After a hugely disappointing campaign which saw the Reds miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time in seven years, Liverpool have begun the new Premier League season in fine form – with five wins and a draw from their opening six matches.
At the forefront of Liverpool’s promising start to the new campaign has been summer signing Dominik Szoboszlai, brought in from Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig for £60m in the summer.
The Hungary international has completed 90 minutes in each of Liverpool’s six league matches to date, quickly establishing himself as a key figure in Jurgen Klopp’s new-look Reds machine.
A relatively unknown quantity on English soil upon his arrival at Anfield, aside from the stats nerds and avid football manager fans of this world, Szoboszlai’s all-action displays have quickly made his presence known in the Premier League.
We take a deep dive into what has made Szoboszlai’s start to life in English football so impressive, and explore what is yet to come from the Hungarian on Merseyside.
Following a tumultuous season which ultimately saw Liverpool not only fall short of the top four but fail to get their hands on any silverware, it was clear Jurgen Klopp’s side was in need of a refresh over the summer break.
The midfield area had long been perceived as a weakness within the Liverpool ranks, with captain Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabinho all remaining key figures last term despite it become increasingly apparent that their best days were behind them.
The Reds engine room had become stale and lacking in imagination, with an unsettled outlook formed amidst the context of Thiago’s perpetual fitness issues and the likes of Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones struggling to nail down a regular first team berth.
Even before Milner moved on to Brighton and Henderson and Fabinho completed transfers to the Saudi Pro League for a combined £52m, it was evident it was time for Klopp to overhaul the structure of his midfield.
So it has transpired, with Liverpool recruiting Szoboszlai, Argentine World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, Japanese international Wataru Endo and Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch for around £145m.
Both Szoboszlai and Mac Allister have been thrust straight into Liverpool’s starting lineup at the beginning of this season, as Klopp attempts to mould a new-look Reds side into a unit capable of challenging for the biggest prizes once more.
Amidst uncertainty regarding his own future at the club, with Klopp’s name linked to the vacant role with the German national team, the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss has recently reasserted his desire to lead Liverpool into a new era of success on the pitch.
Klopp told the German media: “We are building Liverpool 2.0. I have a loyalty to Liverpool. My heart is here in Liverpool.”
In Szoboszlai, Klopp has acquired a player he could look to build his new Liverpool model around.
Clocked at a top speed of 36.76 km/h in Liverpool’s 3-1 win against Wolves at Molineux, and covering the fifth highest distance overall in the Premier League across the first five gameweeks, Szoboszlai’s tremendous athleticism makes him a perfect fit within Klopp’s famed ‘heavy metal football’ philosophy.
At just 22 years old, Szoboszlai also has time on his side to learn and develop under the auspices of one of the sport’s top coaches.
His energy combined with technique & desire - he has pretty much all the attributes you want to see. The last thing you would think when watching him is that he’s only 22. There is a lot more to come when he settles.
- Jurgen Klopp
Szoboszlai spent four years with RB Salzburg before moving on to affiliate club RB Leipzig in 2021, forming a close friendship with Man City sensation Erling Haaland during his time in Austria.
On Szoboszlai’s left arm is a tattoo of a quote attributed to Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard: “Talent is a divine blessing, but without incredible will and humility, it is worth nothing.”
Growing up a keen admirer of the ex-Liverpool midfielder, it seems fitting that the Hungarian chose to wear Gerrard’s iconic number eight shirt at Anfield.
Although the 22-year-old will be keen to create his own history as a Liverpool player, comparisons with Gerrard are almost inevitable given their similar style of play.
Not only is Szoboszlai a powerful runner capable of covering every blade of grass, he also boasts tremendous technique both from open play and set-piece situations.
So far this season, no Liverpool player has made more progressive passes than Szoboszlai’s total of 44.
The Hungary international’s technical prowess has been vividly demonstrated in his first two goals for Liverpool - a sweet left-footed half-volley against Aston Villa in the Premier League and a thunderous strike on his right foot against Leicester in the EFL Cup.
Szoboszlai will be hoping there is more where this came from this season, having registered six goals and eight assists in each of his last two Bundesliga campaigns for RB Leipzig.
