Red Bull Salzburg has established itself as one of the best talent factories in the world after its recent exports to the world of football. Sadio Mané, Naby Keïta, and Dayot Upamecano to mention a few. After being recalled from loan at their sister club FC Liefering on December 31st, 2019, their next big star is now ready in the pipeline: German 18-year-old Karim Adeyemi.
Red Bull Salzburg and their young guns were the big exclamation point of the 2019-20 Champions League season. The Austrians wreaked havoc in their group with reigning champions Liverpool and Serie A runners-up Napoli and barely missed out on advancing to the round of 16s. Erling Haaland, Takumi Minamino, Hee-Chan Hwang, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Patson Daka stole the spotlight and mesmerized Europe with their alluring offensive plays and blistering individual qualities.
Salzburg, managed by the Red Bull group, has established itself as one of the world’s best talent factories. The names mentioned in the previous paragraph, combined with the likes of Sadio Mané, Naby Keïta, Dayot Upamecano, Konrad Laimer, Duje Caleta-Car, and Diadie Samassékou is testament to the incredible success Salzburg has had with identifying and refining talent.
In the next generation of Salzburg graduates, one name, in particular, stands out: Karim Adeyemi.
Adeyemi was born in Munich to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother in 2002. He started his career playing for German giants – and his hometown club – Bayern Munich after being scouted and recruited from his local team, Forstenreid, in 2010.
Adeyemi impressed the Bayern coaches, but he was eventually let go as a 10-year-old in 2012 for having a lack of discipline and having his own ideas of how to attack – not following Bayern’s precise guidelines. It was a big blow for Adeyemi, who had dreamed of becoming a star for Bayern. But he dealt with adversity in a way most 10-year-olds aren’t able to: he didn’t give up and only got hungrier to make it.
Adeyemi went back to his local side, Forstenreid, and continued to ply his trade. After a tournament later the same year, he was scouted and recruited by SpVgg Unterhaching where he spent the next six years of his career before he was signed by RB Salzburg for a whopping €3.35 million in 2018 – which could rise to €5.5 million depending on bonuses.
For comparison, Salzburg signed Dayot Upamecano for €2.20 million, Naby Keïta for €1.50 million, Sadio Mané for €4 million. They only spend big on talents who are almost guaranteed to make it and generate big profit later down the line. Adeyemi’s fee of €3.35, with the potential of becoming €5.5 million, therefore speaks volumes of Salzburg’s expectations on him and his potential.
Immediately after signing for RB Salzburg, Adeyemi was loaned out to their sister team, FC Liefering, to gain experience and accustom himself to the Austrian style of play. In his first out of two seasons at Liefering, the 2018-19 season, Adeyemi scored six goals and made four assists in 20 games – as a 16-year-old in the second-tier senior division.
His breakthrough, though, came during his second season at Liefering, the 2019-20 season. Adeyemi had at his point established himself as one of the team’s key players and one of the best players in the division. He scored nine goals and eight assists – 17 goal contributions – in 14 games for Liefering. Parallelly to that, Adeyemi featured for Salzburg U18 in the UEFA Youth League, where he faced the U18 teams of the teams in Salzburg’s Champions League group: Liverpool, Napoli, and Genk. Throughout the tournament, he scored three goals and made four assists in seven games.
Adeyemi’s first half of the 2019-20 season with Liefering and Salzburg U18 impressed Salzburg so much that they recalled him halfway through the loan spell on December 31st, 2019. His Transfermarkt value had skyrocketed from €1.50 million to €7.50 million during this period – the highest market value out of all German under 17 players.
STYLE OF PLAY
Adeyemi is predominantly a striker, but he is also capable of playing on either the right or left-wing. But with that being said, he is not a classical out-and-out striker.
Adeyemi tends to position himself deep down the central channels or drift out wide in the attacks and in the build-ups to get more time on the ball. Whilst being on the ball, he likes to challenge the opposition and take players on or execute penetrating, line-breaking passes throughout the vertical channels to set his teammates up in prosperous positions.
When taking on the opposition, Adeyemi mostly relies on his lightning speed, incredible acceleration, and quick change of pace to get past his mark instead of technical showdowns. He is a very quick thinker and a great improviser too, as he seems to always have his next move planned before he even gets the ball. He acts quickly in situations as counters with flick-ons to his teammates, or a quick change of direction to maneuver past the opposition, in order to keep the attacks fluid and rapid. Examples of this can be found in the video below.
