Stars of today like Joshua Kimmich, Dayot Upamecano, Josko Gvardiol, Christopher Nkunku, Dominik Szoboszlai (l-r.) and many more have all benefited from RB Leipzig's youthful policy. - © DFL
Stars of today like Joshua Kimmich, Dayot Upamecano, Josko Gvardiol, Christopher Nkunku, Dominik Szoboszlai (l-r.) and many more have all benefited from RB Leipzig's youthful policy. - © DFL

RB Leipzig's love of developing promising youth: from Kimmich to Nkunku, Gvardiol to Upamecano and beyond


From their unstoppable rise to German football's top table to sustained challenges among the best in the Bundesliga and Europe, RB Leipzig's continued success stems, in part, from an ability to spot and hone some of the game's outstanding young talent.

Facing into an exciting new campaign with fresh faces such as El Chadaille BitshiabuLois OpendaNicolas Seiwald and Benjamin Sesko on board means that trend looks set to continue. Here, dips into some spectacular Leipzig signings past and present whose presence at the Red Bull Arena helped propel them to the forefront of the footballing world.

Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) - Leipzig 2013–15 

Before Bayern behemoth Kimmich was a serial winner in Bavaria, he mastered some of his trade at Leipzig, signing for the then newly promoted third-tier outfit from VfB Stuttgart in 2013. The perennial Germany international made 25 starts for Leipzig in a first campaign that saw the team rise to the second division at first time of asking. He added a further 27 league games to his tally the following year as Leipzig finished fifth.

Joshua Kimmich famously wore the colours of Leipzig before joining Bayern Munich. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

Now in the groove as a senior pro having superbly developed plenty of his huge promise, Kimmich was famously scouted personally by Pep Guardiola and subsequently signed by Bayern ahead of the 2015/16 season. Since then, Kimmich has gone from being used at centre-back, to one of the best right backs in the game, to asserting himself among the finest central midfielders on the planet. He's captained club and country, won eight successive Bundesliga titles, become European and world champions with Bayern and lifted the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup with Germany. And he's far from done.

Christopher Nkunku (Chelsea) - Leipzig 2019-23 

A goalscoring, assist-providing, one-time Bundesliga Player of the Year colossus in the colours of Die Roten Bullen, France international Nkunku recently completed a move to English Premier League club Chelsea following four formidable seasons in the Bundesliga. Although something of a gem at previous club Paris Saint-Germain, Nkunku was always going to find it tough earning a regular spot at the capital club at a young age. 

After 78 senior appearances for PSG, Leipzig stepped in with a five-year deal to take the talented and highly versatile 21-year-old to the Bundesliga. Leipzig first tested their new recruit high in midfield and out wide, helping to develop a laser focus for passing to match his tremendous speed.

Watch: All 47 of Nkunku's Bundesliga goals at Leipzig

Nkunku scored on his Bundesliga debut and rarely looked back as he improved season on season at the Red Bull Arena, even becoming a senior France international during his stay in Germany. A scorer of 70 goals and provider of 56 assists in 172 appearances across all competitions while covering an incredible eight positions for Leipzig saw Nkunku leave for England with near-legendary status at the young Bundesliga club.

Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich) - Leipzig 2017-21

From his early days playing alongside the likes of ex-Borussia Dortmund favourite Ousmane Dembele at Evreux in Normandy, it was quickly clear that Upamecano was a dead-cert for stardom.

Red Bull Salzburg understandably liked what they saw of the teen, signing the 6'1" defender before letting him find his feet at second team Liefering in 2015/16. His subsequent showings for Salzburg piqued Leipzig's interest and the future France 2022 FIFA World Cup runner-up landed in Germany as an 18-year-old with plenty of raw talent to develop. A serious knee injury aside, the following four-and-a-half seasons would prove crucial to Upamecano developing his understanding of the central defensive role, a position he most often featured in alongside Willi Orban.

Dayot Upamecano began fulfilling his immense promise at Leipzig. - DFL

With game time aplenty to perfect his craft, the no-nonsense defender - who made his Bundesliga debut for Leipzig against Dortmund in 2018 - immediately became a first-team regular for his new club. A Golden Boy Award nomination arrived in 2018 while Upamecano made eight appearances during Leipzig's memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019/20. A switch to Bayern ultimately brought Bundesliga title successes on the domestic front and UEFA Nations League glory with his country.    

Josko Gvardiol, (Leipzig 2021 - present) 

Remarkable as it seems, Gvardiol is still just 21 years of age. His on-pitch celebrations during Croatia's third-place World Cup finish last December - in which he scored his nation's opening goal against Morocco in the bronze medal match - were testament to just how far the Zagreb native had come in such a short space of time.

