RB Leipzig have signed Lois Openda from RC Lens, with the 23-year-old attacker moving to Germany's Red Bull Arena on a five-year deal after he made a significant impact in Ligue 1 in 2022/23.
bundesliga.com gives you the lowdown on Leipzig's new signing....
Stats correct as of 14 July 2023
Club: RB Leipzig
Country: Belgium (Eight caps/ two goals)
Mention the name 'Lois Openda' to the majority of European football fans before the 2022/23 season, and it would have been blank looks all round.
Born in Liege in eastern Belgium - only a short drive from the German border - Openda is anonymous continent-wide no more after enjoying a breakthrough campaign in the colours of French club Lens, whom he helped finish runners-up in Ligue 1 and qualify for next season's Champions League group stage. To put his goals tally into context, only Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé, Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette and Lille's Canada international Jonathan David scored more than Openda, who finished on 21 in 38 league matches.
Watch: Welcome to RB Leipzig, Lois Openda!
Like David, Openda made the short switch across the border from Belgium to France, but unlike the Lille forward, he did not make much of an impression in Belgian football. He scored just five goals in 53 apperances for Club Brugge, prompting the club to send him on a two-season loan to Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands.
"At the start, it was out of the question to talk to me about the Netherlands," admitted Openda. "My agent persuaded me to go there."
"We were able to convince him with two arguments," said Vitesse's then-sporting director Johannes Spors. "For one, we knew him really well, and secondly, we wanted to give him the chance to play as a forward, and not as a winger as he sometimes did at Bruges."
The gamble for both parties paid off as Openda suddenly found goalscoring form, netting 37 times in 88 competitive appearances for the club, who clearly remember him fondly and where he was coached by current Bochum boss Thomas Letsch.
"It was important for him to have rhythm. He got playing time and got his confidence back," said Letsch, who was Vitesse boss from summer 2020 until taking over at Bochum in September 2022. "In his development, he also accepted certain things. I put a lot of emphasis on his work off the ball and he took that on board. It's thanks to that he improved the speed of his play in transition. He has constantly improved. He's gone from being a talented player to a very good player."
"I've not forgotten that not all that long ago in Bruges, I started in professional football. It wasn't great. I wasn't a first-team regular. I started making a name for myself in the Netherlands, I showed what I was capable of," Openda explained. "At Lens, I am flourishing, with the help of my teammates."
He also stated, "The level of Ligue 1 is clearly higher than in the Netherlands, but I expected to score at least 15 goals." He clearly exceeded his own expectations, but Openda has also developed in other ways, notably in bringing to heel a darker side to his game that had earned him three red cards prior to his move to Lens.
"It came naturally," said the Belgium international, who was booked only twice in his 38 French top-flight games. "If I want to become a great player, I have to stay focussed. Those who get kicked are the ones who make their opponents afraid. So now, I pick myself up and I make a sprint. I'm already focussed on the next move.
"In the Netherlands, I'd dwell for five or ten minutes on the fouls committed against me. I didn't want to play anymore. Now, I don't care. The objective becomes the answer I can give."
The response in the colours of the Sang et Or - the Blood and Gold - was historic. He became the first Lens player to pass 20 goals in a single top-flight season since Georges Lech in 1966/67, and only the fourth Belgian player to reach the 20-goal barrier in one of Europe's top five leagues in the 21st century. The others? Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku.
In those strikes, he scored two hat-tricks - the first against Toulouse in late October was the maiden triple of his professional career - and there is no suggestion Openda will rest on his laurels.
"I work all the time on the mental side of things with my coach. I pay attention to what I eat, in my finishing with the head, left foot, knee, whatever," he explained. "I'm aware that I can be more clinical."
Plays a bit like: Robert Lewandowski
If he does hone an even sharper edge to his finishing, then the comparison with the Bundesliga's all-time leading foreign-born scorer will not look quite so unbalanced.
Openda is so much more than an out-an-out forward — to fit in at Lens he needed to be. "He works for the team," said Lens boss Franck Haise. "He's important for the compactness of the side."
Like Lewandowski, Openda made his move to one of Europe's biggest leagues aged 22, and the Belgian has already had the benefit of the advice of one of the game's greats.
"I got some tips from him with the Belgian national team," said Openda of former Arsenal, Barcelona and France forward Thierry Henry, who was then coach Roberto Martinez's assistant right up to the end of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. "I know when I can make runs, how I can free up space for other players."
Like Lewy, he is unpredictable and all-round in his finishing with seven left-footed goals, six headers and five right-foot strikes among his 2022/23 tally.
Did you know?
Openda wears orange-tinted glasses in the evening to limit the effect of the light from screens, and another pair of specialised spectacles in the morning to stimulate the body's intake of light. He also takes a "very very hot" shower before sleeping in order to relax; there's a "cold shower to wake me up" in the morning.
What they're saying
"Lois is a direct forward, whether playing through the middle or on the flanks. He can finish with both feet and his head, and, at 23, still has huge developmental potential." - Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl
"He's a joyful guy, smiling all the time. Unfortunately, he has dubious musical tastes. What he put on in the dressing room sometimes was horrendous. But otherwise, I have only positive things to say about him." - Letsch
"He's a young player who has learned a lot this season." - Haise
"It came after not scoring for ten matches. That did me more good than harm, because it helped me give my all in every game. Now when I go out onto the pitch, I know how many goals I'm going to score." - Openda on hitting a Ligue 1 hat-trick vs. Clermont following a scoring drought
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