If RB Leipzig have been the story of the Bundesliga season so far, the architect behind their remarkable rise is a Swede who is keeping a low profile – despite the fevered interest in him.
Emil Forsberg has been the secret weapon in Leipzig’s arsenal, operating in front of the defensive shield of Naby Keita and just behind prolific striker Timo Werner. Forsberg has played with freedom and expression and, in a league full of stars, none has shone brighter in the first half of the Bundesliga season.
So it’s little wonder that the 25-year-old is attracting interest from the Premier League, with Liverpool currently at the front of the queue. In a title race that remains wide open, with Chelsea’s lead over Liverpool cut to just five points last week, Jürgen Klopp is clearly of the belief that one inspired signing could be enough to swing the pendulum their way in the business half of the season.
Bringing in Forsberg, who has been heavily linked with a move to Anfield in recent days, could be that signing. And Klopp would be doing his old pals in Dortmund a favour by throwing a spanner in the RB Leipzig project.
Balance and poise
So what qualities does Forsberg bring? Well, he possesses brilliant close control, a silky first touch and superb balance and poise. He has a sharp football brain, has an array of passing in his locker and an ability to pick the right pass seemingly at all times. He offers a deft turn of direction and can score – he already has five goals in the league this season. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a set piece specialist. In many ways, he is an archetype Klopp player, with an ability to score and create, and not scared of putting in the hard yards when it comes to pressing.
By weighing up a move for Forsberg, Klopp is clearly thinking the Swede can offer his team what they’ve lacked in the absence of Philippe Coutinho; a match-winner with unique quality. Coutinho is back in training at Melwood, but Forsberg would at the very least increase competition among the likes of Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana, but Forsberg wouldn’t be coming to Anfield to make up the numbers.
This is a player that can elevate Liverpool’s attacking quality and give them the extra 10% they need to close the gap on Chelsea.
Forsberg is contracted to the East German club until 2021 and prising him away could cost significantly more than the £20m that has been reported, particularly if they want him in January when Leipzig will find it almost impossible to sign a replacement as they look to consolidate their push for Champions League football or even the league title.
Forsberg’s agent, Hasan Cetinkaya, has fueled the fire as agents often do in these situations, telling German tabloid Bild that his player could be on the move. "RB [Leipzig] is on the way to becoming a big club... Nevertheless, I cannot promise that Emil will stay in Leipzig this winter."
Leipzig director of sports Ralf Rangnick poured cold water over Forsberg’s potential move to Liverpool, emphatically claiming that the club’s star man was going nowhere.
"I can promise you that Emil will be here until [the end of the season] in any case," he said at the club's training camp in Portugal. "And hopefully for a long period after that, too."
Rangnick told Deutsche Welle recently that Leipzig are not a selling club and have a clear philosophy of buying – and keeping – Europe’s most talented rising stars. But this is modern football; every player has their price. Liverpool will have to dig very deep into their pockets to bring Forsberg in, but it might just be the best piece of business they could do this month.