In this sense the former RB Leipzig man resembles a complete midfielder à la Gerrard who can do it all – run, tackle, pass and score.
Liverpool’s new number eight can therefore be acknowledged to provide this current Liverpool side with something they perhaps lacked at the height of their most successful period under Klopp between 2018 and 2022 - bonafide top class technical quality and goal threat from midfield.
Looking back upon this trophy-laden spell – during which the Reds were crowned both champions of Europe and England – Klopp’s midfield was typically comprised of more pragmatic operators such as former skipper Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum.
This midfield set-up was largely tasked with doing the hard running for Liverpool’s devastating front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, and covering for unrelenting attacking full-back duo Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
In Szoboszlai and fellow new recruit Mac Allister, Jurgen Klopp’s current Reds side – Liverpool 2.0 if you like – are blessed with midfielders more likely to act as main protagonists and difference-makers.
Technically Szobo [Szoboszlai] is a very gifted player. We've seen that already and I think he'll have a big career here, we are looking forward to being a part of it.
- Andy Robertson
Szoboszlai has already endeared himself to the Liverpool support, earning a bespoke banner in the Kop end alongside those paying homage to club icons such as Bill Shankly, Steven Gerrard and Mo Salah.
With Szoboszlai having already demonstrated outstanding physical and technical attributes as a Liverpool player, the midfielder also casts a determined figure – hungry for success both individually and for his new employers.
Elected captain of Hungary shortly after his 22nd birthday in November 2022, Szoboszlai is one of five international captains at Liverpool, alongside Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands), Mo Salah (Egypt), Andy Robertson (Scotland) and Wataru Endo (Japan).
Such a privilege appears justified for a player who displays such maturity both in his on-field performances and off-field interviews, with Szoboszlai appearing capable of growing into a leadership role for Liverpool in the future.
Capped 34 times by Hungary and already a national star amongst an impressive generation of footballers in his homeland, Szoboszlai also possesses an admirable trophy haul for a player his age.
Across four seasons at RB Salzburg between 2018 and 2021, Szoboszlai won four Austrian Bundesliga titles and three Austrian Cups, before going on to win back-to-back DFB Pokal Cups with affiliate club RB Leipzig in 2022 and 2023.
Reds boss Klopp will therefore be hoping his new jewel can add hunger, leadership and a winning mentality within his ‘Liverpool 2.0’ vision – all essential elements components of a successful team.
I want to give my best, I want to do everything for the club, for the guys, for myself. I want to win as much trophies as I can, not only one.”
- Dominik Szoboszlai
Szoboszlai will be aiming to lead his country out at Euro 2024 in Germany next summer, with Hungary currently sat top of Qualifying Group G.
Fastest Top Speed in Premier League since 2020/21 (km/h):
1) Kyle Walker (Man City) - 37.31
2) Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton) - 36.93
3) Dominik Szoboszlai (Liverpool) - 36.76
4) Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea) - 36.72
5) Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest/Tottenham) - 36.70
6) Adama Traore (Wolves/Fulham) - 36.64
7) Mo Salah (Liverpool) - 36.64
8) Tariq Lamptey (Brighton) - 36.64
9) Mykhaylo Mudryk (Chelsea) - 36.63
10) Anthony Gordon (Everton/Newcastle) - 36.61
Liverpool Premier League 2023/24 Most Progressive Passes:
1) Dominik Szoboszlai - 44
2) Andy Robertson - 43
3) Alexis Mac Allister - 33
4) Mo Salah - 22
5) Joel Matip - 21
Most Chances Created in Europe's Top 5 Leagues 2022/23 (Aged 23 and under):
1) Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) - 75
2) Michael Olise (Crystal Palace) - 72
3) Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig) - 71
4) Rayan Cherki (Lyon) - 67
5) Enzo Le Fee (Lorient) - 67
Most Assists - 50/1
PFA Player of the Year - 50/1
5 or more - 1/6
10 or more - 4/1
15 or more - 100/1
To Win the Premier League - 13/2
To Win Premier League Without Man City - 6/4
To Finish in the Top 4 in the Premier League - 1/4
To Win FA Cup - 8/1
To Win EFL Cup - 13/2
To Win Europa League - 3/1