrian Bundesliga goalscoring charts, but the German international has the second most goals of any U21 player in world football this season – only behind Erling Braut Haaland of Borussia Dortmund (16).

One could argue that the Austrian topflight is an inferior competition enabling Adeyemi’s fine form, but even in the Champions League the Salzburg forward has more than cemented his status as a lethal finisher and impressive provider.

Following the culmination of grouplay on the 9th of December, Adeyemi was one of just 6 players who were averaging at least one direct goal contribution (goal or assist) in both the Champions League and their domestic topflight.

The other 5 players to make up this list?

None other than Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappé, Robert Lewandowski, Christopher Nkunku, and Sébastian Haller! (pictured below)

A big reason for Adeyemi’s impressive goal return comes from his ability to consistently get shots on target, a factor which is heavily influenced by his world-class movement. Heading into the start of February, Adeyemi had an on-target shot percentage of 59.6%, a figure unequalled in either the Austrian or German Bundesliga.

By simply routinely getting shots on target, Adeyemi is constantly forcing the keeper into action, and improving the likelihood that a deflection will either fall in his favour, or allow a teammate to turn the loose ball home.

The final aspect of Adeyemi’s game which draws attention is his dribbling, a feature often overlooked due to his supreme movement off the ball. According to Wyscout, Adeyemi attempts 7.33 1v1’s and dribbles per 90, an enormous output which puts him in the upper 99th percentile amongst centre forwards in Europe.

Whilst these are by no means all successful, completing an action on just 37.1% of occasions, this willingness to engage his opposite number is what makes him such a refreshing prospect for the Salzburg talent factory.

Whereas Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland- two strikers who Adeyemi could potentially replace – may still be head-and-shoulders above the German international when it comes to finishing, dribbling is an aspect which sets the 20-year old apart.

Neither forward has ever averaged more than 4 1v1’s or dribbles across an entire season, whilst Erling Haaland’s best campaign in 2019-20 saw the Norwegian goal-machine register fewer than half of Adeyemi’s attempted take-ons for Salzburg this season. Maintaining this high dribble volume won’t just set Adeyemi apart as a centre forward, but it should also make him a viable option on the wings, or in a tight attacking trident like we’ve seen from Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

With a return leg against Bayern fast approaching, Karim Adeyemi should have yet another opportunity to impress in front of the watchful eyes of Hansi Flick, and the global football community. Though the youngster has a contract which runs until 2024, it is almost inconceivable to think that he will stay in Austria next season given that a November World Cup is fast approaching.

According to Sport1, Salzburg are demanding a €42.5m fee for the youngsters’ services. If paid, it would make Adeyemi the most expensive departure in RB’s history, and more than double the basic fee they received for Haaland in early 2020.

Somehow, despite the steep price tag and growing market restrictions, this still feels like a coup for whichever club ultimately gets their hands on his signature.

Offering blistering pace, intelligent movement, efficient finishing, and a fearless ability to carry possession, Adeyemi has all the makings of an elite centerforward. His slight frame, and youthful decision-making can at times cast doubts over his top-tier credentials, but they are also factors which allow him to flash into life in the blink of an eye, and produce a moment of magic few saw coming.

With 81 matches for RB Salzburg in which Adeyemi combined for 47 goals and assists, the time is rife for this German international to showcase his talents for a massive club in European football. 

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