Ever since Erling Haaland joined Borussia Dortmund, one unspoken question had loomed over the club’s executives, fans and players. Who will replace his goals when he leaves?
With the Norwegian leaving this summer, Die Schwarzgelben didn’t wait to sign a replacement. After a lengthy rumoured pursuit, Karim Adeyemi is headed to the Westfalenstadion from RB Salzburg for a reported €38m.
The forward, finishing as this season’s top scorer in the Austrian Bundesliga with 19 goals, has signed a five-year contract until 2027. “Karim Adeyemi is a highly talented, young German international who through his strong finishing and incredible pace will make a valuable addition to our attacking play,” said Michael Zorc.
Sebastian Kehl, the club’s now sporting director added: “After the transfers of Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck, we are getting another very exciting player for next season with Karim Adeyemi.
“What is more, he is someone who has a strong affinity for BVB, who supported the Black & Yellows as a youngster and who decided to sign for Borussia Dortmund amidst several offers from Europe’s top leagues.”
While the 20-year-old may have supported BVB at a young age, it appears as though he also recognises that the club may be the best stylistic fit for his game.
Despite the change in head coaches, Dortmund’s attack has largely been built on speed and passing combinations in the final third. His arrival does suggest the club aims to make their front line more unpredictable and evenly spread out.
Lee Wingate, co-host of The Other Bundesliga podcast which covers Austrian football, describes Adeyemi’s speed to be an essential part of his on-field prowess. He points to the forward’s performance against Sevilla in the opening UEFA Champions League group-stage tie, in which he won three penalties.
“I’d say his explosive speed is his biggest strength,” he tells Get German Football News. “He is so fast that defenders regularly misjudge their ability to beat him to the ball. Goalkeepers must adopt a more advanced starting position, so they have a better chance of stopping him from latching onto balls over the top.”
It also bodes well for Edin Terzić that this season, the forward has made strides in his in-game attitude, particularly when it comes to the defensive side.
Asked about what key improvements he’s made, Wingate says: “I’d say probably his pressing and work ethic. You need pressing to fit into the Salzburg team, but he was lacking a bit of fighting spirit last season.
“Former boss Jesse Marsch even publicly criticised him for it – which was a rare occurrence – following one league game last season, after which he was hauled off for not showing the fight the coach wanted.
“He’s become the main man under current boss Matthias Jaissle during this past season, however, and is a fluid part of the Salzburg press, so it’s quite clear he’s improved in that respect.”
While recognised as a quick and player of slight stature, it should also be pointed out that at 5’10”, the German international can provide an aerial presence if needed too. As with every young player though, there are always areas to improve on. In the 20-year-old’s case, Wingate suggests his technical skills could need some polishing.
“In terms of weaknesses, I’d say maybe his first touch and finishing could be improved upon. And maybe working on becoming more two-footed. But he’s such a young player and has plenty of time going forward to work on those things.”
It’s easy to forget how many steps Adeyemi has taken in such a short space of time. Born in Munich to a Nigerian father and Romanian mother, he began playing at TSV Forstenried, before being signed up by Bayern Munich at just 8-years-old.
But despite landing at the club of his idol Arjen Robben, there were still lessons to learn. Due to poor discipline, and a falling-out between the club and his parents, the forward was let go by Die Roten only a few years later.
Bayern’s loss was the gain of SpVgg Unterhaching, a smaller Munich-based team. Here, Adeyemi was developed with special care. Speaking to GOAL, club president Manfred Schwabl said of the youngster: “The only thing that could ruin the career of the boy was if he got injured or if we personally got something wrong.”
With the new surroundings helping him mature, it didn’t take long for other top European teams to come knocking. This included Chelsea, who even invited him and his family to London for a week.
But Salzburg won the race for his signature in 2018. Adeyemi later explained his decision to GOAL, saying: “It was important for my parents and me that my new club had a plan for me. That was the case with Salzburg. The style of play and the philosophy convinced me.”
Since then, he has improved year after year, becoming an eye-catching talent in the process. In 2019, his talent was recognised in Germany when won the Under-17 Fritz Walter gold medal, given to the country’s best young talent. He has been regularly involved with the national youth set-up, helping the U21 outfit win the UEFA European Under-21 Championship last year.
To little surprise, he earned a call-up to the senior squad last year. Scoring on his debut against Armenia, he has since earned two more international caps, and will strive to stake a claim in Hansi Flick’s World Cup squad later this year.
Going forward, Wingate believes there are plenty of reasons for fans to get excited for his arrival. He says: “He’s the next big superstar to come from the Salzburg talent factor and the best player in Austria since Haaland.”
“The step up he has made this year has been nothing short of remarkable. I think he will excel in Germany because his pace and pressing suit the Bundesliga and BVB in particular.
“As he’s already declared though, he’s not a ready-made replacement for Haaland. They’re different types of players and fans would do well to remember that.”
This warning should certainly be kept in mind when critiquing his first appearances for Die Schwarzgelben. Nevertheless, his signing is an exciting statement made by the club.
“As a young boy, I was fascinated by the Black and Yellows’ fast-paced football,” Adeyemi said when presented. Now, he’ll get to play his part in continuing this style Dortmund hope will bring them closer to breaking Bayern’s stranglehold in Germany.
By Josh Sim.