Emil Forsberg: The New York and Sweden star made in the Bundesliga


Emil Forsberg blossomed into one on the Bundesliga's best attackers since joining RB Leipzig from Malmö in January 2015, enjoying nine successful years at the club prior to a move to the New York Red Bulls in January 2024.

Football is in Forsberg’s blood: grandfather Lennart played for Sundsvall in the 1950s, father Leif 'Foppa' Forsberg became a club legend, scoring 143 goals in more than 400 games for the team during the 1980s and '90s, even having his No.10 shirt retired in honour of his achievements with the Giffarna.

Despite his clear pedigree, things weren't easy for Forsberg Jr. and his path to professional football was far from handed to him on a plate.

"When I was in my early teens, I faced my first rejection, and it hit me hard," Forsberg explained in a piece for The Players' Tribune. "I had been trying to get into this place called the Halmstad Elite Camp, which is where the Swedish Football Association picks the youth national team. And guess what their reason was for rejecting me? … Wait for it…. They thought I was too small."

They were wrong. Three years later, the 5'10" Forsberg made his debut for Sundsvall, in Sweden's second division. The rest is history.

Watch: An Emil Forsberg highlight reel

Known as 'mini-Foppa', Emil made it a hat-trick for the Forsbergs when he made his pro debut aged 17 in 2009. He scored 24 goals in 97 league appearances for Sundsvall before moving to Malmö, where 57 Allsvenskan outings yielded 19 goals, 13 assists, two top-flight titles and earned him the Allsvenskan Midfielder of the Year award.

Several appearances in the UEFA Champions League were another impressive addition to the Forsberg CV, which landed on Leipzig's desk towards the end of 2014 prior to signing terms with the club in January 2015.

Forsberg lived up to the hype. After helping Leipzig to a historic Bundesliga promotion in 2015/16, the Swede set a then-record for most assists in a single Bundesliga season with 19 the following year as Leipzig ended their debut campaign in the top-flight as runners-up.

It proved to be a memorable year on and off the pitch for Forsberg, who married his wife Shanga on 17 July 2016. A footballer herself, Shanga also represented Leipzig and she should take credit for fuelling Forsberg's fire as he's climbed to the very top of the game.

Watch: Forsberg's emotional farewell after final Leipzig home game

"The only time I get nervous in football is after I play a bad game," he explained in the same article for The Players' Tribune. "You see, when I get home that night, I know what’s coming… a meeting with “the Sheriff.” And let me tell you, it can be brutal. The Sheriff always gives it to me straight."

He continued: "And if the Sheriff gets really peed off … well, you don’t want to be in the same room. Trust me, I know … because I know the Sheriff better than anyone. After all, she is my wife [...] I could start answering back. But, well, this is marriage, and you know how these arguments work. I’ve got no chance!"

There was little for Shanga to criticise as injury checked Forsberg's progress the following year, but he did score Leipzig's first ever Champions League goal in their debut outing against Monaco in September 2017.

It was far from the first major contribution of Forsberg's Leipzig career; his strike rubber-stamped promotion in 2016, he was responsible for the club's 500th and 1,000th goals and it was a Forsberg brace that earned the club a first appearance in the Champions League knockouts in 2019.

They were two of four efforts during Leipzig's run to the 2019/20 Champions League semi-finals and he was then the club's biggest threat on all fronts the following year (eight goals, five assists).

Forsberg has scored 22 goals in 126 Bundesliga appearances, including three against record champions Bayern Munich. - motivio via www.imago-images.de/imago images/motivio

In recent seasons, silverware has started to follow his impressive attacking output, with Forsberg a central figure in helping Leipzig lift the first major trophy in the club's history as they clinched the 2021/22 DFB Cup.

Player and club repeated the same trick the following season by making it back-to-back German cup glories, before a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich delivered the Supercup at the start of 2023/24.

Even after announcing his departure in December 2023, Forsberg then struck in his final home game to earn Leipzig a 3-1 win over Hoffenheim.

That was his 71st goal for Leipzig, which ranks him fourth on the all-time rankings, while his 11 Champions League efforts are the joint-most in white and red.

The Swede also has more assists (69) and more Champions League appearances (41) than any other player in Die Roten Bullen history.

He closes out with 324 games under his belt for Leipzig, with just Yussuf Poulsen representing the club on more occasions. Few other than Poulsen can put in words just how important Forsberg has been for the Saxony outfit.

"You don't get to play in emotional games like that every day," said Poulsen after the Hoffenheim victory. "Emil is my friend for life. It's not surprising considering we've been playing together for nine years.

"He's a great guy. You won't find anyone in the dressing room, or anywhere, who has a bad word to say about him. It's a real shame that he's leaving us. You saw his class today. He came on and only needed 25 minutes to turn the game on its head."

Following his final outing at the Red Bull Arena, an emotional Forsberg said: "I'm struggling to believe it. It feels great to have scored a goal in my last home match and to win alongside the boys. I love this club, this city and the fans.

"I've experienced everything here with the club, from Bundesliga 2 through the Champions League to the DFB Cup win. It's been an incredible journey!"

You can say that again.