Emil Forsberg, in action here against Hoffenheim, says: ‘I was a good left winger but an even better No 10.’
Forsberg, moved centrally from out wide to unleash his creative potential, was in sensational form that year. “I was an honest left winger but a good better No 10, it turned me into the proper player,” he says, a press release borne out by the 22 assists that outdid anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues.
“No one can say anything now,” he says of these in Sweden who chided him. “My career and therefore the things I’ve done here represent themselves.” Like Leipzig, he flattened out slightly then exhilarating 2016-17 season, a series of groin problems not helping his form. it’s become common practice to write down off Forsberg, because he’s now a 28-year-old during a club that valorise youth like few others. But he was instrumental to a primary half this campaign that took Leipzig to the highest of both the Bundesliga and their Champions League group, scoring eight times and thriving under the leadership of Nagelsmann.
“I think he made me better and made the team better: the proper coach for the proper club at the proper time,” he says of the manager, who is merely four years his senior. Nagelsmann has, by common consent, added a more technical element to the pressing game developed under Rangnick and Hasenhüttl. His training drills have a reputation for being complex but Forsberg has found his eyes opened anew at a comparatively late stage.
“We have a couple of more combinations now, a couple of more solutions,” he says. “[Nagelsmann] features a considered everything. There’s always an idea around it, then you only need to roll in the hay . You’ll get a sort of lightbulb in your head like: ‘Ah, OK, so if I do this , that which , this may open up and that i can play that pass or that pass.’ It’s fun, even at this age, that you simply can learn something new.”
Forsberg’s father Leif – himself a storied former footballer with the hometown club they both represented, GIF Sundsvall – once said his son is “without a doubt the foremost boring player to interview”. It seems that’s not true; he converses readily and doesn’t dodge a subject , albeit a palpable guardedness tends to underpin his responses. there’s just one question that prompts an interruption of several seconds. The snowballs in Aue were faraway from the sole occurrences of hostility from opposing crowds in his half-decade with Leipzig: a severed bull’s head was thrown near the dig in a match at Dinamo Dresden in 2016 and, to offer only one newer example, Union Berlin’s fans began their meeting on this season’s opening day with a 15-minute silence.
Even if attitudes have softened in some quarters, there’ll always be those that never accept a Red Bull-owned club during a country where the stake held by supporters remains sacrosanct. it’s perfectly reasonable for Forsberg to not accept as true with the opprobrium his club has faced but does he, at least, understand it?
“Everyone’s getting to have an opinion on every little thing,” comes the reply, at length.