An astute youth defender at Dinamo Zagreb, the young Croat was well aware of the platform Leipzig offered in terms of a first-class developmental base and after agreeing terms with the Bundesliga side in the 2020/21 season, he was wearing the colours of his new club the following campaign. Debuting in the Bundesliga at 19 in a 4-0 win against Stuttgart, Gvardiol's debut season at the Red Bull Arena proved a gradual success. With Domenico Tedesco picking up the reins mid-term, Leipzig qualified for the Champions League with a fourth place finish while they narrowly missed out on a place in the Europa League final, being pipped by Rangers in the tournament's last four.

Watch: The very best of Josko Gvardiol

A DFB Cup winner's medal was the icing on a satisfying cake for the Croatian defender, a feat he would repeat - despite missing the showpiece through injury - as Leipzig successfully defended their crown in 2022/23. That campaign also saw Gvardiol scoring Champions League goals against Real Madrid and Manchester City. To date, Leipzig's superb centre back has netted five goals in 87 appearances for Die Roten Bullen, the club with whom he has become a household name on the continent.

Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Leipzig 2017-21

Defensive giant Konate was just 18 when he agreed terms with Leipzig, arriving in Germany as a French second-division sensation at Sochaux. Having taken his first steps as a footballer in midfield, Konate excelled in central defence and in his first season at Leipzig, and he soon stepped up from the youth set-up to play 20 times in the Bundesliga and Europa League.

By 2018/19, he was flying under Ralf Rangnick and was becoming a regular for France at U21 level. "We're convinced of his huge potential and think that he'll take huge strides with us over the coming months and years," Rangnick said of Konate during the pair's time together and how right the tactician was.

Ibrahima Konate struck fear into the hearts of Bundesliga attackers. - DFL

In all, the former Paris FC youth would compete in four Bundesliga seasons with Leipzig - racking up 66 German top-flight appearances - before being tempted to Liverpool by former Dortmund and Mainz coach Jürgen Klopp.

Dominik Szoboszlai (Liverpool), Leipzig 2021-23

Hungary international Szoboszlai followed Konate and completed his switch to Klopp's Liverpool in summer 2023 after two brilliant seasons in the Bundesliga. The 22-year-old attacker was another of those to make the move from the Austrian Bundesliga with Salzburg to test his credentials in Germany with Leipzig, and how he succeeded in doing so.

Accustomed to winning trophies following three league and cup doubles in Austria, Szoboszlai missed just one top-flight game for Leipzig in 2021/22, when he scored six goals and provided eight assists to help the team secure Champions League football. His confidence, pace, close control and eye-catching goals becoming ever more apparent as time went on at the Red Bull Arena, 'Szobo' eventually brought his tally to 12 strikes and 16 provisions in 62 Bundesliga appearances at Leipzig, his two DFB Cup winners' medals a testament to his success in Saxony. 

Watch: Szoboszlai on fire at Leizpig 

Mohamed Simakan (Leipzig 2021 - present) 

Showing full-blooded determination to overcome a couple of serious knee injuries early in his career, Simakan bounced back to attract the attentions of Leipzig, who had been seeking a replacement for the aforementioned Upamecano once he departed for Bayern.

The 6'2" France U21 international proved at previous club Strasbourg that he was just as adept at playing on the right side of defence as he was in the centre, which proved a major boon for his new club. The versatile, Marseille-born player made the central position his own in his opening season before featuring 19 times on the right in his second campaign.

Mohamed Simakan (c.) has made 52 Bundesliga appearances for Leipzig thus far. - IMAGO/Eibner-Pressefoto/Bert Harzer/IMAGO/Eibner

Another of those to have formed part of Leipzig's back-to-back DFB Cup victories, the 23-year-old has become a fully established and much sought-after player while on the club's books. 

Nordi Mukiele (Paris Saint-Germain), Leipzig 2018-22

Think France, think deadly defender, think RB Leipzig. As we have seen, so many of the two-time world champions' rear-guard, present and future, have honed their abilities with RBL. Current PSG supremo Mukiele is no different.

Nordi Mukiele (r) celebrates with Timo Werner back in 2019. - Jörg Schüler/Bongarts/Getty Images

Mukiele debuted for the Bundesliga outfit as a 21-year-old back in 2018 and he would go on to chalk up just shy of 150 appearances in four seasons for the team. The first of those came in a Europa League win against Swedish side Hacken. Disappointment in losing a DFB Cup final to Dortmund in 2021 was tempered when Leipzig defeated Freiburg on penalties the following year, Mukiele coming on as a second-half substitute in the Berlin showpiece.

A July 2022 move to PSG signalled the end to a highly productive spell with Leipzig.