4x U19 players Salzburg could target to replace Karim Adeyemi – data analysis
Despite most eyes still being on Haaland and Mbappé’s transfer sagas, there’s another young striker who is getting a lot of attention from some of the top European clubs: Karim Adeyemi (2002, Red Bull Salzburg). The German forward has scored 15 goals in 25 appearances so far this season and he’s been linked to Liverpool, PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
After impressing for SpVgg Unterhaching U19 with 20 goals in 28 games, Red Bull Salzburg were quick to act and secure his services when he was 16, paying 3.35 million euros to get him to Austria.
At first, Adeyemi played for Liefering (RB Salzburg B) in the 2. Liga, where he scored 15 goals and assisted another 12 in just 35 appearances. He also featured for Salzburg U19 in the UEFA Youth League, registering 3 goals and 7 assists in 9 games. It was obvious he was ready for a bigger challenge.
Since his debut for Salzburg in May 2020 under Jesse Marsch, Adeyemi has played 75 games, scored 25 goals and assisted another 17. His fast rise has earned him his first three caps for Germany and he has responded with a goal and an assist in just 48 minutes.
Adeyemi (data profile above) stands out as a rapid forward who can play wide or as a striker. His capacity to run in behind and get into scoring positions is amazing and he can also use his pace to dribble and create chances for himself. Technically good, he uses both feet comfortably and even has some quality to create chances with his passes even if it’s not his main attribute.
In this data analysis, we have used our exclusive xGOLD tool to find four players statistically similar to Karim Adeyemi who are under 19 years old and who are still unknown to the big public (valued at 1 million euros or less on transfermarkt). The analysis of the best four results with similar statistics to Adeyemi’s is presented here.
All the radars in this data analysis show the percentiles comparing each player to the rest of the strikers in their league. For example, a higher value on shots per 90 doesn’t mean that player takes more shots, it means he takes more shots than a higher percentage of strikers in his league. We must take into account the difference in level when interpreting the radars as it isn’t the same to perform in the Austrian Bundesliga, the 2. Liga, the League of Ireland, the K1 League or the Norwegian OBOS-ligaen.
Dorgeles Nene – 18, Liefering – 87% similarity
Nene is a Malian forward who started his career at Guidars FC in Mali before being snatched by the Red Bull network, joining Liefering in January 2021 when he was 18. So far, he has played 31 games in the Austrian 2. Liga, scoring 10 goals and assisting another 11 (0.97 goal contributions per 90).
With 1.11 goal contributions per 90 so far this season and an 87% statistical similarity with Adeyemi, he seems the obvious choice to substitute the German.
Nene is as dominant as Adeyemi in touches in the box (6.24 per 90), non-penalty goals (0.56 per 90), goal conversion (18.6%), dribbles (66.03 per 90) and shots (3.02 per 90). He shoots from less dangerous positions (0.13 xG/shot and 0.38 xG per 90), which translates into a worse shot accuracy (39.53%) when compared to Adeyemi.
Very versatile, he can start wide or central but usually ends the attacks near the goal. His pace and acceleration are unbelievable, he’s deadly when he can run into space, needs just a couple of meters to leave rivals behind and dribbles very easily with his superior speed.
Technically good, his first touch is excellent to control passes in behind and quickly shoot. Uses both feet to shoot with power but needs to improve his shot selection as he takes too many shots from too far. Still an inconsistent finisher but his technique is good so it’s likely to improve.
Playing more as a winger than Adeyemi and in a very dominant team, Nene ranks better in every passing metric we’ve considered. His involvement in the attacks and ability to create chances (0.98 key passes and 0.25 xA per 90) are absolutely outstanding in the 2. Liga.
He gets involved in combinations in the final third and can also play in the half-spaces, showing some quality details and a great awareness of his surroundings. He’s dynamic to pass and move and by coming deep to get the ball he opens up spaces in behind he then attacks with his speed.
Being two-footed helps him a lot as it opens up more passing options and he doesn’t need many touches to find solutions. When he’s wide, he gets the ball into very good positions in the box and also has the quality to play long balls over the defensive line.
In defence, Nene is more involved in defensive duels than Adeyemi and ranks very well in possession-adjusted interceptions (3.51 per 90). Neither of them stands out for their aerial ability.
He uses his speed to press and is very agile to get the ball if the rival leaves any door open. Very mobile to intercept passes and lively to win duels and loose balls despite not being super strong. He works hard to track back to recover his defensive position in transitions and isn’t afraid of tackling. Despite not being big (1.74m), he still competes in the air.
