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Exclusive: Dominik Szoboszlai explains why he chose RB Leipzig despite Arsenal interest, scoring viral goals and his return from injury

Exclusive: Dominik Szoboszlai explains why he chose RB Leipzig despite Arsenal interest, scoring viral goals and his return from injury

A rising star

Dominik Szoboszlai quickly became one of the hottest properties on the European market in 2020. The Hungarian international, playing for Red Bull Salzburg, burst onto the scene through a combination of commanding displays, viral goals and high-profile interest from across the continent. His influence for Hungary in their qualification bid was massive and scored the goal to send them to the European Championships.

In the January window Szoboszlai was confirmed to have signed for RB Leipzig and was followed there by former head coach at Salzburg Jesse Marsch after Julian Nagelsmann departed for Bayern Munich.

Unfortunately, Szoboszlai is still yet to play a senior competitive fixture for Leipzig and missed the Euros through injury. He is currently working hard to be ready for the start of the new season and 101 Great Goals caught up with him to find out about the last 18 months.

Introducing, Dominik Szoboszlai:

Positionally, Szoboszlai is very much an attack minded player operating both in a central attacking midfield role but also heavily involved with the left flank. Cutting inside onto his thunderous right foot to create chances and take shots.

However, this wasn’t always the case. Speaking in 2019 with Goal, Szoboszlai compared his style to that of Toni Kroos and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, two very different players to how the Hungarian operates today. When asked about this comparison two years on, the 20-year-old spoke of how his ‘ongoing development’ saw him become more versatile.

‘As a player you are in an ongoing development. That means that you try to get better in all areas of the game,’ said Szoboszlai.

‘You have to become very versatile these days in order to be able to play different positions and different tactics. So, I would say I am flexible regarding positions which makes it harder for opponents.’

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - JULY 1: Dominik Szoboszlai of Salzburg celebrates after scoring during the tipico Bundesliga match between Red Bull Salzburg and SK Sturm Graz at Red Bull Arena on July 1, 2020 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA – JULY 1: Dominik Szoboszlai of Salzburg celebrates after scoring during the tipico Bundesliga match between Red Bull Salzburg and SK Sturm Graz at Red Bull Arena on July 1, 2020 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

Red Bull Salzburg has developed some brilliant talents such as Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Dayot Upamecano and Erling Haaland to name but a few. Szoboszlai is certainly part of that group.

Although, a constant turnover of talent means new players must come through to keep The Bulls at the summit of the Austrian League. The departure of Haaland to Borussia Dortmund left a large void to fill but the presence of Szoboszlai along with players such as Patson Daka, Sekou Koita and Mergim Berisha solved it quickly. The quartet scored a combined 82 goals across all competitions in 20/21.

However, Szoboszlai feels that his prominence in the team was not associated with the departure of the Norwegian forward.

‘My standing in the team had nothing to do with Erling leaving,’ he explained. ‘I am a player who wants to take charge and I want to be a leader. Jesse helped me to become a better player, as he is doing here at Leipzig as well.’

Exclusive: Dominik Szoboszlai explains why he chose RB Leipzig despite Arsenal interest, scoring viral goals and his return from injury

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA – OCTOBER 27: Erling Haaland of Salzburg celebrates with scorer Dominik Szoboszlai of Salzburg after his goal during the tipico Bundesliga match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and SK Rapid Wien at Red Bull Arena on October 27, 2019 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

Speaking of Jesse Marsch. The American coach helped bring Szoboszlai into the first team fold, aiding to mould him into the player he is today. With Marsch now at Leipzig, the development of the midfielder can continue with even greater familiarity.

Curious to know how Szoboszlai felt when it was announced Marsch would be taking over from Nagelsmann, he explained adamantly that their success in the past will aim to be brought through in their time together in Germany.

‘That were great news,’ he said. ‘We had successful times together in Salzburg and it was great to learn from him. Now we want to take the next steps together at Leipzig, I am looking forward to the upcoming years.’

