The Bundesliga’s youngest ever coach will take charge of its most recent club when Julian Nagelsmann takes to the the Red Bull Arena dugout in 2019/20. His options at RB Leipzig were already impressive, and that was before adding Ademola Lookman and friends.
bundesliga.com runs the rule over three players looking to make their mark at RB Leipzig next season…
Nationality: England (U21 cap)/Nigeria
Signed from: Everton
Story so far: Lookman is a familiar face to Leipzig fans, having spent the second half of the 2017/18 season on loan at the Red Bull Arena from Everton. It was a fruitful spell for the England youth international, who had insisted on a move to the Bundesliga to then manager Sam Allardyce after a switch to Derby County had already been agreed. Lookman plundered five goals and three assists from just 11 games before returning to try his luck England. Three league starts in the season since and Lookman needed little persuading to return to Saxony.
Role next season: Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen may have combined for 31 goals and 10 assists last season, but there is plenty of scope for Leipzig’s fabled front two to become a front three next term, especially given Nagelsmann’s predilection for a 3-4-3 at Hoffenheim. “[He’s] a very young coach, which is why he knows a lot about young players,” Lookman says of Nagelsmann. “I’m sure I can learn a lot from him, especially from his way of playing football.” Left footed, Lookman could even drop deeper if Nagelsmann shakes things up mid-game, helping Marcel Halstenberg deliver crosses from that flank.
Nationality: Wales (8 caps)/England (U16 cap)
Position: Centre-back/defensive midfielder
Signed from: Chelsea
Story so far: After making his senior professional debut for Exeter City at the tender age of 15, Ampadu was soon on his way to Chelsea, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to turn out for the Blues when he replaced Cesc Fabregas against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup in September 2017. Eligible to play for each of England, Wales, the Republic of Ireland – whom his father Kwame won four U21 caps for – and Ghana, Ampadu pledged his international allegiance to Wales in 2017, and his since featured eight times for Ryan Giggs’ side.
Role next season: Ampadu has won high praise for his composure on the ball and excellent distribution. An athletic 6’-tall, the 18-year-old is equally comfortable playing at centre-back or anchoring the midfield. In club captain Willi Orban and France U21 stars Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate, Nagelsmann has an embarrassment of defensive riches, but with three at the back his preference, there is scope for Ampadu to plug a gap there. Ampadu might really come into his own playing the Sergio Busquets role, though. Tyler Adams is struggling with a groin injury, and Ampadu has the perfect skill set to anchor the midfield and dictate play from there.
Nationality: France (U21 cap)/DR Congo
Position: Attacking midfielder
Signed from: Paris Saint-Germain
Story so far: Born on the outskirts of Paris, Nkunku joined local club PSG at 13 and, after racing through their youth academy teams, made his debut in December 2015 just two months past his 18th birthday, becoming the French champions’ sixth-youngest player. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – the two most expensive players of all time – may have occupied similar attacking positions at the Parc des Princes in recent seasons, but Nkunku has still racked up 77 appearances in all competitions since his debut, and calls for full international recognition from France coach Didier Deschamps are growing louder.
Role next season: Nkunku will be optimistic of getting minutes in his favoured central position behind the strikers at Leipzig, especially if Emil Forsberg’s fitness proves to be as elusive for the Swede as it did last season. Andrej Kramaric bagged 17 Bundesliga goals playing between the lines for Hoffenheim under Nagelsmann last season, and although Nkunku has yet to be quite so prolific, he might just have found the perfect place to turn his promise into veritable attacking prowess.