A total of 224 days sandwiched Dominik Szoboszlai's official move to RB Leipzig and his full Bundesliga debut. Marking the occasion with two fabulous goals, the Hungarian playmaker more than made up for lost time.
"It took a lot of hard work every day. I'm a big believer in that. I'm very happy with the performance."
Watch: Leipzig 4-0 Stuttgart - in 60 seconds!
Justifiably so. Szoboszlai was a hive of activity from the get-go at the Red Bull Arena, combining to great effect with fellow attackers Emil Forsberg, Christopher Nkunku and Andre Silva, whilst running his socks off against the ball.
His first goal - an instinctive arrowed finish from the right-hand side of the Stuttgart area into the opposite corner was followed by an equally audacious, if not a touch fortuitous, free-kick. Needless to say the 23,100 fans in attendance weren't the only ones applauding his efforts.
"He scored two fantastic goals, and I think he has a lot more to give because he is a fantastic talent," Forsberg, who put away Leipzig's second goal, told bundesliga.com of his new right-hand man. "He's working hard every day, trying to improve, and I am sure we are going to have a lot of fun with him."
Watch: Emil Forsberg talks up Dominik Szoboszlai
Equal parts graft and grace, Szoboszlai has now scored three times in 107 minutes of competitive football for Leipzig. He was on target 280 seconds into his debut in the DFB Cup first-round win against Sandhausen, and showed flashes of creative brilliance during another second-half cameo as Leipzig went down 1-0 at Mainz on the opening weekend of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season.
It's been quite the opening gambit from a player who, pre-Leipzig, last kicked a ball competitively in mid-December 2020, before succumbing to a groin injury that forced him to miss Hungary's UEFA Euro 2020 campaign. Not that Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch - Szoboszlai's former mentor at Salzburg - is the slightest bit surprised.
"I know Szobo very well; he's a young player with a lot of potential," the 47-year-old teased.
"As talent goes, there aren't many better players that can play his position. Some are strong, some are technical, some are good at tactics, and some defend well or run a lot. Dominik is special because he has all of these skills combined."
Yet there's more. As well as a robust 6'1" frame, eye for the spectacular, elite-level football IQ, selfless streak and marathon set of lungs, Szoboszlai is blessed with the coolest of heads for the big occasion.
The 20-year-old produced 26 goals and 35 assists in 83 competitive outings for Salzburg, including four direct free-kicks in 2019/20 alone. He also has three goals in 12 senior outings for Hungary to go with his trio of efforts in Leipzig colours.
Early-career highlights include a pair of decisive 2020/21 UEFA Champions League play-off efforts against Maccabi Tel Aviv for Salzburg, a stoppage-time free-kick that helped Hungary finish top of UEFA Nations League Group 3, and another stunning last-minute goal against Iceland in the Euro 2020 play-offs to seal his country's place at the tournament proper.
What a difference he might have made to Die Roten Bullen's efforts to land a maiden top-tier title towards the latter part of last season.
Watch: Dominik Szoboszlai reflects on his long-awaited full Bundesliga debut
Leipzig finished 2020/21 as Bundesliga and DFB Cup runners-up. The Saxony club drew away to Bayern Munich, but lost the return fixture 1-0 to hand the record champions a seven-point advantage with seven rounds of fixtures remaining. In the DFB Cup final, they were blown away by Borussia Dortmund duo Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, succumbing to a chastening 4-1 defeat.
The new campaign teases a more favourable outcome.
Naby Keita, Timo Werner and Dayot Upamecano have all lent a hand to the Leipzig cause down the years, but Marsch arguably boasts a deeper and higher-calibre squad than any of his predecessors. Above all, he has been reunited with a player, in Szoboszlai, the like of which his new employers have not seen before.
Although it's a common tactic in battle to save your trump card for last, it's little wonder the American tactician has shown his hand at the earliest available opportunity. A fit and firing Szoboszlai is a game-changer, after all.
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