NBA

Discarded by Bayern before turning down Chelsea, Adeyemi is spreading his wings at Salzburg

By Sports Desk April 03, 2021

It's November 25, 2020. A young German winger stands on the touchline anxiously waiting to step on to the Allianz Arena pitch for his Champions League debut in his hometown.

But as he waits to be allowed on, there are people watching both on television and in the largely empty stands who know this isn't how it should've been.

Rather than wearing the all-red of Bayern Munich, Karim Adeyemi jogs on in the all-black of Salzburg with the Austrian champions 3-0 down.

A technically gifted and supremely fast winger, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3million when he was 16.

Adeyemi had left Bayern six years earlier and is a situation that has dominated much of his early professional career, with questions about why he left never far away.

Now 19, Adeyemi has previously spoken at length about his attitude as a kid, how learning wasn't much to his liking and distraction was a regular nuisance to him.

These factors certainly didn't help at Bayern. Neither, Adeyemi alleged in the past, did the club showing little support to players who strayed from "the plan". The collective, rather than individualistic talents, was prioritised.

But to speak to him in 2021, Adeyemi comes across as grounded and professional, yet driven, well aware of the level he wants to reach.

"I think it's a dream for every player to play in the Bundesliga or Premier League one day," he tells Stats Perform News. Yet, should he end up in England, it's fair to say he'll have taken the long route.

Chelsea were a keen admirer of Adeyemi before he joined Salzburg, the youngster confirming in the past that he turned down a move to Stamford Bridge in favour of Austria.

"I decided that with my family because I thought that Salzburg was the best destination for me," he continued. "Their playing style fits me well and we harmonised perfectly. I got along well with Christoph Freund [Salzburg sporting director] and everyone else. That's why I decided to join this club."

But while the average football fan might question his choice, Adeyemi's former coach at Unterhaching – with whom he spent the six years between Bayern and Salzburg – believes it was a mature decision that made perfect sense.

"Surprised? No, not at all. For him, Salzburg was the right club," Marc Unterberger told Stats Perform News. "Their philosophy suits him perfectly, and the proximity to Unterhaching, where his family still lives, is ideal.

"What is being done there, especially in training young players, is absolutely remarkable."

 

But what exactly has that meant for Adeyemi? The teenager adds: "It was my plan to first join Liefering [on loan] when I arrived at Salzburg. I wanted to perform well there and show my skills, then I wanted to have more and more contact with the first team [at Salzburg], and I think for every young player it's first of all important to get settled. Now I am at the first team and I am happy about it. That was my plan so far."

After spending a year and a half at Liefering, who essentially act as a B team for Salzburg, Adeyemi returned to his parent club having caught the eye in Austria's second tier.

He scored 15 goals and got eight assists in 35 league games for Liefering, strong evidence that he was ready for the step up.

Adeyemi hasn't been quite so explosive with Salzburg, only having a hand in goals in six of his 29 Austrian Bundesliga matches, but the key factor here is that he is having to remain patient – only nine of those 29 games were as a starter.

"Well, you can never be completely satisfied," he explained. "You always have things to improve. It was the same for me when I played in Liefering. I always want more. It's exactly the same here in the first team. I always say I am never satisfied with what I do, I always want more, and I think that's what I am focusing on.

"I am trying to improve my game together with the coaching staff. I'm trying to have progress in my development. Nobody knows what happens in the future."

It is a display of maturity and realism that belies many of the stories that have followed Adeyemi during his fledgling career. Unterberger believes the youngster is often shown in a negative light, adamant most kids are prone to distraction.

"I find that he is portrayed too negatively. Of course, Karim wasn't a classic academy player. He had his own thoughts on how to deal with things. We never wanted to change him completely, and I think we succeeded quite well. Karim is a really great guy and a great person.

"Until the time Karim came to us, we had never had such an exceptional player in our youth division. Of course, as a young person, you benefit from being accepted for who you are, but I would like to make it very clear that there was no situation within the team in which Karim behaved in such a way that we as a club were forced to act. On the contrary, over time he developed more and more towards putting himself at the service of the team.

"He was easily distracted, that's right, but let's be honest, something like this is normal when young people develop."

After all, Unterberger arguably knows Adeyemi better than any other coach.

"I can still remember it very well, the first time I saw him play in an Under-11 tournament," he recalls. "Back then he was still playing for TSV Forstenried. My first thought was: 'We absolutely need this player'. Fortunately, it worked out later!"

That might be something of an understatement in reality. The €3m fee that Unterhaching received made him the most expensive German under-18 player ever, while 2019 saw him win the Fritz-Walter Gold Medal, an award handed out to Germany's best youth player. Previous winners include Timo Werner, Emre Can and Mario Gotze.

And he has certainly shown flashes of his significant potential. In November, he became the first player this season to have a hand in four goals (one scored, three set up) in a single game in the Austrian Bundesliga. Only one other has matched that feat this term: his team-mate, Mergim Berisha. In December, he broke Salzburg's record for their youngest ever scorer in the Champions League.

Yet Adeyemi recognises he still has a long way to go.

