Konrad Laimer was born in Salzburg, joining Red Bull Salzburg before playing at FC Liefering as he subsequently began playing with Salzburg’s first team. He then joined RB Leipzig as he has spent his whole career in the Red Bull franchises despite interest from Dortmund. The 21-year-old is a favourite of Ralf Rangnick as he has consistently been in the starting line-up in a multitude of roles and positions. He has been dubbed as a ‘horse lung’ because of the intensity and consistency with which he presses the opposition. His multifunctionality will also be a quality that Julian Nagelsmann finds appealing next season.
Laimer has played as a wide-midfield interior, deep-lying central midfielder, winger and fullback for RB Leipzig this season. In all of these positions, he has displayed an immense ability as a natural footballer with his high energy work rate in defensive situations and his mercurial dribbling and passing abilities in possession. These are all traits that Julian Nagelsmann would find valuable as Laimer could be a key player for the young manager while he is exceptional at combination play. RB Leipzig have gathered a core of talented young players to work under Europe’s most talented young manager.
Laimer would struggle as a fullback in the Europa League in 2017/18 against Napoli, Laimer would grapple against the initiative and directness of Lorenzo Insigne. The Italian dominated the Austrian for the whole game as for the second goal, Insigne beat Laimer to cross for Jose Callejon to tap in at the far post. Emil Forsberg would suffer with injury in 2018/19 as Laimer would move forward to play as a winger. An outing against Hannover would provide the opportunity to prove his skills as he played an outside of the boot pass to Marcel Sabitzer on the break for his fellow Austrian to cross for Yussuf Poulsen to have his shot saved. Left-back, Marcel Halstenberg then crossed for Willi Orban to head in at the back post for Leipzig to take a 2-0 lead.
The 21-year-old showed his qualities as a natural footballer as he dribbled and crossed with endeavour while he also charged into space to open up passing lanes into the channels. He executed runs in behind for opportunities while also pressing and winning the ball with tigerish incentive. Laimer would then move into midfield in a 5-3-2 against Hoffenheim as a wide midfielder. The young Austrian would move out wide to establish width, creating combinations around the box and driving the ball at Hoffenheim’s defence. Diego Demme, Sabitzer and Laimer were outmuscled by Joelinton as the Brazilian surged forward and created opportunities on the counter for the opposition.
The intriguing facet of Laimer’s play is his ability in between the lines as he can turn on a six-pence while he constantly demands possession in the pockets. The Austrian possesses an innate sense of timing and space in the pockets and channels, cleverly flicking the ball onto runners in space. Against Hoffenheim, he received the ball with his back to goal as he turned past a Hoffenheim defender to play the ball out wide before making a run into the box and gesturing for a cross from Mattheus Cunha which was cleared. In another moment of genius, he used a Lukas Klostermann throw-in to turn away from his marker, drive to the edge of the box and work a one-two with Poulsen before having a shot saved.
Laimer is pivotal as a counter-attacking conduit with his special set of skills, especially as a creative through ball player. His measured balance when running with the ball allows him to twist and turn out of pressure as well as weaving his way into space. Against Eintracht Frankfurt, he controlled a pass with his left foot to turn and poke a ball past a marker with his right foot before playing a pass into space with his left foot. Rangnick continued in a 5-3-2 with Laimer in midfield as the 21-year-old was instrumental in moving the ball forward in attacks. On the break, he took a pass from Nordi Mukiele to drive the ball into space and play a through ball for Timo Werner to go through on goal and poke an opportunity into the side netting.
He created two more through ball opportunities as he played a pass to Werner while he also played a pass to Poulsen who went through on goal. He then exhibited his two-footed ability again as he took on a throw-in with his left foot before working a ball to Sabitzer in the central spaces with his opposite foot. He also has the ability to create space with elaborate body feints as against Hoffenheim, he feinted, turned past his marker before driving into space to engage markers and playing a pass to an attacker in between the lines. Against Frankfurt, he faked like he was going to trap a pass to attract Martin Hinteregger to move out of his position and tackle him then allowed the ball to roll past him to create space for an opportunity on goal, only to have his shot blocked.
Laimer has also played at fullback as he continues to exhibit his ability to refine defensive situations into attacking situations as the multi-faceted two-way player that he is. Rangnick constantly switches formations as Nagelsmann will also continue to switch formations within games as Laimer facilitates these formational changes with his ability to move into positions across the pitch. Against Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin, he eventually moved to fullback as in the latter match at right back, he took on a pass to feint past an opposition player and play a pass into the opposition half. He then won the ball from an attacker to play a one-two combination with Amadou Haidara before driving forward on the flank to play a cut back for Werner to smash over. In the home match against Hoffenheim, he won another duel with an attacker in the wide positions before driving forward and playing a pass into teammate in the centre.
The young Austrian finished the Bundesliga season playing as Salzburg’s deepest lying midfielder against Werder Bremen. Laimer was playing with a Tyler Adams who was returning from injury as his passing was erratic. He failed to construct any attacks from the deeper areas after receiving possession from the centre-backs as his talents are better suited to a wider role or a higher and more attacking role. Rangnick once touched on the similarities of Laimer and Adams in their ability to play a variety of positions as Laimer has taken this issue seriously and is fostering it to develop into a pivotal member at Leipzig.
“Currently, I do not much care where I play. My main position is certainly in midfield, I've always played that since I was little. But I can also play in other positions, as I have shown in recent weeks. In the end, it does not matter so much where I play, it's important for me to get playing time. That was the case in the last weeks. As long as I can do what I can, what my passion is, it makes me happy - whether in midfield or as right-back,” said Laimer to Salzburg based news outlet Laola in March last year.
An Austrian born in Salzburg who immersed himself in the footballing culture of the region while developing at Liefering and Salzburg has now made the natural progression into Leipzig and the Bundesliga. He is the type of player that Nagelsmann values as he possesses the traits to thrive in a high-pressing age of modern football in need of the press-resisting skills that he possesses. Leipzig have had an exceptional Bundesliga season under Rangnick as his star pupil - developed in the confines of Red Bull’s school for gifted footballers – has been a constant throughout the season.