Benjamin Sesko is Slovenia’s in-demand striker linked with big transfers and ready to fire against England at Euro 2024 | Football News

Slovenia have had top-class football players before. Samir Handanovic and Jan Oblak come to mind. “But they were both goalkeepers,” Matej Orazem tells Sky Sports. “Goalkeepers can be stars but it is a completely different thing to have a striker.”

Benjamin Sesko is that striker. The 21-year-old RB Leipzig player has been attracting interest from the continent’s biggest clubs since he was in his mid-teens and will lead the line for Slovenia at Euro 2024. “I think that he is destined for greatness,” adds Orazem.

Orazem is the sporting director at NK Domzale, the club in Slovenia that took Sesko into their academy at the age of 15. The earliest memories of him were the whispers about a boy living nearby who had scored 50 goals in one season against much older players.

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Watch all of Benjamin Sesko goals for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga so far

“We were quite quick after that. By the time that the media speculation began and bigger clubs noticed him, we already had an agreement. For anyone who went to see him, it was pretty obvious. He was pretty much a slam dunk at a very young age.”

Physically, Sesko stands out. He is now 6’5″ and was not much shorter then. There are stories about him kicking basketballs from out of the hoop. With a top speed of 35.47 kilometres per hour, he is also one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga. A true athlete.

“The physicality was the defining factor. He was amazing. With some young talents, you want them to play with the older guys but if they are not physically ready then you are a little more wary. With Beny, there was no doubt because of his physical presence.”

Sesko was in the U19 side at Domzale at the age of 16. “The only regret we have is not debuting him in the senior team as well.” The reason it did not happen is because soon after, at just 17, he was off to Red Bull Salzburg, ready for the next step on his journey.

Orazem believes Domzale played their part. “We are proud of every moment that he spent here. “I think it was very important. Our academy was the chance to be away from home in a known environment and begin to become accustomed to the unknown.”

Sesko’s choice of club was a shrewd one. There were more famous options but together with his family and agent Elvis Basanovic, it was the pathway that was the priority. Salzburg could offer quality coaching but also a clear route to the top end of the game.

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Benjamin Sesko new deal with RB Leipzig will include a ‘gentleman’s agreement’

Initially, there was the opportunity to play senior football with second-tier side FC Liefering. From there, the link-up with Leipzig provided a natural progression to the Bundesliga at a club where everything from the tactics to the culture would be more familiar.

It helped too that Salzburg was only 180 miles north of Domzale. “It was not too much of a shock. He could see his family. It was a brilliant choice. There were options in Italy, Germany and England but it was a really good offer for everyone,” says Orazem.

“Salzburg was crucial in his development. Even though he was already a good player here, he learned a lot in Salzburg, progressing incredibly as a player and a person. Every move until now has been correct. Moving to Leipzig was not too big a step for him.”

Eighteen goals in his final season in Salzburg persuaded Leipzig that Sesko was ready for that step last summer. He started slowly. “He needed a little bit of time but showed everyone in the second half of the season.” Sesko finished up with another 18 goals in Germany.

RB Leipzig duo Lois Openda and Benjamin Sesko boasted two of the best strike rates in the Bundesliga
Benjamin Sesko boasted one of the best strike rates in the Bundesliga

Indeed, only Harry Kane and Serhou Guirassy could boast better strike rates in the Bundesliga. Leipzig’s counter-attacking style suited him with many of his chances coming after bursting clear with his pace but he was also a major threat from set-pieces.

Sesko’s skillset is rare. He instinctively wants to run at defences from deep with his great speed but he is also a player who has the physical capability of a target man. Only Kane scored more headed goals in the competition. Moreover, he can play.

“It is not just the physicality, it is the technical aspect.” It makes for an irresistible combination for the top clubs and helps to explain why Sesko was strongly linked with Arsenal, among others, before agreeing to extend his deal with Leipzig.

Benjamin Sesko's heat map and shot map for RB Leipzig in his debut Bundesliga season
Benjamin Sesko’s heat map and shot map in his debut Bundesliga season

That seems sensible after only one season. There is plenty of time if he stays fit and he has been diligent on that score. “He is very disciplined and that has prevented any injuries that, especially for bigger guys, can be problematic. He has been managed really well.”

In Domzale, his legacy is felt even if he never did make a senior appearance for the club. “It is difficult to find the next Sesko but he is inspiring the players in the academy – and not only them but the whole country at the moment. Everyone is in awe.”

There is the practical impact on the lives of those academy prospects at Domzale too. “Every time that he is transferred we will get solidarity contributions, which is of huge importance to us as a football club and has helped to build our academy,” adds Orazem.

“We had 20 beds, now we can have 28. We are developing our training camp with a second pitch coming soon. That would not happen if we were not making money. There are other transfers but his was by far the biggest. Hopefully, he moves again soon!”

Before that, there is the opportunity for Sesko to elevate his reputation once more with a strong showing at Euro 2024. Orazem plans to be in Germany with his family, having missed out on Slovenia’s only previous appearance in the tournament 24 years ago.

“My parents said they would take me to the next one. The next one never came.” It is here now. “We are really happy for him and happy for everyone in Slovenia. His quality gives us a lot of hope now. Perhaps there will be a possible World Cup in the future.”

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We analyse the threat posed to England by Slovenia goalscorer Benjamin Sesko

Sesko has Slovenia dreaming. The country has Luka Doncic, the NBA basketball player. There is cyclist Tadej Pogacar. With Sesko, whose own father Ales had been a goalkeeper, it is different. This is someone capable of becoming one of the world’s best strikers.

“He will be successful wherever he goes. If he stays healthy, he will do amazing things. This is not the last time we will be hearing about him, it is just one step along the way. There is a lot more to come. I think he will be a star that we have not seen in Slovenia before.”

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