Highly-rated North Macedonia midfielder Eljif Elmas arrives in Saxony following a successful stay at Italian giants Napoli. bundesliga.com gives you the low-down on Leipzig's new arrival.
Club: RB Leipzig
Country: North Macedonia (52 caps, 12 goals)
A senior international from the age of just 17, Elmas took his first significant steps in the game at FK Rabotnički in his native North Macedonia. Scoring six goals and supplying seven assists in 33 top-flight games from midfield in the nation's Prva Liga - or first division - as Rabotnički finished in third position in 2016/17 brought Elmas to the fore on the global stage. Turkish side Fenerbahçe subsequently moved to land the highly-talented player.
The six-footer was limited to just five Süper Lig games in his first season with the Turkish giants but he eclipsed that number in the following campaign, playing 40 games across all competitions, as Fenerbahçe reached the Europa League knockout stages and finished sixth in the domestic top-flight.
Looking to build on a second-placed Serie A finish under coach Carlo Ancelotti, Italian side Napoli added Elmas to their set-up ahead of the 2019/20 season. The North Macedonian made his top-tier bow in Italy in a 4-3 victory against Fiorentina and would score one goal in a further 25 games in Serie A in his first season, appearing mainly in central midfield for Ancelotti and the tactician's subsequent replacement Gennaro Gattuso.
Yet it was in the Italian Cup that Elmas tasted major glory for the first time. Included in his five appearances in the 2019/20 tournament was a brief showing in the showpiece victory against Juventus, Napoli beating their rivals on penalties in Rome to take the crown. Even greater glory was to follow three years later when the southern Italian side won their first Scudetto since 1990.
In that successful 2022/23 season, Elmas weighed in with six goals and three assists in 36 Serie A games, the 24-year-old displaying his immense versatility during the campaign by featuring on either side of attack as well as through the middle.
In four-and-a-half seasons with the Partenopei, Elmas played 189 times, scoring 19 goals and providing 11 assists.
Having progressed through the youth ranks with his country all the way up to Under-21 level, Elmas made his senior debut at 17 years and eight months in a 2-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying reverse against Spain in 2017. In November 2021, Elmas scored twice in a 3–1 victory against Iceland that helped North Macedonia to reach a World Cup play-off, the final of which they lost against Portugal. Elmas has scored 12 times in 52 senior international appearances to date.
Plays a bit like: Jonas Hofmann
With super-quick feet, incredible close control, and the ability to pick out a defence-splitting pass or unlock tight games, Elmas is not all that dissimilar in playing style to current Bayer Leverkusen schemer and Germany international Jonas Hofmann.
Did you know?
A former North Macedonian Footballer of the Year, Elmas scored the winning goal for his country in a 2-1, World Cup qualifying victory against Germany at the MSV-Arena in Duisburg in March 2021. The midfielder's new teammate at Leipzig, Timo Werner, was a second-half substitute for Germany that day.
What they're saying
"Eljif’s technical ability is amazing. He’s nimble, loves to run and dribble, and can score goals. He can play down the middle, but is equally comfortable on both wings. He’ll bring something different to our game with his skills, since he’s very good at beating his man thanks to his acceleration and physicality." - Leipzig sporting director Rouven Schröder following the signing of Elmas in December 2023.
"As a kid, I never thought I'd win a league title. I've never been able to think about it because I thought it was beyond me. If I think about winning it with Napoli, it's an even bigger dream." - Elmas speaking shortly before Napoli's Serie A championship victory in 2023.
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