Nene has everything to be a star. Only with his speed, which is level with the world’s best, he would be a very dangerous player but on top of that, he adds being two-footed, extremely dynamic and mobile to dribble and get into scoring positions, two-footed and technically gifted to combine and assist and a very hard-working player in defence. He’s more a winger than a striker but could adapt to playing more centrally and would be an amazing substitute to Adeyemi as he knows Salzburg’s tactics, is already adapted to the team and country and would cost no money. A no-brainer.
Elias Hoff Melkersen – 18, Ranheim – 89% similarity
Melkersen is a Norwegian striker or winger who came through the academy at Bodø/Glimt but has played the majority of his short career on loan, first at IL Hödd in the Norwegian third division (4 goals in 7 games) and since March 2021 at Ranheim IL in the second division (19 goals in 29 games so far this season). With 1.02 goal contributions per 90 in his senior career so far, big things are expected from Melkersen.
He’s currently a Norway U20 player (2 goals in 3 games) and has played for the U18 and U17 national teams before.
With the highest similarity in our shortlist and coming from a country in which Salzburg have shopped very well in the past (see Haaland) but with a transfermarkt value of just €250,000, taking Melkersen now should be an affordable operation.
From his offensive profile, Melkersen seems a “purer” striker than Adeyemi. One of the best players in his league in shots (3.3 per 90), expected goals (0.57 per 90), non-penalty goals (0.65 per 90) and goal conversion (25%), he ranks better than the RB Salzburg player in head goals (0.13 per 90) but worse in dribbles (3.65 per 90), suggesting he has more presence in the box and less far from it. However, he still ranks well in all the considered metrics so it’s more a small matter of position than a completely different style.
Very mobile, agile and lively in tight spaces, Melkersen turns very quickly and is very flexible. He also has some dribbling ability as he manipulates the ball very well and stops/accelerates very quickly. His excellent first touch helps him turn, get away from rivals and create space to finish.
Excellent movements to get into scoring positions, running across the defence to avoid being caught offside and then going in behind when the pass is made. He also attacks the near post in the box and anticipates the defenders to poach goals. His shooting technique is very good:: first touch, both feet, acrobatic. He’s aggressive to attack the ball in crosses and has a good jump to win aerials and score despite not being tall (1.78m). His finishing is good with both feet as proven by him scoring at a higher rate than expected.
The passing profile shows more differences. Melkersen seems to drop deeper to get in contact with the ball as evidenced by his higher ranking in passes per 90 (15.51). However, his passes are usually simple and despite being accurate (75.35%) they don’t create a lot of danger (0.05 xA per 90).
Melkersen likes to come to the second line to receive with his back to the goal. His great first touch allows him to control the ball and escape pressure to then play quick passes and move forward to get into scoring positions from the second line. He’s capable of some quality flicks and layoffs too. When he’s close to the box he tends to finish even when there are good passing options.
Defensively, we can see the difference in size and in both teams’ tactics as Melkersen contests and wins more aerials than Adeyemi (30.83% of his 5.78 aerials per 90). He also gets into more defensive duels (5.34 per 90) and fouls more (2.04 per 90), probably because his team is less possession-dominant but when looking at possession-adjusted interceptions, they’re very close (2.23 per 90 for Melkersen).
Good timing to compete in the air, wins a fair share of his aerial duels considering he’s not especially tall. Works hard and is aggressive when pressing. Would adapt easily to an intense pressing game like Salzburg’s.
Of course, Melkersen is still playing at a quite low level but the things he’s doing there at such a young age are amazing and speak of his potential. More of a striker than Nene, he’s still mobile, very lively and excellent with his movements in the final third. On top of that, he can combine in the second line and shows great technique in all his actions. With him, Salzburg would get yet another Norwegian exciting striker who could be playing for the first team very soon.
Johnny Kenny – 18, Sligo Rovers – 89% similarity
Kenny is an Irish striker who has always played for his current club Sligo Rovers. He came through the academy at the club and made his debut in March 2021 aged just 17. Since then, he has played 32 games, scoring 12 goals and assisting another 2. He’s part of the Republic of Ireland’s U19 national team and has scored a goal in each of his three appearances.
With 0.58 goal contributions per 90 in his first senior season, 2003-born Kenny must have been catching the attention of several clubs, especially in the United Kingdom. Valued at just €75,000 by transfermarkt, any transfer over the €70,000 mark would make Kenny the most expensive sale in Sligo Rover’s history over Seamus Coleman’s transfer to Everton in 2009. With Irish players skipping the work permit rules in English and Scottish football, his potential resale value automatically multiplies.
Kenny looks similar to Adeyemi in his activity in and around the box (3.25 shots and 4.04 touches in the box per 90) and his ability to get good chances and score goals (0.37 non-penalty goals from 0.55 xG per 90). but Kenny doesn’t dribble as much as Adeyemi (2.58 dribbles per 90) and his conversion rate is still low (14.1%).
