Haaland, Mané and now Benjamin Šeško: RB Leipzig's Slovenian striker is making a name for himself in the Bundesliga


After Erling Haaland and Sadio Mané, Benjamin Šeško is the latest prolific goalgetter to come charging out of the Red Bull Salzburg pen, and he is now wreaking havoc in the Bundesliga. How far can the RB Leipzig striker go? Very far, you would have to say, based on his performances to date. Just don't keep comparing him to Manchester City's Norwegian international superstar.

Šeško's move to Leipzig was already wrapped up in summer 2022, but he stayed in Salzburg for another season, maturing, readying himself to replace the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai. It was an arrangement that brought him a third Austrian league title, and meant the 20-year-old hit the ground running when he stepped across the border, and stepped up in class.

"Benjamin Šeško is among the game’s top young talents, and has enormous potential to become a top player. He has all the qualities to do that," Leipzig's sporting director Christopher Vivell, who had convinced the then-16-year-old Šeško to sign for Salzburg from Slovenian side Domžale in 2019. 

"It is the perfect next step for me," Šeško had explained when leaving Salzburg after netting 16 goals in 30 league matches for the club last season. His healthy return of nine goals in his first 26 competitive appearances for Leipzig suggests the parties on either side of his five-year contract were right.

Watch: Šeško opens his Bundesliga account in Berlin

He set a new club record with five goals in his first seven competitive games - no Leipzig player has ever made a more prolific start - and inevitably the comparisons with ex-Borussia Dortmund man Haaland were made. And not only because they both stand a lofty 6'4" tall.

“This is comparing me to someone who is one of the best players in the world. So, it’s not easy to compare. I would not like to compare myself to anyone. I would just love to be myself and be the best myself," explained Šeško earlier this season, before admitting he had picked up tips from his fellow former Salzburg man.

“I went to the games, because I was playing in the youth [side] back then it was interesting to look at him, because he’s the same height and some kind of movements are the same. At this point you think ‘I want to be like him.’"

Šeško doesn't need to shy away from such parallels as he makes a name for himself in the Bundesliga. While his physique matches that of Haaland, it is perhaps more his boyhood hero, Zlatan Ibrahimović, that he ressembles in style on the pitch. 

“I’m not saying I play as well as him, but he was having fun, enjoying himself on the pitch, doing what he wanted to do," he said. "It makes me really happy when I see that kind of player. Every single video I could find, I was looking at him."

Other than the physical similarities, Šeško's game echoes that of the recently retired superstar Swede, with a fine first touch and the passing ability to complement his vision that can bring teammates into play. And then there is the goalscoring, of course. But he is very much his own man. So much so, that he didn't even want to be like his dad.

Šeško's rangy physique means he is also well-suited to his favourite pastime: basketball - RONNY HARTMANN

Blessed with the same physique, Ales Šeško wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and become a goalkeeper, Benjamin had other ideas.

"He was the same height as me and we played a lot of football together,” Šeško remembers. “At the start, he wanted me to be a 'keeper too but I said to him: ‘Look, it’s really boring, I can’t do it any more!’”

But even then, his size meant coaches felt Šeško would serve them better at centre-back than centre-forward. "I started as a centre-back in youth football, but used to just run up the pitch and try to score goals," he explained. "I always liked to get forward when I played with my friends too. That's why I then became a striker."

Watch: Šeško helps snap Union Berlin's unbeaten home record

Those same goalscoring instincts have brought Šeško six Bundesliga goals in just eight starts, including three strikes in his last three league appearances.

Already his country's youngest debutant and goalscorer, Šeško has helped Slovenia to their first EURO appearance since 2000, and next summer he will wear the colours of his country in the land where he pulls on those of his club.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that Šeško will surpass me," said Slovenia's all-time top goalscorer Zlatko Zahovič in September 2022 about the then-19-year-old Šeško, who at the time had eaten only four goals into Zahovič's national best mark of 35. "I look at my record like it's gone. It's the past. He will definitely alter those numbers."

Leipzig boss Marco Rose (r.) coached Erling Haaland in Salzburg, and now has another rising star in Šeško (l.). - Imago

Given Šeško is a massive NBA fan, and admits "throwing a hoop is for me one of the best things to do", literally keeping his talented feet on the ground is not always easy. But Leipzig coach Marco Rose, who coached Haaland at Salzburg, is determined his latest up-and-coming star forward will not be swept away on the wave of hype his performances are creating.

"He scores goals, but there is a little more to it than that," said the Leipzig boss, before listing where he thinks Šeško has room for improvement. And he's got quite a list...

"Be more decisive, keep it simple in certain situations, keep the ball better, be clinical with and without the ball, be more in the game, and that he tries to do things that he has done well in the next game. That he stays dangerous in front of goal, doesn't overthink things, that he always moves on to the next chance, and always improves, being more consistent and better."

Reading that might crack even the most iron-clad shield of self-confidence, but if Rose is so tough, it is only because has recognised the same talent to find the back of the net Šeško himself knew he had in him when other coaches confined him to central defence.

"He scores goals," added the Leipzig boss. "And that is a quality that you are always happy to have, and never underestimate."