Football Features

Hit or miss? How RB Leipzig replaced their 10 biggest player sales

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:11, 2 July 2023

Since their formation 14 years ago, RB Leipzig have courted plenty of admiration and controversy.

The crown jewel in Red Bull’s footballing empire, they’ve become renowned for youth development as well as creating a pipeline for tomorrow’s stars. Consequently, their work has attracted the attention of more historic clubs, allowing Leipzig to cash in by selling their biggest assets for considerable sums.

The latest example is Dominik Szoboszlai, signed from Red Bull Salzburg (who, as you might expect, feature heavily in this article) for €25 million and sold to Liverpool for €70m two years later.

But selling is one skill; recruiting is another. Here are RB Leipzig’s ten most expensive outgoing transfers, and how the German club replaced them.

Sold: Brian Brobbey to Ajax (€16.35m) | Signed: André Silva from RB Salzburg (€24m)

Season: 2021/22 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 95

Verdict? Hit

This was a most peculiar transfer. Brian Brobbey had just broken into Ajax’s first team but limited opportunities inspired his switch to Leipzig, where Julian Nagelsmann seemed the ideal coach to grow under.

However, Brobbey and Nagelsmann never actually got to work together. The latter departed for Bayern Munich, subsequently leaving Brobbey in limbo. After nine league appearances, he returned to Amsterdam, where he continues to be a mainstay.

RB Leipzig chose not to sign a direct replacement. They were already well-served considering the presence of Andre Silva, who joined in the same summer. As such, this entry bends the rules. Silva didn’t follow Brobbey so much as they walked in together. Even so, it’s fair to say Brobbey was never a short-term solution meaning his minutes would be limited early on.

The fact they sold him back to Ajax for a more than tidy profit (Brobbey signed as a free agent) is an example of Leipzig’s astuteness when it comes to player trading. And is why he’s on the list despite being the least proven of Leipzig’s ten most expensive departures. Brobbey staying in Leipzig shorter than takes to have a cup of coffee also explains why his departure didn’t necessitate a direct replacement.

All of that said, former Milan and Sevilla marksman Silva has been solid in his spell.

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Sold: Hee-chan Hwang to Wolves (€16.70m) | Signed: Timo Werner from Chelsea (€20m)

Season: 2022/23 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 40

Verdict? Hit

They say never go back. But Timo Werner was smart not to heed that aphorism. The club’s record goalscorer was a shadow of himself at Chelsea, where his regression was at times painful to watch.

But his return to familiar surroundings has felt rejuvenating. In his second spell, to date, the Stuttgart native has bagged 16 goals across 40 appearances.

Sold: Tyler Adams to Leeds (€17m) | Signed: Xaver Schlager from Wolfsburg (€12m)

Season: 2022/23 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 33

Verdict? TBD

A member of the Red Bull family, Tyler Adams — who came through at New York Red Bulls — spent four years in East Germany before linking up with former coach Jesse Marsch at Leeds, the talented American midfielder showed his worth at last winter’s World Cup and following in his footsteps is Xaver Schlager, who just completed a first season. The former Red Bull Salzburg man started 16 of his 22 league appearances, which could have been more if not for a serious ankle injury.

Sold: Matheus Cunha to Hertha BSC (€18m) | Signed: Dani Olmo from Dinamo Zagreb (€29m)

Season: 2019/20 (winter)

RB Leipzig appearances: 123

Verdict? Hit

The former Barcelona academy graduate somehow found himself playing in Croatia’s top division. In a way this does make logical sense, considering Dinamo Zagreb’s own reputation for developing young footballers. Barça and others were linked with his signature but Olmo, a talented versatile midfielder-cum-forward, opted for Leipzig.

Olmo succeeded eight-time Brazilian international forward Matheus Cunha, who today plays his football at Wolves following interesting stints at Hertha BSC and Atlético Madrid. While Cunha has blown hot and cold since leaving, Olmo is arguably their most exciting and dangerous outlet, having bagged 21 goals and created 29 more to date.