Adeyemi is 177 centimeters tall and weighs 69 kilos. Although that’s relatively tall, it’s still enough for him to be a very agile player who is very tricky to get a hold of without drawing a foul – especially combined with his pace and capability to handle the ball in full throttle speed with dribbling and quick change of directions. He’s a nightmare for defenders, as the two realistic alternatives whilst taking him on one against one is to either draw a foul or see him race his way past you with his speed.
As mentioned above, many of Adeyemi’s greatest strengths lies in his speed and quick change of pace- and direction. But perhaps his greatest strength of all is his composure in front of goal and clinical nature to score.
Adeyemi never seems to get nervous in front of the goal. He’s a master of exploiting spaces the goalkeeper doesn’t cover, and he as the ability to exploit them in all angles due to his two-footedness. Whether that’s above, under, or beside the goalkeeper doesn’t matter – Adeyemi will exploit the space regardless. To have that capability at such a young age is very unheard of and rare, so it truly sets him apart from most strikers his age. Adeyemi is also a decent aerial threat and is no stranger to scoring with headers.
But despite his nature as a clinical scorer, he’s also a great creator as well. Adeyemi is very skilled with penetrating and line-breaking passes to his teammates in the spaces behind the opposition midfield and defense. He has a good vision, timing, and read of the game in order to make these types of passes. Which areas to exploit and when to exploit them.
As mentioned at the beginning of the text, he has created eight assists for Liefering in the Austrian second-tier division this season and an additional four with Salzburg’s under 18s.
Adeyemi’s ability to read the game often comes in handy in the penalty box as well. He has a good presence in the box of where to be and when to be there in order to score. He roams around the in the penalty box and strikes the ball like a shark smelling blood when the ball comes into the box. But he’s also smart in using that anticipation and movement to create spaces for his teammates to capitalize on.
Most of Adeyemi’s weaknesses are due to inexperience and young age. His decision-making stands out as a weakness in a sense of knowing when to pass and when to take on the opposition on his own. As mentioned previously, Adeyemi is a skilled player at beating his defender one against one, or even one against two, but he tends to opt for that too often. This, however, is not out of the ordinary for a young player. It can all come down to him wanting to prove himself and showcase what he’s able to do. These types of weaknesses tend to wear off with time.
A weakness Adeyemi needs to work on, however, is being somewhat of a sloppy passer. This season his overall passing completion is just above 57%. That’s not anywhere near acceptable at a bigger club. It’s something he will need to work hard on, especially if he wants to swoop in for one of Patson Daka or Hee-Chan Hwang’s spots as one of the two strikers in Jesse March’s 4-3-1-2 formation.
Adeyemi himself has also stated in an interview that the two areas of his game he himself wants improve are the defensive contributions and to perfect his technique even further. Weaknesses that are not decisive for his game, however, and clearly outweighed by his strengths.
Adeyemi’s potential and fate to become a world-class striker is evidently undeniable if he can stay healthy and continue his current development. The stats he has racked up on senior-level since being 16-years-old speaks volumes to both his current quality and his potential.
Adeyemi was recently awarded the Fritz Walter medal as Germany’s outstanding player at U17 level. Not something to take lightly when you see to the talents Germany historically has produced and the players who have won and been nominated for it before him: Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Marc-André ter Stegen, Mario Götze, Emre Can, Leon Goretzka, and Julian Brandt to mention a few.
Goal Magazine ranked him at number 24 in their NxGn 2020 list of the top 50 talents in world football born on or after January 1st, 2001. His former youth coach, Ognen Zaric, says Adeyemi “was born for the top. With him, I see no limit”. He has already been invited over to England by Chelsea and Liverpool, had an offer worth €15 million been turned down from Barcelona for his services, and is reportedly being closely monitored by Dortmund as a potential Jadon Sancho replacement. Apart from that, he’s essentially being linked with every big club in Europe.
Adeyemi has the world at his feet with his potential, but he’s a sensible young man. When being asked why he chose Salzburg instead of Barcelona or Chelsea who wanted to make him a part of their academy and future plans, he said:
“It was important for my parents and me that my new club had a plan for me. That was the case with Red Bull Salzburg. The style of play and the philosophy convinced me.”
Contrary to many 16-year-old players, he recognized that he’s young and chose a long-term plan that would benefit his development over money and a prestigious club. That decision has indeed proved to have benefited his development immensely. It has started his journey to the top, and it won’t be long until Karim Adeyemi the name on everyone’s lips.
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