RB Leipzig striker Benjamin Sesko hails Erling Haaland as ‘one of the best’ but brushes off comparisons to the Man City star ahead of their Champions League meeting
- Benjamin Sesko and Erling Haaland both starred up front at Red Bull Salzburg
- The forwards will be on opposite teams when RB Leizpig host Manchester City
- Click HERE to listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s ‘It’s All Kicking Off’
When they were together at Red Bull Salzburg, Benjamin Sesko would savour every fleeting glimpse of Erling Haaland.
‘When I went to the games, it was interesting to look at him,’ recalls Leipzig forward Sesko ahead of a Champions League clash with Manchester City on Wednesday. ‘He’s the same height as me and some kind of movements are the same.
‘At this point, you’re thinking, ‘I want to be like him’ but when you start to play a little you want to be yourself. But it’s really good to have learnt from him and in some ways it has helped me a lot.’
Haaland was a teenage sensation back in those days, signed by RB Salzburg from Molde in Norway in January 2019 and fast-tracking his way to the top of European football. He went straight into the first team and spent a year in Austrian football in a blaze of goals before moving to Borussia Dortmund and two years later to City.
Sesko is three years his junior. He arrived in Salzburg five months after Haaland, signing at the age of 16 from Domzale in his native Slovenia then moving almost immediately out on loan to Liefering, the club’s nursery team in the second tier.
RB Leipzig forward Benjamin Sesko believes he has learned from Man City star Erling Haaland
Sesko and Haaland both played for Red Bull Salzburg before earning Bundesliga transfers
Haaland will line up against Sesko’s RB Leipzig side in the Champions League on Wednesday
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‘We didn’t actually see each other,’ says Sesko. ‘Maybe once, at the airport when we were going to the [UEFA] Youth League and he was going to the Champions League. That’s it.’
Their careers, however, have evolved along similar trajectories. Both hail from relative footballing backwaters but both have graduated through Salzburg’s acclaimed player development scheme and chosen Germany as the next step.
This summer, at the age of 20, Sesko rejected interest from Premier League clubs including Manchester United to join Leipzig, another club in the Red Bull family. He made his debut in the DFB Super Cup against Bayern Munich, coming off the bench to make his debut at the same time as Harry Kane’s for Bayern.
‘What was really important for me was to go somewhere where the playing style is kind of the same,’ Sesko explains in faultless English. ‘The way of playing is similar so that I already know what to do and do not have to undergo this learning process again.
‘I decided one year earlier because it was good timing in general and because I was playing well in Salzburg. It went well.’
On interest from Old Trafford, he says: ‘I was not really into that kind of conversation.
‘It was better just to come here. I am really happy where I am. It’s important to make the right decision. I just want to focus on here, and let’s see what happens in the future. I’m not thinking about where I want to go next.’
Physical similarities are clear as well. At 6ft 4ins, Sesko stands at the same height as Haaland, with terrific pace and agility and a cool, clinical temperament in front of goal.
Sesko was compared to Haaland when he made his breakthrough in the RB Salzburg first team
Sesko regrets revealing players thought he was better than Haaland, pictured, in some aspects
The Slovenian star insists he has his own style and does not want to be compared to anyone
When he returned from Liefering and stepped into the Salzburg team in 2021 there were instant comparisons.
In fact, teammates told him they thought he was even better than Haaland in some respects, something Sesko regrets ever making that public as he has been fielding questions ever since.
‘It was just talk with the players,’ he smiles. ‘Just what was happening in training and so on.
‘If you look at the statistics he’s one of the best. With him, everything is outstanding. What can I say? I said it once but it looks like I was saying I was way, way better than him and I wouldn’t say I am way, way better than him.
‘This is comparing someone who is one of the best players in the world. It’s not easy to compare and I already said I’m my own player. The only thing that we have kind of similar is, of course, height.
‘Also, we’re both fast, but in general we have a different style of playing. I really like him. I look at him a lot. When I was back in Salzburg I looked at him – a really great, great player. I do not love to compare myself to anyone. I love to be myself.
‘I think I have my own style. I have games when I do stuff where you can see my technique when there is confidence. I’m still young. There are ups and downs. I have my own style, not something similar to someone else.’
Sesko’s father Ales was a goalkeeper in local football.
RB Leipzig want to challenge Man City after losing 7-0 last season with Haaland scoring five
Sesko idolised Zlatan Ibrahimovic highlighting the Swedish forward’s skills and speed
The RB Leizpig star will want to continue his strong start after scoring five goals in eight games
‘He wanted me to be a goalkeeper but I said, ‘look, it’s really boring, I can’t do it anymore’. Then I was playing as a centre-back and I always took the ball and tried to score.
‘It was always goals, goals, goals. That’s why I became a striker.’
He idolised Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired at the end of last season at the age of 41, having scored more than 500 goals in his eight-club career, and 62 in 122 appearances for Sweden.
‘Every single video I could find, I was looking at him,’ says Sesko. ‘I always liked his skills and speed. I’m not saying I play like him but he was having fun, enjoying himself on the pitch and doing what he wanted to do. That makes me really happy to see that kind of player.’
Last season, Salzburg were drawn in the same Champions League group as Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan.
‘He was injured and he was talking to my agent,’ says Sesko. ‘I was jealous because I really wanted to meet him and get a jersey signed by him. That would be awesome. It would be a dream.’
Leipzig reached the knock-out rounds, last season, where they had the misfortune to bump into Manchester City. They drew the first leg in Leipzig before a 7-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium on a night when Haaland scored five.
City went on to win the competition for the first time in their history and are back in Leipzig on Wednesday.
‘We have the quality for that, it’s not in question,’ says Sesko on the subject of redemption. ‘But if we are not 100 per cent there is not a chance. It can be hard for them as we have a great team and can show a lot.’
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