Lois Openda interview: RB Leipzig forward on scoring at Man City, idolising Didier Drogba and aiming for the top | Football News

Lois Openda interview: RB Leipzig forward on scoring at Man City, idolising Didier Drogba and aiming for the top | Football News

Quiz question. Who is the only player to score twice in the first half of a Manchester City game at the Etihad Stadium this season? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is not Erling Haaland. It is not even Julian Alvarez. The player is RB Leipzig forward Lois Openda.

The Belgium international has been a revelation in the Bundesliga since arriving from Lens in the summer. His record of 11 goals and four assists puts him among the top five players in the competition for goal involvements this season and it is no hot streak.

Openda has had more shots than any Bundesliga player, including Harry Kane. Only Kylian Mbappe has had more attempts than him across Europe’s major leagues. At 23, Leipzig looks like it was the right step – and it is unlikely to be his last one.

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Lois Openda on why RB Leipzig move gives him the platform to reach the very top

Asked by Sky Sports why he chose Leipzig, Openda explains: “It was the perfect team for me to progress. If you look how they play the game, how they defend, how they attack, the playing style is a good connection with me as a player with my profile.”

He cites the examples of Benjamin Sesko and Xavi Simons, who also joined in the summer. “I talked with my family and they said it was a top club for the development of the player because I am really young and they give a lot of confidence to young players,” he adds.

“That is why they also made this move. This team is top for the development of top players and I want to be a top player. I want to play for the best teams in the world. I hope I will do that. The move to Leipzig can help me to do that. That is why I came to Leipzig.”

RB Leipzig's Lois Openda has had the most shots of any Bundesliga player this season
Openda has had the most shots of any Bundesliga player this season

Throughout the course of a 30-minute discussion with a small group of journalists, that self-belief shines through. He talks of idolising Didier Drogba when he was a child. “I wanted to be one day a top striker like him. Why not be better than him? I have to work on that.”

With a disarming smile, it never comes across as arrogance. Not least because there have been moments of doubt, moments when confidence was lost. His final 19 games for boyhood side Club Brugge did not yield a goal. A loan move proved the catalyst.

“I did not have a lot of confidence and I decided to go to Vitesse, a good club in Holland. I went there to have minutes. To show my quality, to get this confidence back.” With the help of head coach Thomas Letsch, now at Bochum, Openda was able to do that.

“The coach was top, he helped me a lot. From the first day, he told me I would play and show my quality, ‘I believe in you.’ When you hear this from a coach, it is top. Since then, the confidence I had when I was young playing for the youth team was back.”

It has been nothing but success ever since.

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Watch Lois Openda’s best bits for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga season so far

Openda describes his two years at Vitesse as “perfect” and chooses the same word when recalling his year at Lens – with good reason. He scored 21 goals in Ligue 1, including a hat-trick inside five minutes against Clermont, the competition’s fastest for 56 years.

It was enough to persuade Leipzig he was ready for the next challenge and that faith has been rewarded. His involvement in the World Cup for Belgium was brief because this is a player with a flair for the big occasion – as those goals against Manchester City show.

“To score against City is not easy,” he says. Yet, not only did he manage it twice in Manchester, he scored in the home game too. His first goal of 2023 came on New Year’s Day against Paris Saint-Germain. His first Bundesliga goal was against Bayer Leverkusen.

Openda has since scored against Bayern Munich, continuing a trend that has been a feature of his fledgling career. This is a big-game player. At Vitesse, he scored three goals in four appearances against Ajax and matched that scoring record against Feyenoord.

Lois Openda's heatmap for RB Leipzig in the Champions League shows that he is a penalty-box player
Openda’s Champions League heatmap shows he is a penalty-box player

His pace and power, coupled with an ability to get shots off quickly, means he can trouble any team and there will be opportunities to showcase this big-game record in the coming days, weeks and months. Leipzig face Real Madrid in the Champions League.

But before that there is a big Bundesliga game against leaders Leverkusen on Saturday. Leipzig are 12 points behind in fourth spot but with plenty to play for given they are only one point behind Stuttgart and have Borussia Dortmund chasing them.

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Kick off 5:30pm

“We have our objectives. The first part of the season was good. It could be better. We still want to be in the top four. We have time to be better. Now we are focused for the second part of the season. It is important for us to stay in the Champions League.”

Those are the club’s objectives. For now, they align with Openda’s. He talks of being made to feel welcome. “From the first day I feel like I am at home.” Of having a strong connection with his team-mates. Of working with an impressive head coach in Marco Rose.

“We have a system where we can enjoy the football and show our quality. The coach is really intelligent and knows where to put the players.” He adds: “I have everything here to train, to have my recovery, and then to do my job on the pitch at the weekend.”

He talks of committing to stay for this season and next.

“I have signed a contract for five years. I am good here. I am focused for this season because it is important for my development and we will have next season [here] because it is really important for me. I don’t want to say anything about leaving. I feel really good here.”

But the message is clear. When Openda talks of Leipzig being “the perfect team for me to progress” the key point is that he is just getting started. He names one of his City goals as his favourite but adds: “I want to score so many goals that I forget all the goals.”

There is much more to come.

“I know I am not perfect. I have missed some goals. I want to change this and score one or two goals every game and be the top scorer.

“I know I can do it.”

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