One of the things which brought Szoboszlai to the attention of the millions around the world were the unbelievable goals scored at the highest level. The Hungarian was producing not just in Austria but both the Champions League and international competitions.

Whilst interest from fans grew exponentially, it was interesting to know if Szoboszlai felt these strikes helped with garnering interest from the top clubs linked with him at the time.

‘Probably, yes,’ he replied. ‘But that is not my goal when I am scoring from free-kicks or long range [laughs]. I want to be as successful as possible, to help my team. But of course, it raises interest when you perform well.’

These goals and his quality led to plenty of interest from the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan. Yet, it was RB Leipzig who he chose to sign for, and he feels they are the perfect fit.

‘It [RB Leipzig] is a highly attractive club that fits my style of play,’ he said. ‘The ambition of the club meets mine. I am always hungry for more, so is RB Leipzig and the team. In addition, there is still so much potential in this young team. I am sure that we can be successful in the future.’

Upon his signature, the new Leipzig arrival suffered persistent groin problems and spent the entirety of the second half of the campaign in recovery. Asking how this period was, even if there were maybe some benefits to a steady integration off the field into new surroundings, it was evident that it was difficult.

‘It is never good to be injured. But I tried to stay positive and focused. Sometimes you have to be patient, even if that is not always easy.

‘Now, I am totally excited to train and play with the team and get ready for a challenging season,’ Szoboszlai said. Images have now emerged on Leipzig’s social feeds showing him in training alongside former Salzburg teammate Hee-chan Hwang.

When he finally does make his debut, the level of opposition has taken a considerable jump in difficulty from the top tier in Austria to the Bundesliga. However, having played against the likes of Bayern Munich before in the Champions League, Szoboszlai was confident this experience would have helped prepare him.

‘Definitely,’ he replied when asked if his UCL appearances will help him adjust to the increase in his opponents’ quality.

‘To be able to compete on the highest level of football makes you stronger. I believe in my qualities and I am positive that I will show them in the Bundesliga as well.’

As Szoboszlai prepares to return for domestic football, he had previously hoped to make the Hungary squad for the Euros. However, his injury once again got in the way and he was unable to compete.

Hungary was placed in one of the toughest groups alongside World Champions France, then European Champions Portugal and 2014 World Champions Germany.

Yet they lost just once, earning draws against both Germany and France. All without their young talisman in the team. Yet when asked if the outcome could have been even greater with him there, Szoboszlai dismissed this and spoke purely of his pride for his colleagues for what they achieved.

‘That is hypothetical,’ he replied regarding whether his presence could have led to a different outcome. ‘I am sure that I could have helped the team but that is football. There will always be injured players and a team has to cope with that. I am very proud of the guys how well they performed.’

Exclusive: Dominik Szoboszlai explains why he chose RB Leipzig despite Arsenal interest, scoring viral goals and his return from injury

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – JUNE 19: Attila Fiola of Hungary celebrates after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group F match between Hungary and France at Puskas Arena on June 19, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Tibor Illyes – Pool/Getty Images)

Interestingly, Szoboszlai spoke of his keen interest on watching ‘team performances’ rather than individual pieces of brilliance. 26 assists in 56 A.Bundesliga appearances is certainly evidence of how keen he is to help his team score.

‘I watch a lot of football, I don’t follow a specific league. Now I will be watching a lot of Bundesliga,’ he said laughing.

‘I rate team performances higher than individual standouts. So, I was impressed by Denmark’s run with my new teammate Yussuf Poulsen but of course the performance of Hungary in the toughest group of the tournament was something special.’

Lastly, with the new season approaching and on the road to recovery, Szoboszlai outlined his targets for the upcoming campaign and provided an update on when fans could expect him back.

‘I want to stay healthy and establish myself in the new league.’ he said.

‘But first and foremost, I want to help the team and club reach our goals. I am doing some individual training right now at preseason camp but will be part of the team soon. My plan is to be ready by the start of the season and I am very much looking forward to that.’

Dominik Szoboszlai: Profile, Expert Analysis, Tactical Overview & Video


This article was edited by Josh Barker.

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