Ademola Lookman scored five goals and claimed four assists in 11 Bundesliga appearances during a loan spell in 2017/18 season. - © 2018 DFL
Ademola Lookman scored five goals and claimed four assists in 11 Bundesliga appearances during a loan spell in 2017/18 season. - © 2018 DFL
bundesliga

Ademola Lookman: Why the English winger’s return to RB Leipzig makes perfect sense

Following a successful loan spell during the second half of 2017/18, Ademola Lookman returns to Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig with shackles off and a point to prove.

“I wanted to make an impact,” were the understated words of 20-year-old Lookman, having thrust himself into the Bundesliga limelight only ten minutes into his first appearance for Leipzig in February 2018.

He had just become the first Englishman to score in the Bundesliga since Owen Hargreaves in 2005, grabbing an 89th-minute winner in Leipzig’s 1-0 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach, a nudge over ten minutes after stepping off the bench.

Watch: Lookman's winner on debut vs. Gladbach!

But it could have been so different for the Londoner, who was almost denied his place in the spotlight, Lookman’s brief first foray so nearly being cut short due to some faulty wheels.

"He was lucky I left him on," then Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl told kicker after the victory. "He was losing his footing a lot. He wore [his boots] in training yesterday and was just sliding all over the place. He was slipping again today and I wanted to take him off just before he scored, but luckily we kept him out there!"

It may conjure up images of slapstick comedy, but Lookman proved to be no Bambi on ice in Leipzig; rather a fleet-footed winger that instantly endeared himself to his temporary employers and their fans with his driving run from deep and dramatic composed finish across goal.

Having joined the club from English Premier League outfit Everton on deadline day of the 2018 January transfer window, Lookman would go on to register five goals and four assists in just 11 Bundesliga appearances.

For context, his minutes-per-goal ratio of 115 was second only to Bayern Munich’s serial goalscorer Robert Lewandowski (75 minutes per goal) over the course of the entire Bundesliga campaign.

It was his coming-out party, and few were left more impressed than Leipzig visionary Ralf Rangnick, who immediately spoke of his desire to sign Lookman permanently.

"If it were only up to us, then I would already know the answer," Rangnick told kicker when asked if he would like to keep Lookman, even before his loan deal was up. "But it's not only up to us – there's no option in his contract. We'll have to see what happens in the summer, and it also depends on what happens at Everton."

Rangnick’s swooning over Lookman wouldn’t lead to an immediate reunion with the player, but the 61-year-old – now holding an advisory role at Leipzig – will be delighted the Saxony outfit finally have their man 18 months on.

Watch: Lookman's goal and two assists on the final day of 2017/18!

But having initially outdone Jadon Sancho two seasons ago (the Borussia Dortmund tyro registered one goal and four assists across 12 appearances in his first Bundesliga season), Lookman returns with some catching up to do.

Sancho struck 12 goals and laid on a league-high 14 assists as Dortmund came within a whisker of Bundesliga glory, and continued to lead the procession of young English talent taking their search for regular football to Germany.

Reiss Nelson is another who has added his name to the growing list of English scorers in the Bundesliga, while his Arsenal teammate Emile Smith Rowe walked in the footsteps of Lookman at the Red Bull Arena at the back end of 2018/19.

Ex-Everton teammate Jonjoe Kenny will have sought Lookman’s advice before agreeing a move to Schalke, who also secured the services of Wales forward Rabbi Matondo from Manchester City last year.

Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson were the English stars of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season. - DFL

Now Lookman will continue this very modern tradition of English talent arriving on German soil and although replicating Sancho’s efforts will take some doing, the England U21 international is not the kind of man to shy away from a challenge.

So confident is Lookman in his own ability, he told bundesliga.com in 2018: “I wouldn’t say I have a weakness... I don’t have a weakness, no.”

It is the combination of self-assurance and fearlessness that make for such an exciting talent; traits shared with Sancho and that have served the six-time England international so well in his own Bundesliga breakout.

The similarities don’t end there for the two searingly quick, highly skillful wingers either.

Watch: Nelson speaks to bundesliga.com about Bundesliga life!

Both Lookman and Sancho claimed international youth honours in 2017, Lookman winning the FIFA U20 World Cup and Sancho the U17 iteration the same summer.

Sancho has since gone on to establish himself as one of the first names on the team sheet for club and country, providing even further inspiration for Lookman to draw on.

It has been under Lucien Favre that Sancho has thrived, on a diet of trust from his coach, first-team opportunity and being allowed to learn from experiences borne out of success and failure.

Hassenhüttl did the same for Lookman, but now it is Julian Nagelsmann in the Leipzig dugout - a coach equally renowned for helping take young talent to the next level.

Ademola Lookman will be back in the white and red of RB Leipzig, and now on a permanent basis. - 2018 DFL

Under the technological revolutionary’s tutelage, Niklas Süle went from burger-loving prospect to Bayern's next great centre-back; Kerem Demirbay has developed from Hamburg reject to set-piece supremo; Serge Gnabry has gone on to make the Bayern right wing his own.

And Lookman, once again, need only look to a fellow young compatriot for further encouragement.

“[Nagelsmann’s] one of the reasons I came to Hoffenheim,” said Nelson, who made a blistering start to life at Hoffenheim last season, scoring six goals in his first seven games.

“He spoke to me individually about my progress as a young footballer, how he could push me to become a good talent if I carry on. He’s a great guy and I’m happy working with him, individually and with the team.”

Lookman will be hoping he, too, can thrive under Nagelsmann and prove once again why the Bundesliga is the best league in the world for blooding new stars; increasingly those with a British passport.