Leipzig have called it right again with the signings of Dominik Szoboszlai (l.) and Mohamed Simaken (r.) - © Roger Petzsche via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Picture Point LE
Leipzig have called it right again with the signings of Dominik Szoboszlai (l.) and Mohamed Simaken (r.) - © Roger Petzsche via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Picture Point LE

Leipzig's Leitmotif: Dominik Szoboszlai, Mohamed Simakan and Jesse Marsch fill Marcel Sabitzer, Dayot Upamecano and Julian Nagelsmann-sized voids


Three protagonists of RB Leipzig's remarkable recent rise to German and European superpowers have recently flown the nest, but as they prepare to return with Bayern Munich this weekend, they will find their former side well-placed to cope without them at the Red Bull Arena.

Julian Nagelsmann, Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer's names will always be synonymous with the most successful years in Leipzig's history – to date – but true to the youngest Bundesliga club's fundamental values of continuous sustainable development, the voids they left behind have been quickly filled.

Jesse Marsch was immediately drafted in to take the reins from Nagelsmann, while two rookies are now ruling the roost, ensuring there has been no crying over spilt milk, even if it was of the fullest fat variety.

Julian Nagelsmann (l.) has been followed to Bayern Munich by Marcel Sabitzer and Dayot Upamecano - all architects of their recent successes. - Lluis Gene/Getty Images

Despite seeing huge voids left by the departures of three key architects of their recent glory years, including a UEFA Champions League semi-final appearance, Leipzig have once again underscored their commitment to scouting and recruiting some of the best talents in Europe, with outstanding results.

Nagelsmann took Leipzig further than they have ever been by bursting into the top four of European football, and finishing third and runners-up to Bayern in the Bundesliga. "I think Julian's an amazing coach," said Leipzig's USMNT international Tyler Adams. "Tactically and personally, he helped me develop so much. Now playing against him will be a little bit weird and different, but that's just football."

Nagelsmann was blessed with players of the quality of Upamecano, who earned his first full France stripes due to his consistently strong performances at club level. The fastest centre-back in the league last term with a top speed of 22 mph, the 22-year-old combined that pace with excellent control and composure, and an uncanny understanding of the game for somebody so young. His physical presence and strength in the challenge, as well as ability to launch attacks from deep all contributed to him becoming such a mainstay at the heart of the Leipzig and, now, Bayern defence.

Watch: why Upamecano makes a perfect signing for Bayern

Sabitzer, meanwhile, held the baton that conducted the Leipzig orchestra from his central, pivotal position. He averages a goal involvement every 186 minutes across his Bundesliga career and created 229 chances for teammates, scoring 32 goals himself. With an average of 7.21 miles and 24.2 sprints per 90 minutes, and a top speed of 21.44 mph, it is not exaggeration to say he was the engine room at Leipzig.

They would be a loss to any side, and are a huge gain for Bayern.

Yet with one eye always trained on the future, Leipzig signed Dominik Szoboszlai from Red Bull Salzburg during last winter's transfer window, tying him down to a four-and-a-half-year contract after he scored 25 goals and provided over 30 assists from midfield in over 80 appearances for Salzburg, some of which helped Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland boast such good statistics during his time in Austria.

Without knowing that Sabitzer would move to Bayern at the end of the summer transfer window, Leipzig already had a man who they believed could fill his boots – and his first few outings this term suggest he has got what it takes to do just that.

Watch: Szoboszlai named Rookie of the Month for August

Meanwhile, no sooner had the ink dried on Upamecano's summer switch to Bayern than Leipzig were dotting the i's and crossing the t's on a contract with France U20 international defender Mohamed Simakan from Strasbourg. "I decided to join Leipzig because I believe it's the best club for my career development," said Simakan after agreeing terms with the Bundesliga club. "I want to integrate as quickly as possible and play my part in helping the club achieve their big objectives."

He could hardly have slotted in more impressively.

Simakan has had a major hand in the fact Leipzig's defensive strength this season is mirroring that of last term, with only two goals conceded in the first three games of the campaign. The 6'1" defender won a remarkable 75 per cent of his challenges, equating to an outstanding 49 won – more than any other player in the Bundesliga, Upamecano included. In fact, it is just one shy of Upamecano (27) and his new central defensive partner Niklas Süle (23) combined, while 19-year-old defender Josko Gvardiol is also boasting impressive statistics with 31 challenges won, following his return from a maturing loan spell at Dinamo Zagreb.

The young pair will face the world's most feared striker Robert Lewandowski this weekend, with German trio Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and Jamal Musiala providing the artillery which will really test the bastions of Leipzig's new-look defence, but on the evidence they have provided so far this season, Bayern's four-pronged assault team could be scratching their heads trying to seek a way through.

Mohamed Simakan (r.) and Josko Gvardiol (back) have been hard to get past at RB Leipzig this season. - Cathrin Mueller via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Pressefoto Baumann

Both Szoboszlai and Simakan have integrated remarkably quickly, so much so they were both named as candidates for August's Bundesliga Rookie of the Month, with Szoboszlai winning the first Rookie award of the season. He hit the ground running after recovering from an injury which delayed his debut by six months, scoring in a 4-0 win over SV Sandhausen in the DFB Cup before starting on Matchday 2 in Leipzig's 4-0 win over VfB Stuttgart and scoring two goals, each better than the other.

The Hungarian midfielder has radiated danger in front of goal and was involved in a total of 12 shots (five of his own, with a further seven set up) over the first three matchdays of the season, and he will be champing at the bit to strut his stuff against the record champions.

So too will Marsch, who knows his side cannot afford to fall nine points behind their rivals this Saturday. He will be seeking a repeat of his debut at the Red Bull Arena, when Stuttgart were swept aside. That was Leipzig's sole win of the season so far, but off the field, they have already proven victorious once again with such astute signings, showing foresight and preparedness to look so good even after losing some of the league's stand-out stars.

That is the Leipzig Leitmotif.