"I can only talk for myself and not for the other players. I think if you feel comfortable within a team and you get your chances, then there's a possibility [of finding the right fit]. That's how it is between Salzburg and myself. I will continue to work hard for that. I want to develop more and become a man."

Given the talents Salzburg and their Red Bull sister club RB Leipzig have produced in recent years, few would doubt Adeyemi's in the right place to spread his wings.

Related items

  • Minamino ends Liverpool stay with Monaco switch Minamino ends Liverpool stay with Monaco switch

    Takumi Minamino has brought his Liverpool stay to an end by completing a move to Monaco.

    The Japan international signed for the Reds in January 2020 but was unable to establish himself as a first-team regular.

    During a two-and-a-half-year period at Anfield, Minamino scored 14 goals in 55 appearances.

    He helped Liverpool win their first Premier League title in the 2019-20 season, before playing his part in an FA Cup and EFL Cup double in his final campaign on Merseyside.

    While the fee for his move to France has not been confirmed by either club, Monaco are reported to be paying €15million (£12.9m), with an extra €3m (£2.6m) potentially forked out in bonuses.

    Minamino has signed a four-year deal with Monaco, who finished third in Ligue 1 last term.

     

  • Insigne: Toronto move motivated by need for fresh challenge Insigne: Toronto move motivated by need for fresh challenge

    Lorenzo Insigne says his move to Major League Soccer side Toronto FC came about due to his need for a new challenge after spending his entire career with Napoli.

    The Italy international agreed to join Toronto in January, going on to finish the 2021-22 Serie A season with 11 goals in 32 appearances for Luciano Spalletti's Napoli before heading to Canada.

    Insigne scored 122 goals in 434 appearances for his hometown club, a tally which is only bettered by Dries Mertens (148) and represents seven goals more than the late, great Diego Maradona netted for the Partenopei (115).

    Speaking at his first news conference in Toronto, Insigne refuted the suggestion that MLS represented a step down for a player of his quality.

    Asked whether he had been presented with other options, Insigne said: "I didn't receive any [other] offers at that time. It was very early when I first met the president, and I still had my contract with Napoli. I could have stayed in Europe. 

    "I'm 31, so I still have many years in front of me, but I wanted to choose happiness and the wellbeing of my family. 

    "As I mentioned before, I won a lot with Napoli, and I lost as well. But I wanted a change and more importantly, a challenge, either in another European club or here in North America. 

    "I've heard people saying that soccer in North America is not real soccer, but I've seen it and it's not true. 

    "It is a challenge because of the move, but I'm really grateful to the opportunity the president gave me and the whole organisation has given me, and the love and the effort that everybody is putting into this. I'm very thankful, and I want to repay the love with my performances during the season."

    Insigne joins a team that sits 11th in the Eastern Conference, but he is already targeting silverware.

    "I am very happy to be here. This is a big and new adventure for me and my family, this is the first time we have been away from Napoli," he said.

    "But it was a great choice, because when I first met the president, he talked to me about Toronto as a city and especially about the team. 

    "He struck me as a really great person, and the project that he explained to me about the team stuck with me.

    "I made the decision, not for the money, but for a new life for my family and my kids, and for their wellbeing. The project is certainly a challenge, and I would like to be part of winning the championship.

    "I played for Napoli for 10 years and for the Italian national team, winning the Euros. So, I don't have any problem with being under pressure, and I'd rather have my actions speak for me on the pitch."

  • Wimbledon: Swiatek makes it 36 wins on the bounce despite topsy-turvy second set Wimbledon: Swiatek makes it 36 wins on the bounce despite topsy-turvy second set

    Iga Swiatek is through to the second round at Wimbledon thanks to a straight-sets defeat of Jana Fett on Tuesday.

    While the top seed did not have it all her own way in the second set, she ultimately had more than enough to see off Fett 6-0 6-3.

    All early signs pointed to a comfortable win for Swiatek as world number 252 Fett looked nervous, committing 14 unforced errors to her opponent's four in the first set.

    As such, Swiatek's first-set bagel arrived with the Pole barely breaking a sweat, but her level dropped in the second and allowed Fett a foothold.

    Fett broke to love in the first game of the second set, and although Swiatek instantly hit back, the Croatian then broke again before managing to consolidate and go 3-1 up.

    But she passed up five break points as Swiatek began to build her way back, and the world number one was soon a break to the good, with Fett's 23 unforced errors, which included nine double faults, proving her downfall.

    A sloppy return from Fett gave Swiatek match point, and the former put her next shot straight into the net as the favourite became the first female player since Martina Hingis in 1997 to win 36 successive matches.

    Data slam: Swiatek bagels again

    Remarkably, Swiatek's first-set bagel was her 17th of the season. This century, only Serena Williams (25 in 2013) and Kim Clijsters (18 in 2003) have managed more in a single year.

    While Fett made life a little trickier in the second, the nature of Swiatek's first-set performance almost made victory a formality and few would bet against her repeating her bagel feat in the second round.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Swiatek – 10/15
    Fett – 7/23

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Swiatek – 0/3
    Fett – 1/9

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Swiatek – 6/10
    Fett – 2/8

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.