Yussuf Poulsen | Captain or want-away?

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

RB Leipzig are by all means a new team in contrast to the rich historic clubs of German Football. Yussuf Poulsen has played 250 matches for the Bundesliga club. Considering that they've not yet played 400 league matches in their entire club history and he's only 25 years old, you could call him a veteran.

The club was officially founded in 2009, with Red Bull GmbH initiating the deal. The debutant RasenBallsport Leipzig climbed from the 5th division to Bundesliga.3 by the 2013/14 season when Yussuf Poulsen joined from Danish outfit Lyngby BK. They also signed a young Joshua Kimmich back then but that's another story.  

Since then, RBL ploughed on with Poulsen leading the attacking line throughout their advancement in German football. It was in 2016-17 that they exploded onto the scene - finishing runners up in their first season in Bundesliga's top tier and qualifying for a Champions League spot. That season, a certain someone also exploded onto the scene at RB Leipzig. Timo Werner. The German International joined from Stuttgart in the summer of 2016 and stole the limelight by scoring 21 goals, and also making his 100th Bundesliga appearance as the youngest ever player to achieve that milestone, during his debut season for RBL. For all you eager fanatics, that record has since been broken by Kai Havertz.

Werner has since been the man at Leipzig that everybody watches, talks about and dreams of signing. But that doesn't take away from everything Poulsen has offered for the club. In fact, many would argue that Werner wouldn't have had such a consistent rise to stardom in the last few seasons had it not been for such a compatible strike partner. Poulsen sacrifices the obvious stats, such as goals and chance creation, to provide adequate spacing and old school hustle to Leipzig's attacking line.

The off-ball movement, harassment of defenders and physical exertion that Poulsen delivers each game is something that the media misses, as their eye is on Werner's goal tally. Rightfully so too - football fans want to see goals, not aerial duels. However, Poulsen is more than a 6'3 target forward. He's mobile and can shift a gear too. Just last weekend he clocked in at 34km/h against Mainz. That may have been clocked with ligament damage in his ankle too! Of course he's useful for long balls, and his speed and aerial duel success is an asset. But in this highly possession-oriented Leipzig squad, Poulsen has had to offer more than his athleticism alone. It's taken a while for him to establish more minutes because of this fundamental issue, but it finally looks as though he's understood it.

Despite being fit for the majority of the season, Poulsen was not always on the top of the team sheet this year. He's only started 12 of his 22 Bundesliga matches. His technical ability has been questioned for good reason.

Let's not forget he was signed as a 3.Liga striker for £1.4m.

It wasn't predicted he'd end up as a Bundesliga title-contending starter, nor a Champions League forward for that matter.

Leipzig's recent signings include Premier League youngster (Lookman, £16m) , PSG Academy graduate (Nkunku, £12m) and Spain International (Olmo, £17m). They are a different class when you look at the Dane's rugged history. Poulsen has had to offer effort over flair, and hard-work over natural talent, in order to stay in this squad. He's the longest serving current player, with teammate Marcel Sabitzer the only other current regular that's been at Leipzig since their lower-tier days.

It'd be easy for RBL to add further depth up tops with their budget. Patrik Schick, on loan from Roma, is an option to try to retain over summer. If Werner leaves then he'll almost certainly be replaced with a big-money signing if RBL want to seriously compete in the Champions League next season.

In April, Yussuf Poulsen reportedly handed in a transfer request given his lack of minutes this season. When Bundesliga returned, he was not only starting, but wearing the captain's armband.

Statistically Poulsen hasn't been a chart-topper in goals or assists, but he started to find rhythm following the pandemic intermission. He netted the equaliser in a 1-1 draw to Freiburg, followed by a goal and two assists away at Mainz. Sure enough, Werner bagged the hat-trick in that match, but it was Poulsen who provided the long-ball assist for Werner's third. And it was Poulsen who drew both central defenders in to leave Werner open for his first too. This new found form looked to be the saving grace to Poulsen's season.

Then injury struck. He's reportedly suffered ankle ligament damage that will keep him sidelined for the foreseeable future. It's a knock to RB Leipzig's title chase. But it's even more of a knock to Poulsen himself, who was finally finding his feet and the back of the net alongside Werner.

From a trader's point of view, the most interesting aspect of this dramatic episode of Bundesliga is the speculation of RB Leipzig's future. They've controversially risen the ranks as a fresh new team with deep pockets. Now RBL are producing stars, they need to ensure they replace them when necessary. Matheus Cunha left for Hertha Berlin in January and has since been in fine form. If Werner also leaves this year and Schick isn't signed from Roma, Poulsen is the sole out-and-out forward to lead their attacking line. They've played Poulsen regularly every season. Then he struggles for minutes, hands in a transfer request and walks onto the field wearing with the captain's armband next game - apparently insistent that he'd never shown in interest in leaving. Then gets injured! The future of Bundesliga's third most prolific attack is completely unknown. 

This is music to experienced traders' ears. A relatively unknown striker could be the main man up tops for a good Champions league side next season. Uncertainty offers opportunity. 

Poulsen has developed at Leipzig since his teenage years, playing under 6 different coaches. He was favoured to partner up once again with Werner upon Bundesliga's return a couple of weeks ago, and hit the ground running with 4 goal involvements in two matches. He was gaining momentum on the index. News of his injury has submerged the forward back beneath £1.00 and will likely continue to cut his price down as a result of those traders that don't consider the lucrative opportunity this scenario could play out. It requires patience, and belief that Nagelsmann sees more in Poulsen than the average fan. It's more than fair to see the risks in buying an under-the-radar forward upon news of his injury. But - if we go off of what we've seen in the last two months from Poulsen and RBL; A starting striker in the champions league next season, in his mid-20s, for under £1, as captain of the fresh Bundesliga title contenders. It looks good value on paper. Football throws out some great stories. This could be one epic tale to tell in years to come if RBL continue to develop with Poulsen leading them into battle.   

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