Xavi Simons has been a shining star of Leipzig's 2023/24 campaign. - © DFL/Getty Images/Oliver Hardt
Xavi Simons has been a shining star of Leipzig's 2023/24 campaign. - © DFL/Getty Images/Oliver Hardt

Xavi Simons: The RB Leipzig and Netherlands star on the rise


After a dream debut season in the Bundesliga, Leipzig's Xavi Simons looks to make his mark at the EUROs, bundesliga.com analyses the Dutchman's precocious talents.

Scorer of spectacular goals and creator of incredible chances, it is fair to say RB Leipzig's Xavi Simons has had an encouraging first Bundesliga campaign...

With 19 goal involvements this past season, the 21-year-old was one of the highlights for Marco Rose and his young team.

Striking up a potent chemistry with the likes of Loïs Openda and Benjamin Šeško in forward areas, the youngster has provided several moments of exceptional quality for his teammates.

Heading into the Euros this summer, he will undoubtedly be a player to watch for Ronald Koeman's Netherlands side.

So what's the secret behind Xavi's prowess?

WATCH: The best of the Bundesliga's youngsters in 2023/24

Big shoes to fill

The summer of 2023 was a transitional one for RB Leipzig. The departures of star players including Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai left a creative and attacking gap to be filled in the side. 

The acquisition of Openda from Ligue 1 side Lens was certainly a step in the right direction, however, it is Xavi who proved to be the final piece of Rose's attacking puzzle.

The Dutch youngster has helped Dani Olmo by shouldering the creative burden alongside the Spaniard, with both players wreaking havoc in the opposition half with their ability to find a pass or take shots themselves. 

In Rose's 4-2-2-2 system, Xavi's positional versatility is a huge plus, with the former Barcelona man more than comfortable playing on either flank or down the middle even as a central attacking midfielder. The closer he is to goal, the more devastating he can be.

Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala have lit up the Bundesliga since they broke into the Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich starting line-ups respectively, dazzling Bundesliga defences with their talents on the ball. Xavi is the latest player of that ilk.

Much like those aforementioned midfield maestros, Xavi's low centre of gravity is a huge plus for the kind of player he is, someone who loves a dribble and taking players on in 1v1 duels, to create spaces in behind opposition defences. 

Xavi's technique with the ball is what sets him apart from the rest and makes him such a joy to watch whenever he's on the pitch. Capable of unsettling opposition markers with his dribbling intelligence in tight spaces, Xavi's composure on the ball is not only useful closer to the opposition penalty area, but also in Leipzig's own half. 

As a team that typically thrives in transition when there's space to be eaten up, Xavi's ability to manipulate the ball allows his teammates to make off-ball runs into space where the Dutchman can find them with his pinpoint passing into space.

Xavi and Openda have struck up a telepathic understanding this term. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

The biggest beneficiary of Xavi's talents at Leipzig has been star striker Openda, who has found the perfect partner in crime to complement his speed and attacking nous. 

In fact, five of Openda's goals this season have been assisted by Xavi. The Belgian striker has a great instinct for timing his runs to perfection, which is made even better with the young Dutch youngster's ability to find him in front of goal.

To put that into context, Xavi is third in the Bundesliga for shots set up with a hugely impressive tally of 83 in total, behind Franck Honorat and Kevin Stöger with 84 and 120 respectively. He is in elite company when it comes to creative figures. 

But what about scoring goals himself? Xavi can do that too.

Grit and goals

It is no exaggeration to say that Xavi is close to the complete package and a dream for any manager to work with, Leipzig boss Rose will likely agree with that sentiment.

In addition to his outstanding tally of 11 assists, Xavi has scored some superb goals this season in the Bundesliga - eight to be precise. Second only to the club's top-scorer supreme Openda (118) for shots taken amongst Leipzig players, Xavi's tally of 82 shots this season points to his hunger for goals.

He spoke of his love for scoring earlier this season and when asked about his preference between scoring or assisting, he said, "If you were to ask me this years ago, I would say providing assists. But nowadays I would say scoring goals. Just because when you score, the adrenaline rush you get is just different. So I would say scoring goals."

Xavi excels when combining with his team-mates in attacking sequences. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

When he attacks the box with his off-ball movement, Xavi can be a danger to opposition defences. In the above screenshot from a Matchday 26 game against Cologne, Xavi doesn't receive the initial line-breaking pass from Willi Orban.

Instead, a quick one-two between Olmo and Šeško opens the space for Xavi who takes the ball in his stride and finishes with aplomb. 

Later in the same game, Xavi would combine with Openda to restore Leipzig's lead on the way to a 5-1 romp away from home.

Xavi has achieved the feat of getting a goal and assist in the same game across five games in the Bundesliga this season - Stuttgart, Augsburg, Cologne, Union Berlin and Freiburg all simply unable to halt the diminuitive Dutchman.

Perhaps the biggest credit to Xavi's talents is that Rose has declared him to be a "protoype" for the way his team wants to play. 

In an interview with German media, Rose explained: "he's almost a prototype for what we want for our game. Our scouting department recognised this excellently and presented him exactly as such. He enjoys chasing the ball and tackling, radiates enormous energy with and against the ball, and is also a gifted footballer."

Thriving as a player in the Roten Bullen way of football means that you have to be on top of your game, both with and without the ball, Xavi clearly gives a lot to Leipzig's efforts in both.

The best example of this was his goal against Freiburg which came as a result of him dispossessing Lucas Höler in midfield to create a turnover from which he scored all by himself, expertly dispatching from outside the box. 

To put Xavi's hard-work without the ball into context, he is ninth in the Bundesliga for intensive runs with 2,326 accumulated across 32 starts.

Delving further into challenges attempted this season, Xavi accrued some 664 in total, more than any other Leipzig player in the Bundesliga. Of those 664, he won a hugely impressive 52.87 per cent of his challenges. This also ties into him being a threat on the ball, this kind of tireless workrate also makes him a constant target for tackles and fouls from opposition defenders.

Only Eintracht Frankfurt's Omar Marmoush with 75 has been fouled more than Xavi (73) this season. Not only is this a strong indicator of his 1v1 prowess, but also that he is a reliable source of generating set-piece opportunities for his team in the oppositon half.

Xavi is the 1v1 king at Leipzig, winning those tricky duels 66 times this term, more than any Leipzig player. Only Musiala, Leroy Sané and Chris Führich have attempted to engage in more 1v1 duels than the Leipzig man.

December's and April's Bundesliga Rookie of the Month is ready to dazzle for the Netherlands at the Euros. Ronald Koeman's Oranje are in a moment of transition with the likes of Jeremie Frimpong and Xavi spearheading a new generation of Dutch talent. 

After a momentous first season in German football, Xavi's star is on the rise and there is little doubt that he is destined for the very top of the game.