Newcastle United and Liverpool are said to be fighting it out for RB Leipzig midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai this summer, but what would they be getting for their money?
Premier League clubs being linked to Dominik Szoboszlai is nothing new. He’s been linked to Chelsea and Arsenal in previous seasons, while Newcastle United and Liverpool both seem to have entered the race to secure the Hungarian midfield star. And why not? The 22-year-old is one of the most outstanding young talents in the Bundesliga, with the ability to score, create and excite fans with the attributes he possesses.
Back in November 2021, Hungarian football expert Tom Mortimer profiled Szoboszlai for Opta Analyst after his first year at RB Leipzig, with a particular focus on how he’d got as far as he had and the background behind his early success. At that stage, Szoboszlai had only played 728 minutes of competitive action for the German club across 13 matches. The start of his career in the Bundesliga had been severely hindered by a groin injury that had kept him out of action for the five months at the end of 2020-21, after he’d signed from fellow Red Bull group side RB Salzburg in December 2020.
Those fitness woes haven’t returned since, thankfully for Leipzig and Szoboszlai, with the midfielder missing just one match through injury across the last two Bundesliga seasons. Overall, of the possible 9,180 minutes that Szoboszlai could have played for RB Leipzig over the last two campaigns in all competitions, he spent 64% of those on the pitch (5,832). Only Willi Orbán, Christopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol have had more playing time for the club across that time.
Across those two seasons since 2021-22, Szoboszlai’s top-line numbers are modest: 38 non-penalty goals and assists in 91 competitive appearances doesn’t immediately jump off the page. His chance-creation numbers are far more impressive, mind you, with a team-high 161 created for teammates overall and 99 of those coming from open play – a tally behind only Chelsea-bound Nkunku (132).
In the Bundesliga, Szoboszlai is one of only 14 players to have created at least 100 chances for teammates since the start of 2021-22, but of those players he has the fifth highest per 90 average (2.5).
Last season saw Szoboszlai find a more regular position in RB Leipzig’s side, with 77% of his playing time coming as a right-sided winger. That was a shift from 2021-22, where he played most of his minutes as a left-winger (potentially to utilise his fantastic ball-striking qualities, allowing him to cut in on his preferred right foot) and in central midfield – those two positions making up 60% of his playing minutes in the Bundesliga, with just 17% as a right winger. His ability to play across the midfield is an obvious attractive trait to any prospective club.
While deployed mainly in that right-wing role at RB Leipzig in 2022-23, Szoboszlai tallied the fifth highest xG assisted figure in the Bundesliga (7.72), which was a fair bit higher than any other teammate across the season (David Raum’s 4.48, the next highest). It might come as a surprise to some to learn that 77% of his xG assisted total came from open play last season (5.97), considering the hype around his danger from set-piece situations. That’s not to say the hype isn’t justified, but more to show how dangerous he can be in open play too.
Szoboszlai has led the RB Leipzig rankings across each of the last two Bundesliga seasons for open-play attacking sequence involvements, although his 6.0 per 90 average this season was slightly above his involvement rate in 2021-22 (5.4). In fact, 2022-23 saw him rank fourth overall in the German top flight for total involvements in shot-ending sequences in open play (163) but interestingly he had a more equal split between having the shot (49) and being the creator for a shot (48) than any other player in the top 10.
Not only was he prevalent in shooting and creating shots for teammates, Szoboszlai led the Bundesliga for secondary chances created – the pass to the player who creates a chance – with 41, showing his importance in the build-up to RB Leipzig shots and an element of his game that many fans might underestimate.
It’s also interesting to note that Szoboszlai led the 2022-23 Bundesliga charts for having multiple involvements (being involved in both the build-up to and either the shot itself or the chance creation of a shot) in an open play shot. He was involved in 29 such instances (15 shots, 14 chances created), four more than the next highest, Serge Gnabry at Bayern Munich (25). His quick feet also saw him take seven shots that followed a one-two with a teammate – only four players had more, with three of those at Bayern (Gnabry, Leroy Sané and Jamal Musiala).
