Football Features

RB Salzburg’s prolific striker production line & their current gems you should know about

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:26, 15 February 2022

Over the past few years, Red Bull Salzburg have been building a name for themselves as one of Europe’s next talent factories.

The Austrian side, often overlooked and criticised for their part of the Red Bull group, have been in the Champions League in each of the past three seasons and this year have reached the knockout stages for the first time.

German champions Bayern Munich are their opponents in the last 16, with Salzburg having finished second in Group G behind Lille and ahead of Sevilla and Wolfsburg. But the problem for teams like Salzburg is that they never keep their stars for too long. This Champions League team will be stripped for parts as it has been in the past, particularly the strike force, and Salzburg will have to rebuild.

They’re good at that but the cycle will repeat and repeat and repeat… You get the point.

But what of the strikers that Salzburg have sold to Europe’s big boys so far? What has become of them, and what about the current crop? We reckon you might recognise one or two.

Erling Haaland

Salzburg appearances: 27
Salzburg goals: 29
Sold to: Borussia Dortmund
Fee: £17m

Well, obviously he was going to be here. Molde will say they moulded him (sorry), but Haaland made his name at Red Bull Salzburg after joining in January 2019. In his first half-season in Austria, Haaland played just three matches for Salzburg, scoring in his only start – a 2-1 win against LASK.

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But the start of the 2019/20 season? Boy did he come alive. Fresh off the back of a ridiculous U20 World Cup when he scored nine goals in one game, Haaland made the Austrian Bundesliga and the Champions League his. In 14 league games for Salzburg, he scored 16 goals and then netted eight goals in six UCL group stage matches, to have everyone chasing him. Borussia Dortmund were the team to win the race, signing Haaland just over a year after he moved to Salzburg and, as we all know, he has been smashing it.

In 79 appearances for Dortmund across all competitions, Haaland has scored a ridiculous 80 goals, averaging 1.12 per 90 minutes. He’s once again on the target list of pretty much every big club and Real Madrid are being heavily tipped as his next destination.

Patson Daka

Salzburg appearances: 125
Salzburg goals: 68
Sold to: Leicester City
Fee: £23m

Patson Daka is just one of a number of players at Salzburg that have joined having had spells at FC Liefering – the club’s feeder team. But rather than play for Liefering permanently, Daka had a loan spell from Zambian side Kafue Celtic, before joining Salzburg in 2017.

Spending four years as part of Salzburg’s first team, Daka was often the supporting man to the bigger stars that were snapped up earlier, and the Red Bulls will have been happy for that to be the case. While Haaland (and others) left, Daka remained and had a pretty decent record for Salzburg, scoring 68 goals in 125 appearances.

But they couldn’t keep Daka quiet forever. In the summer of 2021, Leicester came calling and Daka made his move to the Premier League, having a pretty decent start to life in England. While’s not a regular starter just yet, the Zambian has scored nine goals in 21 games across all competitions including four in just 510 minutes of Premier League action. And he’s still only 23.

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Hwang Hee-chan

Salzburg appearances: 126
Salzburg goals: 45
Sold to: RB Leipzig
Fee: £7.5m

Now that we’ve mentioned FC Liefering, let’s talk about them again. Hwang Hee-chan’s first club in Austria was Liefering, joining from Pohang Steelers’ academy, and he spent a year there before making the step up to Salzburg.

Like Daka, Hwang wasn’t the main man during his time at Salzburg, often playing the second striker role. It was often he who played alongside Haaland during the Norwegian’s brief time at the club and the pair built up a very good understanding of each other. Overall, in four years at Salzburg, Hwang scored 45 goals in 126 games (excluding a season spent on loan at Hamburg) before making his move in 2020.

Unlike Daka and Haaland, Hwang followed the more expected route in joining sister club RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, as the likes of Naby Keita and Dayot Upamecano have done in the past. But he has had a slower start to life outside of Salzburg, yet to truly make his mark both at Leipzig and Wolves, though he has done well when given a chance at the latter.

