From The Screen To The Prem? Why Benjamin Sesko Is More Than An FM Wonderkid

Manchester United and Newcastle United are eyeing a move for a player Football Manager enthusiasts know very well
13:05, 25 Jul 2022

Red Bull Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko is being linked with a move to the Premier League. Despite his tender age of just 19, the Slovenian centre forward is fast becoming a well-known name in the football world. Part of this reputation is due to the fact that RB Salzburg is an acclaimed talent factory and seasoned fans know to look to the Austrian Bundesliga winners to unearth the stars of tomorrow. 

Another reason for the attention is because he is a Football Manager wonderkid, a talent quite easily attainable early on in the 2022 edition who grows into a bonafide world class player. This might seem trivial, but there’s a reason you remember the names Freddy Adu, Cherno Samba and Maxim Tsigalko. Sesko will be hoping to fare better than that trio, whose world class exploits never extended beyond the computer screen.

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So what does Sesko offer in the real world? He is a raw talent, but has a keen eye for goal. The Slovenia international spent two seasons on loan in the Austrian second division with Liefering. While he netted just once in 15 games during his first season, the second saw him mature. 21 goals in 29 games tipped his parent club off to the fact they had a truly special talent on their hands. Back at Salzburg, 13 goals in 40 games for a title-winning side is a fine return for a player who is still a teenager. 

This is where the inevitable comparisons to former Salzburg man Erling Haaland are unhelpful. The new Manchester City striker netted 29 goals in 27 appearances for Die Roten Bullen, before moving on to Borussia Dortmund. Sesko is not that sort of player, at least not yet. Both are 6’4, boast powerful builds and use well-time runs to get in behind defenders with their surprising pace. These attributes, combined with the shared Salzburg connection, make comparisons inevitable. But it is better to think of him not as the next Haaland but simply the first Sesko.

The 19-year-old is highly adaptable, a prized trait in the modern game. Nominally a centre forward, he is known to stretch defenders with runs into the left channel to open space for teammates. One can picture such runs giving Bruno Fernandes or Bruno Guimaraes licence to maraud forward in central areas. Sesko is equally adept with his back to goal, displaying the speed and physicality to back into defenders before spinning them. Even as a teenager, you sense Sesko has the physicality to emerge unscathed from the amphitheatre of Premier League battle.

So where does Sesko fit best? Assuming Newcastle and Manchester United are the primary current suitors for the £55 million-rated forward, which destination would suit him? After all, the two clubs are on very different roads even if their intended destinations are the same. United are the crumbling old-money club, a once-successful institution trying not to lose more ground. Meanwhile Newcastle are the glossy new-money operation, with a bank balance much healthier than their track record.

So much of the potential fit at United will depend on what happens with Cristiano Ronaldo. On the one hand, the chance to learn from arguably the finest footballer of the era would be indispensable for a player like Sesko. On the other hand, he would likely find himself with limited game time if Anthony Martial stays, which is looking likelier every time he scores a pre-season goal. If Ronaldo leaves then a job-share with the France international might be better for the youngster, particularly when you think of the left-flank interchanges he could have with forward-cum-winger Marcus Rashford. Sesko feels like far more of an Erik ten Hag forward than a 37-year-old Ronaldo does at this point.

At Newcastle more would likely be expected from Sesko. It is less than a year ago that the Magpies were battling relegation under Steve Bruce, so the arrival of a world-renowned starlet is not yet “business as usual”. Callum Wilson is a respectable but not insurmountable obstacle to first team minutes for any incoming attacker at St James’ Park. Given time to adjust, the physically strong Sesko would likely be an upgrade on Chris Wood, whose Newcastle tenure is yet to ignite since his January move.

RB Salzburg are resigned to losing players like this and we as fans are becoming increasingly used to players leaving the Austrian champions and going on to dazzle us elsewhere. Sesko could well be the next one to do so. He’s not quite what Haaland was at 19, the City star had 40 top flight goals already at that age. But he seems to have all the tools to re-solidify Salzburg’s reputation as the world’s pre-eminent superstar conveyor belt. Now go and buy him on FM22 before one of your rivals does.

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