Sold: Jean-Kévin Augustin to Leeds (€21m) | Signed: Hee-chan Hwang from RB Salzburg (€12m)

Season: 2020/21 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 29

Verdict? Miss

You’ll see a growing trend: Salzburg to Leipzig, given the former is RB’s sister club it makes sense for those in Austria to make the journey north (unless you’re Sadio Mane or Erling Haaland). After missing out on signing the lethal Norwegian marksman — Borussia Dortmund becoming his German home — Leipzig wasn’t going to let Haaland’s former partner-in-crime Hee-chan Hwang slip through their fingers. While the current Manchester City striker made the Bundesliga his playground, Hwang struggled in Germany’s top division before moving on.

Sold: Ibrahima Konaté to Liverpool (€40m) | Signed: Mohamed Simakan from Strasbourg (€15m)

Season: 2021/22 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 78

Verdict? TBD

In one fell swoop RB Leipzig lost two colossal centre-backs. Ibrahima Konaté left for Liverpool, allowing Mohamed Simakan to fill the void. These were big shoes to fill and it’s fair to say the Marseille-born defender has yet to step into them. But it’s still early days. Simakan just completed his second campaign — missing a bulk of games through injury — after initially signing a five-year contract.

Sold: Dayot Upamecano to Bayern Munich (€42.5m) | Signed: Josko Gvardiol from Dinamo Zagreb (€18.8m)

Season: 2021/22 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 87

Verdict? Hit

Chances are, Josko Gvardiol has played his final RB Leipzig game. The 21-year-old is arguably Europe’s greatest defensive prospect. In spite of his age, the Croatian international plays like a seasoned veteran. His mere presence these last few years softened the blow of losing Dayot Upamecano, who also served RBL with distinction. Having announced himself in Qatar last winter, the suitors for his signature came thick and fast. With heavy interest from European champions Manchester City, he’s expected to continue his development under Pep Guardiola’s watch.

Sold: Timo Werner to Chelsea (€53m) | Signed: Alexander Sørloth from Crystal Palace (€20m)

Season: 2020/21 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 38

Verdict? Miss

Before the emergence of Haaland, there was Alexander Sørloth, who is currently enjoying somewhat of a journeyman career. In the aftermath of Werner’s first departure, Leipzig turned to him to fill the void. Although Sørloth displayed some promise at Real Sociedad on loan, this hasn’t gone to plan. Sorloth is still contracted but likely to soon be be moved on.

Sold: Naby Keïta to Liverpool (€60m) | Signed: Amadou Haidara from RB Salzburg (€19m)

Season: 2018/19 (winter)

RB Leipzig appearances: 155

Verdict? Hit

The loss of Naby Keïta was a significant blow to RB Leipzig, who by now were establishing themselves as Bundesliga challengers. But they were prepared and had identified Amadou Haidara as his successor in midfield.

Perhaps this is simply another use of their football-transfer cheat code, given where Haidara was playing before. He followed the same Salzburg-to-Leipzig route path as Keïta, in fact.

But that aside, Haidara has been nothing short of indomitable since joining and time will tell where he’ll be playing his football in the upcoming years.

Sold: Christopher Nkunku to Chelsea (€60m) | Signed: Benjamin Sesko from RB Salzburg (€24m)

Season: 2023/24 (summer)

RB Leipzig appearances: 0

Verdict? TBD

It’s no secret Christopher Nkunku was leaving this summer. He has long since agreed to join Chelsea, leaving RBL with ample time to find — as hard as it may be — a worthy replacement. In the end, they stayed within their family. The time is now for 20-year-old Slovenian forward Benjamin Šeško to make the same trek as so many before him. He arrives on the back of 29 goals across 79 outings for Red Bull Salzburg and will be hoping to enjoy a Haaland-esque Bundesliga career.

Profit: €150.8m (excluding sell-on fees)


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