There are three certainties in life; death, taxes and an incredibly talented young striker leading the line for Red Bull Salzburg. In the last three years, the Austrian club has had Erling Haaland, Patson Daka and now Karim Adeyemi as their main centre forwards at different times.
The latest in that lineup is Karim Adeyemi, the 19-year old German who has quickly become one of the hottest players in Europe so far in the 2021/22 season. Adeyemi’s talent has been well recognised for years in Austria for a while now, especially after impressing on loan at Liefering but it was last season he started getting mainstream attention.
His breakout 2020/21 season saw him score seven league goals in 29 games (11 as a starter) and provide nine assists as an 18-year-old. He sometimes featured upfront along with Patson Daka or on the left or right wing where he’s also proficient thanks to his pace and trickery.
Karim Adeyemi has taken it a step further this season though, taking full advantage of Sekou Koita’s unfortunate injury to establish himself as Salzburg’s main man. Six goals and one assist in five Austrian Bundesliga games, seven in seven across all competitions, a blistering start that has caught the attention of mainstream Europe.
Aside from being heavily linked to Bayern Munich, reports suggest that Adeyemi has already caught the eye of German national team coach, Hansi Flick. If true, that means a German national team debut is around the corner for Karim Adeyemi who is also eligible to play for Nigeria and Romania.
The youngster was born and bred in Munich to a Nigerian father (the name gave him away) and a Romanian mother. And on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, any of those national teams he chooses to represent would be lucky to have him. Standing at five foot nine inches (he looks even smaller than that in all honesty), Karim Adeyemi is not your traditional centre forward, nor does he look like it.
He’s not the guy you whip in crosses for, that’s where he differs from his striking predecessors at RB Salzburg, he looks and plays more like a midfielder. His tendency to drop deep and request for the ball in tight spaces is eerily similar to Lionel Messi when he played as a false nine.
Adeyemi’s dynamism is an invaluable asset that always keeps him one step ahead of the opposition, highly spontaneous and unpredictable. Sometimes he plays on the shoulder of the defenders and requests for passes to be played into the space for him to run into like Jamie Vardy would. Other times he wants the ball at his feet so he can run at his markers and embarrass them more often than not.
That ability to effortlessly switch his style of play mid-game is what I consider Karim Adeyemi’s X-factor, it is what has made him so difficult to figure out so far. Speaking of unpredictability, did I mention Karim Adeyemi is ambidextrous? He’s capable of causing damage with either his left or right foot. Although his dominant foot is the left, defenders who tried to force him to go right have found out the hard way that there’s nothing weak about that right foot.
Adeyemi finished last season with 11 assists in all competitions and would have had more if his Salzburg teammates weren’t missing gilt-edged chances for fun. His numbers suggest that he’s just as eager to create chances for his teammates as he is to get on the scoresheet himself.
Karim Adeyemi is a left-footed who scores and assists at such a high volume while still maintaining aesthetic value, who does that remind you of? (Hint: he’s Argentine and lives in Paris). With all that said, Karim still needs to work on his decision-making and his vision, he sometimes gets tunnel-vision and ignores everyone else when going on those long runs with the ball.
I assume all of that will improve with time, he’s still only 19 years old and already such a fantastic footballer. Karim Adeyemi’s potential is limitless, with some consistency added to his obvious talent, he could go on to be a multiple Ballon D’Or winner just like Lionel Messi.
By: Tunde Young / @tunde_young
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Andreas Schaad – FC Red Bull Salzburg