Karim Adeyemi


Joe Donnohue

FEBRUARY 26, 2022

Red Bull Salzburg's Karim Adeyemi

Note: This profile was first written in September 2021. All statistics and facts are correct to that time period.

Update – February 2022: As anticipated, this season has seen Karim Adeyemi take the Champions League and Austrian Bundesliga by storm. The German star scored three goals, created one assist, and won four penalties in the group stage, three of those in one game against Sevilla. This helped secure Red Bull Salzburg’s passage to the knockout stages of the competition, coming second in a group featuring LOSC Lille, Wolfsburg and Sevilla. 

The 20-year-old striker also made his Germany debut in World Cup qualifying last September, scoring against Armenia in a 6-0 win. In Austria, Adeyemi has scored 14 times in 17 league games as Salzburg cruise towards their ninth straight title. 

Off the back of this strong form, the Germany international has naturally been linked with an array of clubs. This includes a possible return to Bayern Munich, as well as a move to Liverpool. However, the most notable links have been to Borussia Dortmund to follow in the footsteps of Erling Braut Haaland, if as expected, the Norwegian makes a move to England or Spain in the summer.

Who is Karim Adeyemi?

Born to a Nigerian father and Romanian mother, Ka­rim-David Adeyemi is a future German international, and the next star off the production line at FC Red Bull Salz­burg. A Fritz-Walter Gold Medal recipient at under-17 lev­el – a prize previously awarded to Leon Goretzka, Timo Werner and Mario Götze – Adeyemi’s top level potential was apparent long before achieving this accolade.

For a player of his quality, Adeyemi’s experience with elite academies seemed to have ended aged 10, when Bayern’s youth academy cancelled their two-year association with the player after alleged ill-discipline and parental disagree­ments. 

Bayern Munich’s loss was Bavarian club SpVgg Unterhaching’s gain, nurturing young Adeyemi on and off the pitch. Club president Manfred Schwabl personally mentored the teenager, and reportedly reminded him that studying was equally important as football. After scoring 15 in 15 in the Under-17 Bundesliga Süd/Südwest before his 16th birthday, Unterhaching fielded calls from Chelsea, RB Leipzig, Liv­erpool, Atlético Madrid and even Bayern – acknowledging the error of their ways.

Adeyemi was eventually sold for €3 million into the Salzburg arm of the relentless Red Bull system in 2018, still just 16 at the time, but earning Unter­haching a fee which roughly covered their annual budget in the third tier, vindicating the hours club president Schwabl dedicated to nurturing a young Adeyemi off the pitch. 

Since his arrival in Austria, Adeyemi has followed the ar­terial path so many youngsters at FC Red Bull Salzburg tread. First, a loan move to 2. Liga with feeder club FC Liefering yielded nine goals and seven assists in 14 matches, cou­pled with some dazzling trickery and finishes in the UEFA Youth League, made it abundantly clear that the teenager was wasted outside Salzburg’s senior squad. There he has burst onto the proverbial scene, in every sense of the word, in an explosive way.

Karim Adeyemi playing for Red Bull Salzburg

Karim Adeyemi's style of play

Adeyemi possesses incredible acceleration and athleti­cism, sustaining it over prolonged distances. He is a one-man counter-attack. Former Germany under-17 manager and Liefering assistant Michael Feichtenbeiner summed up Adeyemi’s style succinctly to Süddeutsche Zeitung: “He has extraordinary speed and dynamism, real speed and pull to the goal. He is brave and seeks one-on-ones.”

Last season was the precursor to his breakout year: a campaign in which he completely justified the decision to promote him to Salzburg’s first team. Adeyemi is explo­siveness personified; he is torpedo-like, both in terms of his impact and the visual spectacle of propelling himself towards an opponent’s goal, threatening to detonate.

With his crouched running style and acceleration from a stand­ing start, Adeyemi would be a danger to most defences. Combined with his unapologetically deceptive strength at 5′10″, the torpedo descriptor perhaps does not do the 19-year-old justice. Adeyemi understands how to distrib­ute his weight expertly dependent on the situation. 

Hur­tling towards goal he is weightless, legs moving in tandem at a rate of knots, then somehow brusque and unyielding when shoulder-to-shoulder with an opponent. Almost as if he were a character from Mortal Kombat, when Adeyemi is not sprinting or shunting opponents off the ball, he is powering up, storing his energy for the opportune moment to release, like a solar flare.

But it is not all good, as expected for a player whose form­ative years were spent as a get-out-of-jail-free card for de­fenders with a predilection for clearing their lines. For con­text, at least three-quarters of his goals for Unterhaching under-17s came from latching onto a ball over the top and finishing after a dribble. 

Such immense speed does have its drawbacks. While it makes Adeyemi a high-volume press­er, it does often betray his first touch. Adeyemi unsurpris­ingly creates plenty of shots for himself off the back of carries and dribbles, but would create an awful lot more if he perfected the ability to kill a ball dead with a single, delicate touch.

Admirably, the teenager is no stranger to a little hard work. For an individual who excels so plainly by playing on the shoulder, he does not take issue dropping deep and contrib­uting with his back to goal – in both defensive and attack­ing phases. Adeyemi will work back, make recovery runs as well as offer an outlet 70 yards from the opponents’ goal when Salzburg are defending set-pieces.

Another breakout German talent: SC Freiburg’s Nico Schlotterbeck

When he can break forward, his ball-striking is extreme­ly powerful, fashioning opportunities on his favoured left side if given the option – however, he can be criticised ever so slightly for shooting from the hip a little too often. 

He is not quite at an elite finishing level yet, but his speed gives goalkeepers and defenders much less time to set their stance and decide how they will try to stop him. Already, ‘keepers in Austria are taking up more advanced starting positions to negate Adeyemi’s ability running into depth and going through one-on-one. This is not a mere observa­tional coincidence; they are all doing it.

Forecasting Karim Adeyemi's future

It sounds funny to suggest a teenage forward with nine goals and ten assists in a top-flight European league has not yet had their breakout season, but it is true; Adeyemi only played 1,300 minutes and the majority of those were off the bench. This year will be different. 

With Patson Daka now at Leicester City and Sékou Koïta out with a long-term injury, the pathway forward is clear. Adeyemi started Salzburg’s opening league fixture of the 2021/22 campaign alongside fellow teenage forward Benjamin Šeško. The 3-1 win over SK Sturm Graz came about thanks to an Adeyemi brace and an assist. 

The 19-year-old German could quite easily have tallied an assist in the third minute of the game with a trademark run in behind the Sturm defence, but Šeško could not convert. Early indications suggest the partnership will be a potent one. Internationally, Adeyemi is already an Under-21 European Championship winner, and destiny-bound for a senior call-up to Die Mannschaft. His electric speed would certainly offer something different to Hansi Flick’s arsenal of players. 

As with each of Salzburg’s most prolific players, Adeyemi will not be in Austria forever, and at his current rate not for long either. Most likely, a high-profile switch the Bundesliga beckons. Adeyemi reportedly has no release clause, but any move could be complicated by a hefty sell-on that Salzburg will reportedly owe SpVgg Unterhaching on any future transfer fee.

Karim Adeyemi is one of the fastest players in Europe, who terrorises defenders with his runs in behind and ability to travel in the channels. He is also an explosive ball-striker off either foot, generating some spectacular finishes.

Karim Adeyemi can be a little too fast for his own good at times, making some of his on-ball actions a tad clunky.

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