He uses his good pace very well to run in behind with great timing and receive long passes over the defensive line. He knows how to create space for his runs by coming deep and dragging a defender with him. Once he receives the pass, he controls and finishes with limited touches and uses both feet to do it. When he comes from the left he has some ability to dribble and create space for his shots. His finishing is inconsistent, he usually shoots on goal but not always with good shots as shown by his underperformance of his xG.
Both players are more similar in their passing game. Kenny isn’t especially involved in the attacks but once he gets the ball he can create as evidenced by his 0.29 key passes and 1.83 passes to the box per 90. He doesn’t have Adeyemi’s passing accuracy but that’s explained in part by his higher average pass length (17.45 meters).
With all his running in behind, he often gets the ball wide. From there, Kenny quickly looks to play the ball into the box and even if he’s not super creative, he still creates chances with intelligent passes. He doesn’t participate a lot in the second line as his movements are mostly into space but still shows some ability to receive with his back to the goal and hold the ball.
Off the ball, Kenny gets into more duels both on the ground and in the air, mostly because his team doesn’t dominate as much as Salzburg, but doesn’t stand out in any defensive metric in particular.
Being the target of so many balls in behind, Kenny also contests a lot of aerials when those passes aren’t powerful enough. He also works hard in defence and makes it difficult to play around him but isn’t a great player in duels and still could build some muscle.
Kenny would be a risky option as the playing standard in the League of Ireland is far away from the Austrian Bundesliga. However, scoring as he’s doing at 18 is something that can’t be ignored and he runs in behind time and time again relentlessly like Adeyemi so he would fit very well in that way. His technique is ok and his finishing works at his current level but would need to improve at a higher level. He would be a cheap gamble and it shouldn’t be difficult to put him in Scottish or English football at a decent price if it doesn’t work out so the risk would be minimal.
Sang-bin Jeong – 19, Suwon – 88% similarity
Jeong is a South Korean forward who came through the academy at his current club, Suwon Bluewings. He has only played 30 senior games, scoring 6 goals and grabbing 2 assists to reach the 0.38 goal contributions per 90 in his career so far.
He’s been part of the U16 and U17 South Korean national teams and currently moves between the U19, the U20 and the senior squads. In June 2021, he played his only senior international game and scored a goal against Sri Lanka. Valued at €900,000 on transfermarkt, Jeong is one of the brightest prospects in South Korean football.
Looking at the offensive radar, we see Jeong plays more as a winger, so he resembles Adeyemi in his high number of dribbles (3.8 per 90). Despite not shooting or getting into the box too often (1.69 shots and 2.97 touches in the box per 90), he still scores 0.32 non-penalty goals per 90 from just 0.29 xG per 90. His shooting accuracy (48.65%) and goal conversion (18.9%) are excellent.
Very quick on and off the ball. Jeong takes the ball in central areas or wide and runs at the defensive line using his speed to create space to shoot. A very direct player, Jeong often takes the ball deep and looks to finish the play by dribbling and then shooting. He’s skilled in 1v1 and very difficult to control as he stops and accelerates with ease and doesn’t mind going left or right.
Also good at running in behind and is very lively to find space in the box. His finishing is quite good, his shots are powerful and quite accurate and he uses either foot.
On the passing radar, both players are almost identical. Jeong gets in contact with the ball even less often than Adeyemi (just 15.97 passes per 90) and his best statistic here is passes to the box per 90 (1.6).
Despite his small size (1.73m), he can receive with his back to the goal and use his low centre of gravity to hold the ball and turn. With his direct style, a very high percentage of his passes are aimed at the box and he has shown some ability to play through passes with quality but it’s not a key feature of his playing style.
Defensively, Jeong is quite poor and doesn’t stand out in any metric. It looks like he’s quite aggressive with 1.37 fouls per 90 but still needs a lot of improvement off the ball.
Like Adeyemi, Jeong is capable of playing from either wing or upfront and it doesn’t change his playing style too much. He’s very direct both on and off the ball and always has the goal in his mind. This means he doesn’t combine or pass the ball around too much, preferring to use his pace to get forward with runs or dribbles and shoot as soon as he has the chance. His finishing and scoring record are good for a player of his age, especially considering South Korean players often take longer to reach their peak. Playing at a more than decent level in the K1 League and with his country producing some top forwards recently in Heung-min Son, Hee-chan Hwang
As usual, Red Bull Salzburg seem ready to sell one of their stars and already have a great replacement at home with Nene. The other three players would be cheap gambles who can take Nene’s place at Liefering to see how they adapt and eventually move to the first team too.
Using statistics to identify possible replacements at a young age is a great way of being prepared for any eventuality and discovering the exact type of player a club is looking for anywhere in the world.