At 20 years of age, Karim Adeyemi has established himself as the next young forward to break onto the scene at Red Bull Salzburg following the explosions of Erling Haaland, Patson Daka and Takumi Minamino.
With 19 goals this season, he could be set for a summer move to Borussia Dortmund to replace Haaland as well as a potential inclusion in Hansi Flick’s Germany squad in the upcoming World Cup.
Born in Munich, Germany to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother, Adeyemi spent two years at local side TSV Forstenried before joining Bayern Munich’s academy, where he would spend another two years before leaving the club due to a contract dispute.
He would later join SpVgg Unterhaching in 2012, rising up the ranks and impressing in the U-19 Bundesliga, earning the attention of Salzburg who signed him on a three-year contract in 2018. For the first time in his life, Adeyemi was leaving the only place he had ever called home: Munich.
Immediately after joining Salzburg, Adeyemi was sent out on loan to their feeder club FC Liefering, where he impressed with 6 goals and 4 assists in 2018/19 in 20 appearances in the Austrian second division before taking his tally to 13 goals and 19 assists in 35 appearances across all competitions the following season.
During Adeyemi’s time at Liefering, the teenager established himself as a mainstay in the Austrian team. In the early part of the season, Adeyemi played as a center forward but ended up being moved to the left wing later on in the campaign. In his second season, Adeyemi enjoyed a seismic rise in form, mainly playing as a center forward whilst also playing on the left from time to time.
After the resumption of football following the COVID-19 pandemic stoppage, Adeyemi’s loan at Liefering was cancelled and he was ushered into the first team, providing 1 goal and 3 assists in 10 appearances, eight of which were substitute appearances.
Adeyemi broke onto the scene for Salzburg’s first team in the 2020/21 season following the departures of Dominik Szoboszlai and Hee-chan Hwang, racking up an impressive 9 goals and 11 assists under Jesse Marsch as Salzburg won the domestic double for the third straight year. To cap it off, he won the U-21 Euros at the end of the season with Germany.
He kicked off his 2021/22 campaign with a maiden call-up to the German national team, coming on as a late substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Armenia and scoring the final goal in a 6-0 thrashing — the first time that a player from an Austrian club played for Die Mannschaft in the post-World War II era.
It has been another transitional year for Salzburg who lost manager Jesse Marsch to RB Leipzig (now at Leeds) and sold Zambian duo Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka to Brighton and Leicester City respectively.
With Daka now at the King Power Stadium, Adeyemi was able to become the attacking talisman for Matthias Jaissle, racking up 19 goals and 4 assists in 37 appearances this season.
Thanks to Adeyemi’s goals, Salzburg currently sit 18 points clear atop the league table and have advanced to the Austrian Cup Final. They became the first Austrian team in 31 years to reach the Champions League knockout round, where they would lose to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16.
Adeyemi predominantly plays as a striker but is also capable of playing on either wing. When he plays as a lone striker, he is happy to drop a little deeper and play between the lines, link play and create space for attacking midfielders to link up with one another.
When he’s deployed alongside a strike partner, he tends to run through the channels to stretch the defense as much as possible. Adeyemi uses his breakneck pace to get past defenders and drive the ball into the box with his stronger foot.
When his team is defending, he will often position himself just behind the opponent’s midfield line. That means that when Salzburg wins the ball back, he is in a good position to receive possession in deep areas. He will use his blistering pace and impressive dribbling ability to quickly turn defense into offense.
The German striker is very comfortable using both feet while dribbling and uses his agility to quickly change directions so he can get evade multiple defenders at once.
He combines his technical excellence with an electric pace that makes him almost impossible to catch. Adeyemi accelerates very fast as he dribbles, but whilst he dribbles, he manages to keep control of the ball.
In terms of passing, Adeyemi is more than capable of dropping between the lines and playing one-touch layoffs to his teammates. The short passes he makes often find a teammate in acres of space because he usually draws two or three defenders to him before trying to overtake them.
Two things that Adeyemi will need to work on in order to take the next step in his development are his passing precision and his decision-making — particularly in attacking transitions.
When Adeyemi holds the ball with his back to goal, he gets a good sense of where his teammates are on the field, but he needs to focus more on finding them with the smart passing decision as soon as possible.
Adeyemi is a lethal finisher inside the box who excels at finding space in dangerous areas and showcasing his poacher ability. His unique skillset seems likely to earn him a big move, and with a contract until 2024, Adeyemi could very well make the move this summer to a bigger club.
Whilst he will have to beat out tough competition from the likes of Lukas Nmecha, Serge Gnabry, and Timo Werner, Karim Adeyemi has everything it takes to earn a spot in Germany’s World Cup squad and prove why he is not only a vital part of Die Mannschaft’s future, but their present as well.
By: Daniel Solano / @solano_dan
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Andreas Schaad – FC Red Bull Salzburg