Can Karim Adeyemi really be the next Messi?
Now let's get one thing straight – we didn't say Karim Adeyemi could be the next player of the calibre of Lionel Messi, but one of his former coaches did make the comparison. Actually, there's another star to whom Adeyemi bears more than a passing resemblance. But more on that later. First, let's take a moment to appreciate the majesty of these stats:
We've used a German Bundesliga standard to rate Adeyemi, because the Salzburg teenager is probably well on his way to the crown jewel of the Red Bull empire in Leipzig. And you can see that he's had excellent attacking output as a striker for Germany's senior circuit since last season. The smarterscout young prospect is also showing off great ball retention this season, perhaps taking somewhat fewer risks when he's on the ball (which could also explain the small dropoff in attacking output).
Adeyemi is surprisingly good in the air on dead balls, suggesting a real ability to read situations, and he's excellent both in 1v1s both on and off the ball. He's also close to an average finisher for the Bundesliga already. These are stunning numbers for a 19-year-old.
So how is Adeyemi developing over at Salzburg, having started out one level down in the Red Bull hierarchy at Liefering? Well, his positioning for Salzburg has changed slightly this season versus last, as the smartermaps below show:
Last season he played more centrally – another possible explanation for his higher output – and now he's coming in more from either side, especially the left. But he still has a diverse mix of actions on the ball, with dribbles and a variety of passes on the edge of the box. His flexibility is part of what makes him so hard to contain.
So far this season, Adeyemi has had more joy shooting from the GK's left, despite the youngster's somewhat greater tendency to makes his runs on the other side. He gets in close before shooting and largely avoids the most oblique angles, a testament to his dribbling skill that also results in high-quality chances:
Starts out on the wing... great dribbler... unpredictable mix of actions... does this remind you of anyone? Before you say Messi, let's take a look at two of the players who are the closest matches to Adeyemi across the eight dimensions of style that we measure:
As you can see, Adeyemi fits the same stylistic template as his Salzburg predecessor Dmitri Oberlin: a big dribbler who gets into the box and shoots at a high rate, with a decent number of ball recoveries as well. Yet Adeyemi is much better in duels and has much higher attacking output and ball retention (with all performance metrics still at a German Bundesliga standard).
The other player in this comparison also had high attacking output and ball retention, as well as prodigious skill on the ball, even as a teenager. Adeyemi isn't quite at Kylian Mbappe's level – and he might never get there – but there's much more in common between the two of them than with Mbappe's new Argentine teammate.
Amongst all the Adeyemi hype, it's worth noting that quite a few young strikers like to dribble a lot but never turn into an Mbappe. They just don't have the speed or invention. Another caveat is that Timo Werner, another Red Bull product who liked to make runs in from the left wing, was also a prolific striker in their system but had trouble adapting to Chelsea's more traditional setup in the Premier League. Yet Adeyemi's future may lie more on the Continent, especially since Bayern Munich, the club he left a decade ago, often like to correct their mistakes.