Benjamin Šeško is set for an explosive season in Salzburg as he looks to emulate his former predecessors at the club. FTF spoke to his former youth coach.
In medieval times, the King’s servants and advisors prepared well ahead of time before the departure of a monarch to groom and tutor the next heir to the throne.
Red Bull Salzburg are doing something similar in their football strategy.
Erling Håland’s reign was aptly succeeded by Patson Daka.
Karim Adeyemi will now follow suit, and Benjamin Šeško could be next in line.
The Slovenian forward only turned 18 at the end of May and has played just three competitive games for Salzburg’s first team scoring twice in the process.
Despite, his youth, Šeško is already well-traveled, speaks multiple languages, and has lived away from home from a young age.
FTF spoke to his former youth coach at NK Domžale, Aleš Mežnaršič, to find out more about Salzburg’s latest protégé.
A small town
The small town of Radeče boasts a population of just over 2000 people.
The town’s inhabitants all know the name Šeško. Even before Benjamin came along.
Back when Benjamin was little, he used to travel to watch his father, Aleš Šeško, in between the nets every weekend for the town’s local club.
Aleš’ towering height has been inherited by Benjamin himself. But unlike his father, Benjamin took to the discipline of putting balls into the back of the net rather than keeping them out.
It wasn’t long before the locals of Radece realized, Benjamin had a gift. By the time he was a teenager the tall gangly forward had bounced around several local clubs scoring buckets-full of goals in the process.
His name was no secret.
“Everyone knew who Benjamin was,” Aleš Mežnaršič reveals to FTF. “So we [NK Domžale] invited him here and gave him good conditions to develop his talent.”
With roughly 63 kilometres separating Radece from Domzale, moving meant saying goodbye to family and friends in his hometown.
When he arrived at Domzale, Benjamin was put up in a student dormitory and lived away from home for the first time at the age of 15.
In the football world, it’s not an uncommon occurrence. Benjamin’s predecessor at Salzburg, Erling Haaland has been living alone since the age of 16 and doing his ‘own washing’ as a former Molde scout recalled to FTF last year.
The experience helped Šeško to mature and grow his mental fortitude.
“It didn’t bother him much,” Mežnaršič agrees.
“Because of his positivity, he created a good relationship with other players and quickly made good friends.
“He had a lot of support from the coaching staff and other people in the club so I think it wasn’t too hard for him.
“We provide a great environment for young footballers in our academy so they can simply concentrate on training and games.”
Becoming a pro
The parallels with Håland are obvious. Šeško has the same towering freakishly muscular physique coupled with an explosive nature.
If anything, the Slovenian is even faster than his Norwegian counterpart.
Last season, Šeško clocked a top speed of 36.2km/ph which was faster than Kylian Mbappe’s.
Even Šeško ’s agent, Elvis Bašanović, drew similarities between Haaland and his client in an interview with Zurnal 24.
“Many compare him to Håland, but I think they are different types of players. They are similar in physical construction, speed, but they are different. Benjamin is more of a team. player, maybe technically better-skilled, but Håland may be a bit more’ wild ‘with his energy in a positive sense.”
As Bašanović alludes, the Slovenian is slowly becoming his own man and developing a reputation for himself.
The year spent at Domzale’s academy were crucial to get him in the professional state of mind and prepare him for the challenge at Salzburg.
“We did a lot of practices for developing technical skills in our trainings. Every player had an option to become better in this area,” Mežnaršič explains.
“We also did several individual sessions with Beny which were based on finishing from different situations. Lucky for us he was very hardworking and he wanted to train sometimes even more than others.”
Šeško ‘s commitment and professional attitude was evident even at that young age. When others would focus on distractions outside of football, the young striker was already devoted to his profession.
“When I first saw him I was impressed with his physical predispositions. We also knew that he is a player with good technical skills and a player who wants to score goals.
“But at the time when he was in our club I also realized that he is a young boy with great values and positive thinking.
“I will always remember him as a polite, modest person with positive values.”
The right step
By the age of 15, Benjamin Šeško was not just the worst kept secret in Slovenian but around the world.
Some of Europe’s elite clubs started to sniff around for his services. The likes of Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester City and Ajax all kept an eye on him.
However, it was the lure of Salzburg who came with a prepared plan for the Slovenian forward’s development which was the most difficult to resist. Especially considering Erling Håland three years Šeško ‘s senior was already starting to make his mark in the club’s first team at the time and providing an excellent example to follow.
“They prepared a detailed analysis for Benjamin, compared his characteristics with the club’s philosophy, showed why he fits into their plans and concretely explained the next steps .
“They were by far the best. We also talked to the bigger clubs, but no one analysed Benjamin so well and presented his individual project so well. That was the key point for a decision. We haven’t seen that in others,” Šeško ‘s agent, Elvis Bašanović, explained to Zurnal 24.
While it may seem like it considering his rapid burst to the limelight this summer, Šeško was not rushed at Salzburg.
Like Håland who was only gradually brought into the first team after his move to Red Bull in January 2019, Šeško had to bide his time at the club.
He first played for the club’s academy and U19 sides while only playing a sporadic role in Liefering, the club’s reserve team, during the 2019/20 campaign.
As Karim Adeyemi played a regular role at Liefering and made occasional appearances for the club’s first team towards the end of the season 2019/20 season, Šeško was groomed in the same way for Liefering.
The gradual progression and meticulously calculated plan which Salzburg provide for their youngsters, preparing them for the next stage step by step has allowed Benjamin Šeško to ease into each and every new environment along the way.
At other clubs the likes of Håland, Daka, Adeyemi, and Šeško may still be lingering in the academy set-up, but at Salzburg the path is there for everyone to take.
When Salzburg sign a young player, they have an intention to promote them to the first team, and they don’t just say it in blanket statements, they truly mean it.
A unique profile
At a towering height of 1.95 metres Benjamin Šeško posses a formidable frame.
Add to that his explosive speed, he has all the raw traits to make himself a true modern day number nine.
“His best trait are his physical predispositions. He is very fast and strong. If you want to play on a high level you must be a good athlete,” Mežnaršič agrees.
Šeško, however, is that and more.
What makes him fit Salzburg’s profile is that he is intelligent in his decision making. He knows when to go for a shot and when to lay off the ball to a teammate.
Last season he averaged 3.46 shots per 90 according to Wyscout and got more than half of his efforts on target at a rate of 54.3% which is an incredible return.
“He has a sense to score goals,” Mežnaršič continues.
No doubt the time the pair of them spent polishing Benjamin’s technique in different situationS has helped to hone this area of the Slovenian forward’s game.
Šeško’s steely determination to improve has remained at Salzburg and the Slovenian forward continues to get better and better in every outing for the club’s first team.
A bright future
In June, Benjamin Šeško made his debut for Slovenia’s senior national team becoming the youngest debutant in the country’s history since independence from Yugoslavia.
The 18-year-old is already regarded as Slovenia’s best prospect in the last twenty years and eyes are closely following his development in his home country.
“There are a lot good memories that happened on the pitch and a lot of goals,” Mežnaršič says fondly.
When asked about how far his former protégé can go, Mežnaršič predicts a bright future for the Salzburg forward.
“If he continues to work hard, stays psychologically strong and surrounds himself with positive people, he will play at the top level very very quickly and then for a long time.”
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