Since its controversial promotion, RB Leipzig has been one of the Bundesliga’s top teams. In the club’s first season in the top flight, Leipzig finished second. The following year, they finished sixth — the only time Die Roten Bullen have finished outside of the league’s top four since they earned promotion in 2016. The club has reached the Champions League semi-finals and even lifted the DFB Pokal, but one big achievement consistently eludes them — the Bundesliga title.
It’s not just that Leipzig hasn’t won the league — they haven’t come particularly close, despite building some strong teams. Granted, Bayern Munich has been borderline unstoppable in the Bundesliga lately, winning the last 11 titles. However, Borussia Dortmund has at least taken the title race to the final day on two separate occasions. The closest Leipzig has come to winning the league was last year, when they finished third — still five points behind Bayern.
Next season, the club will go through some big changes. Christopher Nkunku is making the exact same move that tanked his teammate Timo Werner’s career years ago, signing with Premier League club Chelsea. Midfield star Konrad Laimer is off to Bayern Munich, the exact same move that stalled the career of former teammate Marcel Sabitzer. Joško Gvardiol and Dominik Szoboszlai are both expected to depart as well.
However, Leipzig has always been good about replacing its departing stars. Already midfield duo Christoph Baumgartner and Nicolas Seiwald have been signed, while Nkunku’s replacement has also been named: Benjamin Šeško. A towering Slovenian striker, Šeško may be the man who finally gets Leipzig over the line.
Last season, Leipzig alternated between using one and two strikers. Throughout the season, they tried various striker combinations: Nkunku and Andre Silva, Nkunku and Timo Werner, Werner and Silva, and Silva and Yussuf Poulsen. However, aside from Nkunku, who was injured much of the season, they had little success up top.
In 40 games, Timo Werner scored only nine Bundesliga goals. André Silva, who scored 28 Bundesliga goals with Frankfurt just two years earlier, managed just four. Poulsen, who mostly featured off the bench, scored just twice. In total, these three strikers scored a combined 15 goals in 77 Bundesliga games. Nkunku scored 16 times in 25 games.
Šeško, in his first season as Salzburg’s starting striker, scored 16 times — the third-most in Austria. This was despite missing multiple games due to injuries and suspension. He can blast the ball in from distance, as well as tuck it in from close range — he’s a natural finisher and goalscorer. In Leipzig, he can better that tally.
His Physical Abilities
In Leipzig’s attack, everyone had their specific strengths. Werner and Nkunku are both relatively small and depended on their speed to create dangerous chances — although Nkunku is, unlike Werner, an excellent finisher. Silva is not particularly physically gifted, although his finishing is usually great (however, it was abysmal last season). Poulsen was arguably Leipzig’s most physically impressive striker, at 6’3” and relatively fast.
Šeško’s arrival changes that. He is now the tallest player on the club, at 6’5″, and he’s alarmingly quick for his speed. In 2021, at the age of 17, he was clocked at 36 km/hr. For reference, that’s three km/hr better than Silva and Poulsen’s top speed, two better than Nkunku, and one better than Werner.
He’s also strong enough to hold off defenders, making him an all-around nightmare for defenders to deal with. Leipzig hasn’t really had a striker with this much of a physical presence before, so the Slovenian should be a game-changer.
It helps that Leipzig and Salzburg are similar. Both are cities that speak German as the main language. The climate and culture aren’t too different, either, as they are relatively close together — although some Austrians and Saxons may take issue with that. While this may not seem important, settling quickly is very important for new signings, and Šeško won’t have to adjust too much.
The same is true at club level. Leipzig and Salzburg are both owned by Red Bull, although the RB in Leipzig’s name technically stands for RasenBallsport. As a result, they both play very similar style of high-energy, attacking soccer — which means that Leipzig gets a striker who already knows the system, and Šeško gets a team that he understands the style of.
Manager Marco Rose left Salzburg just one month before Šeško arrived, as did many members of his staff. However, Šeško will have a familiar face in Leipzig. New signing Nicolas Seiwald is also joining from Salzburg, the 19th player to make this move since 2014. Šeško should take to Leipzig like a duck to water.