Johnny Nic is counting down the days until the season starts so he can see what Jurgen Klopp has planned for Liverpool’s latest lavish purchase Dominik Szoboszlai.
Here’s ‘What’s So Great About…’ the Reds’ new boy…
Who’s this then?
Dominik Szoboszlai is a 6’1” 22-year-old attacking midfielder who was born in Székesfehérvár, Hungary and has just signed a five-year contract with Liverpool.
He made his senior debut in 2017 with Austrian club FC Liefering, the reserve team of Red Bull Salzburg, making 42 appearances in the Austrian second tier, scoring an impressive 16 times. He was soon moved into the first team at Salzburg. In 2019-20, his first full season for the club, he made 40 appearances, scoring 12 times and was voted the Austrian Bundesliga’s Player of the Year. He also made his international bow and scored his first international goal in a Euro qualifier versus Slovakia.
This excellent season put him on many clubs’ radar. On December 17 2020, RB Leipzig signed him on a four-and-a-half-year contract for €20million. It made him the most expensive Hungarian player in history, even though, at the time, he was injured and couldn’t play for them until the following season. He won the DFB-Pokal in 2021/22 and 2022/23 with Leipzig.
Two cracking seasons followed which saw him make 91 appearances and score 20 times. After captaining underage Hungarian national teams, he was made captain of the full squad. He was injured before the 2020 (2021) Euros so missed out, but scored the winner against England in the Nations League.
At this point, Liverpool fired £61million out of one of those t-shirt canons at RB Leipzig and scooped him up in a big net. They’ll miss such an influential player but the massive million profit they made on him will ease the pain.
Why the love?
The first thing to say about him is how flexible he is, having so far played central midfield, attacking midfield, left midfield, right winger,left winger, right midfield and has scored goals and made assists in every one of them. So Jurgen Klopp can use him in a variety of positions, in a variety of tactical formations. Throw in being decent at free-kicks, being a fella with a powerful shot in his boots and you’ve got an all-round potential superstar.
A basic look at his stats tell an impressive story. In 226 career appearances, he has scored 64 times and made 73 assists. He scores mostly right-footed goals and has yet to register a header, which considering at 6’1” he’s something of a tall Paul, is perhaps surprising.
He’s especially good in the transition, robbing the ball in the middle of the pitch and driving forward, making the sort of slide rule passes that will suit Darwen Nunez and Mo Salah. In all his reels, that’s the move you see time and again and must be one of the things Klopp wants him to do in his restructured team. Potentially he could really make the team tick over properly. He was ranked third in the Bundesliga last season for turnovers that led to a shot. Only four players made more ball carries or travelled further with the ball at their feet from carries than he did (384 carries over 4,403m).
He’s built very much in the modern style. Tall, broad and hard to stop when, as the saying goes, he opens his legs, he will fit into Klopp’s preferred all-energy, high-pressing style.
Last season, with 63 shots taken, he had the second-most attempts on goal of any RB Leipzig player and is one of the strongest runners in the Bundesliga. His total number of sprints last season was 863, seventh most in the league.
He has the fifth highest xG assisted figure in the Bundesliga (7.72) He led the RB Leipzig rankings across each of the last two Bundesliga seasons for open-play attacking sequence involvements.
The 2022-23 season saw him rank fourth overall in the German top flight for total involvements in shot-ending sequences in open play (163) He also led the Bundesliga for secondary chances created – the pass to the player who creates a chance – with 41.
He was also second in the league for shots from outside the box (36). In fact, the more the stats are broken down, the more it is possible to see a multi-faceted player who offers a hell of a lot in a variety of positions and situations.
Three great moments
He put in an impressive performance against Liverpool at Anfield…
And played well against England…
Dead-ball zinger for his country ahoy!
After previously being looked at by Chelsea and Arsenal and having beaten off Newcastle for his signature, a five-year contract suggests Liverpool are going to have patience with him. That or they simply want to amortise the fee across a long period in order to keep within FFP.
He’s only Liverpool’s third Hungarian player after the luminaries that were Istvan Kozma and Adam Bogdan and it is always hard to know in advance how well a new player will slide into a new club. Some adapt immediately, others seem to take a season to hit their groove and of course, some never do.
But he’s been well-scouted by Liverpool and he will put some serious youthful energy into their midfield. Being multi-positional will be important as it means Klopp can move him around to rest other players. He should connect areas of the pitch which were too often disconnected from each other last season. Playing alongside the newly midfield-relocated TAA and Alexis Mac Allister, who also can operate in several positions will surely revitalise the engine room of the team and make them very dangerous on the counter-attack.
Klopp has signed two classy, young internationals. Right now, they look like the perfect additions. But football is an ornery game and eventually makes fools of anyone who thinks they know anything about it. All we need now is for the bloody season to start and see how he fits into the Liverpool first team. Five weeks seems far too long to have to wait.