Karim Adeyemi: A Transcendent Rise to Stardom

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Bundesliga, International

The 19-Year-Old Red Bull Salzburg Star Is Drawing Comparisons To The Greats

By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press

Describing Karim Adeyemi as” a rising star” is simply not fitting. Perhaps, “generational talent” may be more apt. 

Yes, Adeyemi is a generational talent with the potential to transcend an era of football.

Aged only 19 years, the Red Bull Salzburg star is drawing comparisons to Lionel Messi after a slew of scintillating performances in the Austrian Bundesliga and the Champions League has put the football world on notice.

Adeyemi’s fourteen goals and two assists across all competitions has attracted the interest of Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, and Barcelona. His left foot has created moments of magic with the appearance of the ball almost glued to his foot on mazy dribbling runs and precise strikes around the box. This is not the first time Adeyemi’s brilliant ability has attracted the attention of elite clubs.

Adeyemi signed for Bayern Munich at the age of 8. As a young kid, his progress compared to those his age was unparalleled. On the pitch, everything seemingly was going well but behind the scenes he was struggling. Due to his hyperactive nature, Adeyemi had trouble focusing in school. A lack of support and harsh criticism from coaches left his parents frustrated. As a result, the relationship between his parents and the club slowly deteriorated. 

Adeyemi told Goal.com this was the time he needed more support as a young kid but instead he was met with criticism from coaches at Bayern.

“At Bayern it quickly became clear that there was a precise plan. If you, as a player, stepped out of line or did not stick to this plan, you usually received little support,” Adeyemi said. “It remains to be seen whether they [Bayern] felt I had a lack of discipline. It just didn’t fit with Bayern anymore.”

Subsequently, Bayern Munich released Adeyemi. The youngster was left in search of a new club, and he used the rejection as fuel and motivation to elevate his game. It was then that he began to develop at a rapid rate.

Adeyemi joined his local club SpVgg Unterhaching in 2012. He progressed through youth teams to make his debut for the first team in the fourth division of Germany’s football pyramid. In April 2018, he scored his first goal for the club after only 1 month into his time there.

Impressive performances with his local club led to Austrian giants RB Salzburg indicating an increased interest in potentially signing him. 

Eventually Adeyemi signed for RB Salzburg in the summer of 2018, but he wasn’t the only promising striker the club sought to sign that summer. The club also signed Erling Haaland to a 5-year contract in January 2019.

Adeyemi’s start to life at Salzburg progressed in a completely different direction than Haaland, the current Borussia Dortmund star, who made an immediate impact for the club during his 10 appearances.

Adeyemi was sent on loan to the Austrian second division club FC Liefering while Haaland’s admirable performances would lead him to cement himself as one of the most promising stars in football.

After signing for Dortmund in January 2020, Haaland left Patson Daka and Adeyemi as the main strikers at Salzburg. When Daka departed this summer to join Leicester City, Adeyemi began to gain more playing time.

Salzburg was confident that Adeyemi would be capable of filling the void, and the striker has not only performed well but he has exceeded expectations.

Indeed, it is rare to see a young forward that can adeptly dribble with both feet. Likewise, it would be difficult to find young forwards in the football world that are more prolific in front of goal. His ability seems to be somewhat reminiscent of the last stage of cutting a diamond: polishing the facets. To rise to the level of a complete forward he will need to improve on his passing accuracy and decision making abilities.

Adeyemi’s advanced stats show his dynamism in the final third. According to Opta Franz, Adeyemi possesses the highest xG per shot in the Austrian Bundesliga which provides further evidence of his abilities. Expected goals (xG) indicates the probability a shot will end as a goal. The advanced stat takes into account the shot’s distance from the goal, what body part was used, and how the shot was set up. A shot that has an xG of .4 would suggest that an identical shot that was attempted 10 times would result in four goals. Adeyemi has an stunning average of 0.26 xG, and the chart below from Opta Franz shows Adeyemi has been efficient in creating and finishing around the box.

With his blend of pace and technical brilliance, Adeyemi could develop into a player who defines an era.

His commitment to improving his awareness and passing will be a next step in his development into a complete forward, and delivering on a level of promise that is transcendent.

Dakwa is a student at Elon University. He writes about European football for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him at @JDakwa on Twitter.