Despite his tall frame (six-foot-one), Szoboszlai is a good carrier of the ball, too. Across attacking players in the Bundesliga last season, only four players made more ball carries or travelled further with the ball at their feet from carries than he did (384 carries over 4,403m). Despite this, he’s not a player that will look to take on players with regularity. True, he was one of 22 players to tally 100+ take-ons in the 2022-23 Bundesliga, but only three of those averaged fewer on a per 90 basis than Szoboszlai (3.9). His take-on numbers are nearly half that of players like Alphonso Davies (6.6/90), Kingsley Coman (6.5), and Borussia Dortmund pair Donyell Malen (6.5) and Karim Adeyemi (6.4).
One thing is for sure: RB Leipzig coaching staff and teammates knew the threat the Szoboszlai posed when in possession in the opposition half. With his ability to shoot from range – only Bayern’s Sané (37) had more shots from outside the box than him (36) in the 2022-23 Bundesliga – and his prolific creative numbers, his teammates looked to supply him at every opportunity. Joshua Kimmich (992) was the only player that received more open-play passes in the opposition half across the 2022-23 Bundesliga season than the Hungarian midfielder (850) and his 31.2 open-play passes received per 90 average was more than any player at Leipzig.
Szoboszlai is also a player with a high work rate, with his average sprint per 90 figure 11th highest of the 106 outfield players to play at least 2,000 Bundesliga minutes last season (31.7), while his average distance covered/90 (10.8km) is also in the top half of that group.
That’s helpful when playing for a team that likes to win possession high up the pitch. Only the Bundesliga’s top two sides Bayern (382) and Dortmund (314) made more high turnovers in the Bundesliga in 2022-23 than RB Leipzig (298). Forty-six of those ended in a shot, which was only behind Bayern’s total of 73 in the German top flight last season.
Admittedly on a rather basic level, this could show one reason why Szoboszlai is supposedly being tracked by Arsenal. He would be an ideal player for Mikel Arteta’s side and their pressing game, with the Gunners making the most high turnovers (388) and scoring the most goals (nine) following such situations in the Premier League in 2022-23. Overall, only Brighton (67) attempted more shots from high turnovers last season than the Gunners’ 62.
Szoboszlai was a big part of winning possession back in those areas (within 40m of the opposition goal), with 39 high turnovers in total – the most of any Leipzig player and the sixth highest in the entire league. Only three players contributed more high turnovers that led to shots than Szoboszlai (eight), with the midfielder again leading the way for his club. Overall, only Bayern’s Kimmich (53) started more open-play sequences that eventually led to a shot than Szoboszlai at RB Leipzig (37) across 2022-23.
For a quick, digestible way to understand how Szoboszlai played across the 2022-23 Bundesliga season, we can use the new Opta Player Radars and their similarity score between players from any top five European league season over the last 15 years.
Last season, the Hungarian had the closest similarity score to James Maddison at Leicester City in 2019-20 (94% similarity) – just the second season of top-flight football that the England international had played and one in which he was among the top five players for shot involvements in the Premier League (153 in total). This was behind only Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Raúl Jiménez and Jack Grealish. Essentially, Maddison was a creative force who would pepper the opposition goal with shots on a frequent basis.
If Szoboszlai does leave Leipzig this summer, he’ll depart having scored in the 2023 DFB-Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt – capping off the 2-0 victory with the second goal in the 85th minute. The talented Hungarian would depart having made a big impact in Germany, not to mention a healthy profit on the €20 million Leipzig forked out to sign him from sister-club Salzburg. Red Bull gave him wings, now it’s time for him to fly.
Who were the most similar players to Dominik Szoboszlai across 2022-23? You can find this out, plus analyse thousands of other players in the new Opta Player Comparison tool.