With the game finely poised at 1-1, a 20-year-old Hungarian collected the ball in injury time. A strike from 20 yards preceded and flew past Iceland’s goalkeeper to make it 2-1 and send Hungary to the delayed Euro 2020 finals.
That player was none other than Red Bull Salzburg’s young talent, Dominik Szoboszlai. One more to add to the growing list of products the club has produced over the years.
More recently, Erling Braut Haaland and Takumi Minamino have come through the ranks and moved on to ply their trade for Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, respectively. Cast time back a little further, and in 2012/13, you would find Liverpool’s Sadio Mane on the club’s books. Still, the Hungarian is the current focus for many throughout football and is receiving attention from clubs all around Europe.
Since the days of Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis, football has brought little for the nation of Hungary to celebrate. Szoboszlai, with his immense quality and potential, could finally lift the country from their perpetual melancholy.
Dominik Szoboszlai, the Hungarians hope, will be a name to remember.
Born on the 25th October 2000 in Budapest, Szoboszlai started his career six years later with MOL Fehervar FC and spent the next nine years developing with the club. He later moved to MTK Budapest Youth in 2015 before returning to MOL Fehervar the following season.
That same year, he made a move to Austria to FC Liefering for £500k – a feeder club for Red Bull Salzburg. Szoboszlai would have to prove himself in the reverses first and foremost.
2016 also saw him called up to the Hungarian national team at the age of 16, playing in the U17’s, U19’s, and U21’s. Liefering is where Szoboszlai made his professional debut in the 2017/18 campaign, against Kapfenburg in the Austrian Second League.
In his debut campaign, the midfielder netted 16 goals in 42 games earning a move up the footballing ladder at the end of the season. Red Bull Salzburg came knocking and willing to shell out £450k for Hungary’s most exciting talent.
Red Bull Salzburg and Hungary
During the 2018/19 season, the Hungarian made 20 appearances, scoring five times and registering three assists. The 2019/20 campaign, however, was Szoboszlai’s breakthrough year. Szoboszlai’s showings earned him real plaudits and subsequently, Red Bull Salzburg’s player of the season. If that wasn’t enough, the midfielder was shortlisted for this year’s Golden Boy award.
It was a massive year in his development, appearing 40 times across all competitions, and racking up 12 goals and 11 assists while gaining experience on the continent in the Champions League and the Europa League. Whilst with RB Salzburg, the midfielder has won the Austrian Bundesliga twice and the Austrian Cup twice. You get a feeling that his honours list will be ever-expanding throughout his career.
2019 also saw him make his debut for the Hungarian national team in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia, the nation he would later score his first international goal against in the reverse fixture.
Then came that goal against Iceland in the Euro 2020 playoffs in November to send Hungary to the finals. The 20-year-old has ensured his name firmly etched into Hungary’s history books with the strike, and you bet he will be planning to pen a few more pages next summer.
This season has started well for the young attacking midfielder, playing 18 times in all competitions and registering eight goals and nine assists. Although his stats and level of performance may not be directly translatable to the top five leagues in Europe, they are imposing and certainly bode well for the future.
Potential Transfer for Szoboszlai
Inevitably, Szoboszlai will leave for another top European club, that is what happens with talent at Salzburg. It could even happen as soon as January, with his manager Jesse Marsch admitting he expects to lose the talented Hungarian ‘very soon’.
Szoboszlai’s contract reportedly contains a release clause of £22.5m which seems somewhat of a bargain. The table below highlights four cherry-picked areas of performance where recruitment teams of big European clubs may cast a magnifying glass to identify output, creativity, and ability to press and regain possession.
So, where is he likely to go? The obvious option is RB Leipzig, simply for the fact Leipzig and Salzburg have a healthy relationship through Red Bull.
It could be seen as more of a promotion than a move and would follow the pattern of many talented Salzburg players. It would undoubtedly allow Szoboszlai to continue his development in a more competitive league. However, the same path was thought of for Haaland, and look how that turned out. Matyas Esterhazy, Szoboszlai’s agent, recently stated that there is no agreement with Leipzig and the only agreement on the table is the current contract with Salzburg.
Other clubs have expressed serious interest which may end up leaving RB Leipzig in the dark – Arsenal, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, and Real Madrid, to name only a few.
Szoboszlai has caused a stir in North London, liking social media posts on Arsenal’s account amidst constant transfer rumours and Arsenal’s poor run of form. The loss to Tottenham would not only have dampened spirits for Arsenal supports, but it would also have highlighted their toothlessness in front of goal – something the Salzburg man could certainly help with.
Real Madrid seems a bit of a leap at this stage in his career, although his image has been sprawled over the front pages of newspapers in Spain.
Will Bayern Munich flex their muscles? Following quotes from German footballing royalty, Lothar Matthaus, it seems as if they may; “He could move to RB Leipzig in January, but I’m convinced that every top club in Europe has him on their list, including FC Bayern.”
Another distinct possibility is Szoboszlai following in the footsteps of former teammate, Haaland, with a potential switch to Borussia Dortmund.
The likelihood is that he will make a move to the Bundesliga first to develop further before moving to one of Europe’s top clubs. Dortmund would be the ideal platform for him to catapult himself into the limelight even more so. Not only is it an excellent fit for his clear and obvious talent, but it is also a team full of young and exciting prospects who expect to challenge for the top prizes. Szoboszlai only has to look at the success of Haaland to see that it would be the ideal move.
The young Hungarian is a superstar in the making, and it is not a question of if he will leave behind Austrian football, it’s a question of when and where? Expect the inevitable next step in his career to come soon, and expect another sizeable cheque to be cashed in for the talent-laden Austrian outfit.
Words by Alex Mcnulty – @AMcnultyJourno