The Young Stars Taking Germany’s Most Hated Club To The Top
Posted on 03rd October 2016
They may be the most hated team in Germany for the way they were converted from humble fifth division SSV Markranstädt into big-spending RB Leipzig by their Red Bull owners – changing the colour of the kit and moving to a new purpose built stadium — but the Bundesliga newcomers could yet win a few people over if they continue to perform the way they are at the moment.
Fifth in the table with twelve points from six games is a fantastic effort for a newly promoted side. And behind RB Leipzig’s current form are a host of young stars.
Timo Werner was signed this summer from relegated Stuttgart. The 20-year-old old striker was one of the few shining lights for Die Roten last season, scoring seven goals from 28-appearances. But more than his goals, it was Werner’s industry and work-rate that impressed most observers. Despite the fact that he was part of a weak side who were unable to avoid the drop, he showed a willingness to fight, displaying an impressive level of physical readiness for one so young.
And those characteristics have served him well at Leipzig so far this season, where he has starred as Die Bullen’s lone striker, scoring three goals from five Bundesliga appearances.
With his crouched style, Werner has a low centre of gravity despite standing a hair short of 6ft tall. He is well adept and spreading his arms wide and shielding the ball with a defender on his back – an important skill for a lone marksmen awaiting midfield runners.
Werner is also blessed with tremendous pace, and has already shown his ability to burst into the channels on counter-attacks, while his comfortability shooting off either foot means he is able to find the target from almost any angle.
With three goals in five appearances for the Germany under-21s, a senior national call-up is surely in the near future of the talented Stuttgart-born forward.
Austrian international Marcel Sabitzer signed for RB Leipzig from Rapin Wien in the summer of 2014 but was immediately loaned to sister club Red Bull Salzburg.
The Graz-born 22-year-old made 33 appearances for the Austrian Red Bull outfit, scoring nine goals, before moving back to Leipzig for last season’s Bundesliga2 promotion-winning campaign.
Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl tends to deploy Sabitzer on the left or in a central attacking midfield role, and the versatile forward has struck up a strong understanding with his new team-mate Werner.
Sabitzer already has a goal and an assist to his name in the Bundesliga so far this season, and has proven himself undaunted by the step up in competition.
Scottish winger Oliver Burke has gotten a lot of media attention in his native Great Britain following his summer move to Leipzig from Nottingham Forrest. The 19-year-old elected to take on the challenge of playing in a new country, shunning offers from the Premier League, having come through the youth system at Forest.
Although not yet a regular starter, Burke has shown flashes of his immense potential in his cameo appearances so far this season, providing the match-winning assist against Borussia Dortmund at the Red Bull Arena, and notching his first goal in a recent 1-1 draw with KC Köln.
At 6ft 2ins, Burke is tall for a player for his position, but his physical prowess only adds to his offensive arsenal. Fast, direct, and a gifted dribbler, the teenager appears destined for a bright future, however, Hasenhüttl has preached caution over the elevated expectations of Burke, as he believes the young Scot has a lot to learn tactically before he is considered the finished product.
Already a full international, Scotland fans are hopeful that Burke will one day have the kind of impact for the Tartan Army that Gareth Bale has for Wales.
Guinean international midfielder Naby Keita joined RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg for £12.75 million this summer. The 21-year-old has only started two Bundesliga games so far this season, but his potential has been evident, and Leipzig will be confident that, with time, he will repay the faith they showed in him with the large transfer fee.
Standing only 5ft 7ins tall, Keita cuts a diminutive figure in the centre of midfield, but his positional maturity and responsibility in possession make up for any physical shortcomings.
Keita came on as a late substitute to latch onto Burke’s low cross and fire home the winning goal against Dortmund on his debut for his new club. Although he got forward to great effect on that occasion, he is much more adept at sitting deep, controlling the tempo and breaking up opposition attacks.
Bernardo Fernandes da Silva Junior – better known simply as Bernardo – signed for Leipzig for £3.4 million from Red Bull Salzburg, whom he joined from another of their affiliated teams, Red Bull Brasil.
The 21-year-old Brazilian has spent the majority of his career as a midfielder, but has been utilised as a right-back so far this season, and has excelled in the position in his three Bundesliga appearances to date, wining of 1.7 aerial duels per game, and averaging a WhoScored.com rating of 7.11.
Bernardo is still some way off appearing on the radar of Brazilian national team coach Tite, but if he continues to impress in the Bundesliga, he could figure for the Selecão in the future.
About the author- Ryan Baldi
Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.