When Ademola Lookman bagged a brace against Wolfsburg in May 2018 it seemed the 20-year-old forward’s future was clear.
A permanent move to RB Leipzig was on the cards and a new Bundesliga star was born.
But after his successful loan spell in the 2017/18 season at the Red Bull Arena – things turned sour. Lookman was called back to Everton for the start of the 2018/19 season with new boss Marco Silva eager for the Englishman to prove his worth.
However, it was perhaps this summer when Lookman was left out of England U21s European Championship squad that he realised change was needed. The 21 year-old should have been strutting his stuff alongside the likes of Phil Foden, Ryan Sessegnon and Reiss Nelson. But instead he was left to ponder his next move. The former Charlton Athletic starlet would only complete 90 minutes twice in the Premier League all season with his head clearly still in Germany.
So when Leipzig finally agreed a £22.5 million fee with the Toffees this summer, Lookman couldn’t return quick enough. But things are a little different at the East German club now, most notably a change in management. Former Hoffenheim boss Julien Nagelsmann is in the dugout, which will be music to the youngsters’ ears.
And If the forward is unsure about how the German coach can improve him, then the recent examples of Serge Gnabry, Kerem Demirbay and Reiss Nelson spring to mind. It’s Gnabry’s transformation from Arsenal also ran to Bayern Munich lynchpin that’s the most noticeable. The winger was told he wasn’t good enough for West Brom’s first team by Tony Pulis in 2015.
But after a stint under Nagelsmann’s stewardship two seasons ago he looks a transformed man – crowning it with Bayern’s player of the year award in 2018/19. It was the player’s awareness and orientation of space both from a forward position and coming from a wing-back role that was worked on diligently. This was worked on with Nelson last year too as the Arsenal loan star went on to fire seven goals in the Bundesliga. And with Gnabry now a huge part of the German national team, Lookman could just be glancing into a rich future on the international scene.
His link up with Yussuf Poulsen will be key, especially with star man Timo Werner’s contract negotiations unclear – Lookman could become an integral part of the Nagelsmann era. The forward’s versatility can play a massive role in Nagelsmann’s preferred 4-3-1-2 formation – either playing in the number 10 position or in the front two. Or he could come in as one of the three attackers in a 3-4-3, as played in the win over FC Union Berlin.
Jadon Sancho lit up the Bundesliga last season to earn his first senior England caps. And this will increase the attention on Germany as a breeding ground for young English talent. A productive 2019/20 season and Lookman could be getting a call from Gareth Southgate just in in time for next summer’s European Championships. With a five-year contract in hand, RB Leipzig have shown their confidence in the young Englishman.