By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Bundesliga End of Season Awards: RB Leipzig's Player of the Season

With 5 votes from our team of writers, Xavi Simons fought off some stiff competition from another teammate to become RB Leipzig’s Bundesliga Player of the Season.

 

With yet another finish in the UEFA Champions League positions secured, it's very hard to criticise RB Leipzig after another solid season. The club from eastern Germany have now qualified for Europe’s premier competition in all but one of their eight campaigns in the domestic top-flight. No mean feat considering Die Roten Bullen have continuously said goodbye to household names like Timo Werner, Ibrahima Konate, Dayot Upamecano, Joško Gvardiol and Dominik Soboszlai. Nonetheless, Marco Rose guided them to another 4th-place finish in a fiercely competitive race. 

You will have noticed I left the name of one key departure out of that aforementioned list. Christopher Nkunku left a gaping hole in Leipzig’s side after his €60million sale to Chelsea in summer. Once again, murmurings of a Leipzig fall-off bubbled as the French talisman, who just totted up 22 returns in 25 appearances last campaign, left for pastures new. However, Leipzig pulled the rabbit out of the hat again. With recruitment the ace up their sleeve, former La Masia graduate Xavi Simons arrived on loan from PSG. Taking to his surrounds like a duck to water, the 21-year-old enjoyed a fine first spell finding the net 8 times and supplying 11 assists in 32 games.

With his elusive speed, aggressive tackling, and eye for a pass, the Netherlands international presents threats in more ways than one. Not only does he contribute to the build-up in attack, but if he appears on the end of a move, he is particularly clinical. Often lining out on the left side of midfield or behind Openda and Šeško in an attacking midfield role, Simons is incredibly versatile. Playmaking is his wheelhouse where he boasts an average of 6.07 shot-creating actions per game. A figure that places him in the 96th-percentile among all attacking midfielders and wingers. Additionally, his defensive output is equally remarkable ranking 6th overall this Bundesliga campaign with 364 duels won. The perfect all-rounder any side would dream of. 

STANDOUT PERFORMANCE:

Xavi Simons crowning moment of the campaign came as early as Matchday 2 when hosting VfB Stuttgart. The visitors led through Serhou Guirassy, but Benny Henrichs responded early in the second-half. The comeback was complete in the 63rd-minute as Simons picked up a pocket of space, checked his marker with a dummy and fed Olmo who swivelled to fire home past Nübel. Minutes later, Loïs Openda nodded home David Raum’s cross.In the 74th-minute Simons worked a short corner to the left edge of the 18-yard box. Spotting Kevin Kampl in space, the Netherlands attacker fed his teammate who thrashed home with some slight fortune from a Woo-Yeong Jeong deflection. 

With the move of the match, Schlager fed Poulsen in midfield. The Dane flicked possession to Openda as Xavi Simons took off. Gathering a perfectly weighted pass from his striker, the 21-year-old controlled and looked to flick past Nübel but was denied. Almost exemplary of his willing attitude, Simons regained his feet and the ball. Forced wide and under close attention from Dan-Axel Zagadou, he worked the appropriate angle to drill home at the near post. A stunning goal to pair with his two assists in a 5-1 triumph.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Loïs Openda can feel bitterly aggrieved to have not bagged the award himself. Coming up painstakingly short with a very respectable 4 votes, the Belgian enjoyed a stunning season in his first Bundesliga odyssey. Having arrived from RC Lens for €40million euros expectations were high, and he delivered with aplomb. Finishing as the Bundesliga’s 3rd-top scorer with 24 and delivering another 7 assists in his 34 outings. We can surely expect more of the same next campaign for the 24-year-old speedster.

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