Mergim Berisha

Salzburg appearances: 58
Salzburg goals: 24
Sold to: Fenerbahce
Fee: Undisclosed

A name fewer people will be familiar with but still one to take a look at, Mergim Berisha came through the academy at Salzburg but had a year away at *checks notes* FC Liefering in 2016/17 before returning to the Austrian Bundesliga side. Unlike the others in this list, Berisha was made to wait for his first-team opportunity, spending two-and-a-half seasons on loan before being recalled after Haaland’s departure.

The German had 18 months as part of Salzburg’s first-team and used it to his advantage, scoring 24 goals in 58 games across all competitions including 14 in 28 to help them win the Austrian Bundesliga last season. But, like so many others, Berisha would leave Salzburg thanks to his success, with Fenerbahce making him their summer signing.

Again, it has been a fairly slow start for Berisha at Fenerbahce but the whole team isn’t performing up to their higher standards in what is a frankly bizarre Turkish Super Lig season.

Who’s next?

Karim Adeyemi

Age: 20
Salzburg appearances: 79
Salzburg goals: 28

The latest Salzburg striker everyone wants is Karim Adeyemi, and he looks to be the next one to leave the Red Bull Arena. The 20-year-old German is one of the hottest young strikers in Europe right now, having only become a first-team regular last season. Seven goals in 29 league games wasn’t much to write home about, but his nine assists meant he was a danger for opposition defences.

This season, however. This season he has been on fire as a striker, scoring 14 goals in 18 league games plus three in the Champions League to help Salzburg reach the last 16. He’s also been tearing it up for Germany at youth and senior level, scoring on his debut for Hansi Flick’s side in their 6-0 win over Armenia last year.

Wanted by so many clubs, it appears Borussia Dortmund have yet again won the race for a Salzburg striker, with some reports claiming a five-year deal is close to being secured. Haaland’s replacement?

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Benjamin Sesko

Age: 18
Salzburg appearances: 25
Salzburg goals: 7

If Adeyemi does indeed go, Salzburg will be hoping Benjamin Sesko will be among those to replace him at the Red Bull Arena. But they might not want to get their hopes up. Joining Salzburg aged 16, Sesko spent two years on loan at FC Liefering before becoming a part of the first-team picture this season.

It’s been an okay start for the teenager with seven goals and seven assists in 25 appearances across all competitions, but he has been hampered by some injury issues. The quality is there to see, though, for those who watch him and, as we said, Salzburg might not want to get their hopes up about keeping him.

The Slovenian is already subject to interest from the likes of Tottenham, Lazio, Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid according to reports. He has even been likened to Haaland in the past (of course boosted by the Salzburg links) and apparently some say he is better than the Norwegian.

“Such comparisons motivate me and give me energy,” Sesko told reporters of the Haaland comparisons last summer. “They do not represent pressure. I will listen and learn so I can be even better than he is.

“My teammates at the club tell me that Haaland and I are very similar, especially in terms of speed. Most of them even tell me that I’m better than him!”

Roko Simic

Age: 18
Salzburg appearances: 3
Salzburg goals: 0

Fans of a certain age will remember Dario Simic from his time in Italy with Inter Milan and AC Milan, and the Croatian national team. Well, meet his son Roko, who has been turning heads even at such a young age.

The 18-year-old joined Salzburg in the summer but is currently on loan at, shock horror, FC Liefering. Although he is yet to really play for Salzburg’s first team, Simic signed a new four-year deal just a few months after joining, with the Red Bulls really serious about his future.

Salzburg aren’t alone either, with former Croatia striker Nikica Jelavic tipping Simic for great things.

“Roko is certainly one of the greatest talents in Croatian football,” he said last May. “Everyone knows who he is because of his famous father, but that’s a burden that will shortly be off his back because he’s good enough to write his own story.

“I am convinced that Roko will make a great career and that he will be a world-class striker. I really haven’t seen a more talented player than Roko for a long time.”