Manuel Veth –
Hannes Wolf could become the latest talent to make the trek from Red Bull Salzburg to RasenBallsport Leipzig. Although no longer officially connected the two Red Bull clubs remain very much part of a football development pyramid where Leipzig sit at the very top of the developing scheme.
That pyramid includes academies in Brazil and Ghana, the Major League Soccer franchise New York Red Bulls and on top of RB Salzburg also FC Liefering. It is a chain of player development and this winter alone RB Leipzig managed to complete the signings of Tyler Adams from NYRB and Amadou Haidara from RB Salzburg. Purists, of course, might find that the system lacks integrity, and while that might be the case to a certain extent, there is no doubt that it also produces good football players.
Hence, it was no major surprise that RB Leipzig, who continue to be on the lookout for another midfielder, were heavily linked with signing Hannes Wolf this summer. For now, such a transfer seems to be shut down, with the decision makers in Salzburg vetoing such a deal after Salzburg have already lost Haidara to Leipzig this winter.
Hannes Wolf, Hakan Calhanoglu or Miguel Almirón?
After all, RB Salzburg remain an ambitious club, despite their feeder team status to RB Leipzig, and after finishing first in a Europa League Group B ahead of Celtic, RB Leipzig and Rosenborg hope to repeat their Europa League run from last season. RB Leipzig, in the meantime, have other ambitions, however.
Led by sporting director/interims head coach Ralf Rangnick the Saxony based club wants to finish in the top four and return to the Champions League – in order to set up new head coach Julian Nagelsmann, who will take over next summer, with a financial foundation that would allow to build a championship winning side in Leipzig.
Signing another attacking midfielder would be fundamental to achieve success this season – especially as new signing Haidara will be out for several months and question marks remain over the fitness of Emil Forsberg. As a result, Leipzig have been linked with a move for Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu and Atlanta United attacking midfielder Miguel Almirón.
Both, in one way or another, could fill the Forsberg void, in particular. The same could also be said about Hannes Wolf, however. Furthermore, Wolf will have the benefit of already knowing how to operate in the Red Bull system and, unlike Almirón speaks the language. Then there is the obvious fact that while both Calhanoglu and Almirón would cost in the region of €20 million to €30 million Hannes Wolf, who is currently valued at €10 million, would be a much cheaper proposition.
The 19-year-old native of Graz has managed to score five goals and nine assists in 23 competitive games for RB Salzburg this season. In many ways, the attacking midfielder is confirming his building on his performances from last year when he managed to score 12 goals and eight assists in 41 competitive games.
In the Austrian Bundesliga, Hannes Wolf has already beaten his assist total from last year (four) with six assists. Should he stay in Salzburg for the rest of the season he will also be likely to beat his goal record of eight goals once the Austrian Bundesliga kicks off the Rückrunde on February 22.
Hannes Wolf Scouted
Hannes Wolf often operates behind two natural forwards in Marco Rose’s preferred 4-3-1-2 formation. A dynamic playmaker, not unlike Forsberg, Hannes Wolf has certainly benefited from playing with natural goalscorers like the Israeli forward Munas Dabbur.
Looking at four Wolf’s assists this season his ability to win balls in the attacking third, to press forward, play dynamic through the attacking third but also to log down balls just outside the box highlight the 19-year-old’s significant talents. The same can be said about his goals. Active inside the box Hannes Wolf has the ability to recognise space inside the box. But he is also active in one-v-one situations and has the creativity to make a goal happen out of nowhere like it was the case in the Europa League against Rosenborg where he moved past his defender on the left inside the box and then hit the ball hard with his left foot to beat the keeper with a low shot through the legs from an impossible angle.
Overall, this season Hannes Wolf has managed on average to complete 49.6% of his 72.98 actions on the field. What somewhat stands out is the fact that with a pass completion of just 76% of his on average 31.95 passes he is somewhat behind other attacking players in that field. That low percentage, however, is compensated by his ability to beat defenders in one-v-one situations. On average per 90 minutes, Hannes Wolf has won 63.3% of his 6.71 dribble attempts this season.
In fact, Wolf’s numbers this season are not too dissimilar to those of Emil Forsberg in the 2016/17 season, which was the Swedes best season in Germany thus far. That year Forsberg completed 79.4% of his on average 29.45 passes and 73.4% of his on average 6.1 dribble attempts. Forsberg, of course, was doing this in the German Bundesliga, rather than in Austria, but at the age of 25.
With this in mind, it makes sense that RB Leipzig are looking at Hannes Wolf as a potential addition to the midfield. The Austrian brings the necessary attacking acumen to replace Forsberg both in the short and long-term. Furthermore, Wolf’s transfer would also fit in with Red Bull’s development style of promoting players up the pyramid – as 15 previous transfers from Salzburg to Leipzig have highlighted.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.