The long-awaited announcement of Christopher Nkunku departing RB Leipzig has finally been made. For the Frenchman, London will be his new home and the blue of Chelsea will be his new colour. He will undoubtedly prosper in the Premier League, however, whether Die Roten Bullen will be able to replace his genius is yet to be seen.
Nevertheless, Leipzig have known that their star man would be venturing for pastures new and they certainly have had time to prepare. Therefore, how could RB Leipzig replace Christopher Nkunku?
RB Leipzig have an abundance of attacking quality
Christopher Nkunku has been phenomenal for RB Leipzig. Since the Frenchman moved to Saxony from PSG in the summer of 2019 for €13 million, he has been a reliable source of goals and an influential player on the pitch. In 172 appearances for Die Roten Bullen, Nkunku has scored 70 goals and collected 56 assists to become one of the Bundesliga’s most feared forwards, while in turn, helping Leipzig to two consecutive DFB-Pokal titles.
However, while his wizardry on the pitch will be difficult to compensate for, Leipzig will not have to look far to find possible replacements. Within their own dressing room, the East Germans can find attacking talent in Timo Werner, Dani Olmo and Dominik Szoboszlai. While the latter’s future is still up in the air, Werner and Olmo have been just as effective for Leipzig this season.
Olmo has received the fewest minutes than any other key attacking player for Leipzig – with a thousand fewer minutes than Nkunku – but this has not stopped the Spaniard from impressing. Olmo has more goal-creating actions per 90 minutes than any other Leipzig player with 0.74 compared to Nkunu’s 0.62. And with 9 assists, only Szoboszlai can boast a better record. After signing a contract extension at the club, it appears he will only become more of an impactful player for Leipzig.
As for Werner, the 27-year-old is the club’s second top scorer this season with 16 goals compared to Nkunku’s 23. However, when excluding penalties, the Frenchman only leads Werner by three goals. The pair also share the same amount of touches in the attacking third and penalty area. With Werner’s confidence growing – after his frustrating spell for none other than Nkunku’s new side Chelsea – he could return to his lethal best that was seen during his first spell in Saxony. This is also excluding the positive work of Szoboszlai, who if remains in Leipzig, could combine with Werner and Olmo to cover the excellent output of Nkunku.
Benjamin Šeško could fill Nkunku’s boots
While it can be easy to forget the attacking talent available to Leipzig head coach Marco Rose, it can be even easier to forget that RB Salzburg marksman Benjamin Šeško will join the club in July. The 20-year-old is the leading scorer for the Austrian champions with 16 goals in all competitions this season. With interest from some of Europe’s elite clubs last summer like Manchester United, the Slovenian was signed by Leipzig with the knowledge that Nkunku may be departing.
While the striker is not a like-for-like replacement for the Frenchman, as Šeško’s profile matches up to that of André Silva, one similar aspect of their game is their knack for scoring goals. At 6’4 Šeško is a physically strong character with incisive movement in the box. While 16 goals in the Austrian Bundesliga may not sound like a record of a lethal striker, he is far from the finished product, and working alongside Silva could help Šeško flourish.
Since Silva joined Leipzig in the summer of 2021 from Eintracht Frankfurt, the Portuguese has struggled for form. However, this could be in part to Leipzig playing to the benefit of their star man; Nkunku. While Silva’s future is also in doubt, for now, he and Šeško are the leading strikers for Die Roten Bullen. If he is to stay this may lead to an alteration in how Rose sets his side up in the attacking third. It could be a new start for Silva and with Šeško alongside him, Nkunku may be little more than an afterthought at the end of next season.
GGFN | Will Shopland