RB Leipzig’s plan to compensate for the loss of Josko Gvardiol is taking shape with the signing of highly-rated defender Castello Lukeba from French side Lyon. Here we take a closer look at the Roten Bullen’s new €30 million centre back…
Lukeba rose to prominence at Lyon’s academy and started to garner attention after a number of impressive performances in both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 UEFA Youth league competitions. The next step to the Lyon first-team is not an easy one to make, but when his chance came the youngster grabbed it with both hands and continued to show his talent.
An injury crisis forced then coach Peter Bosz to turn to Lukeba in the 2020/21 Ligue 1 season and he was not let down. He started 23 matches and was nominated for the 2021/22 Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award. Once in the first team he cemented his place with Laurent Blanc also more than happy to put his faith in the teenager.
Lukeba is a left-footed central defender, who prefers playing on the left side of the central pairing. He is a typical modern centre back who combines good ball progression with defensive ability. For someone so young, his levels of maturity are a stand-out characteristic. His passing accuracy is very high (90% last season) and this is all the more remarkable as he doesn’t just stick to the easy, short passes.
He looks to bring the ball out of defence and really does have many similarities to the departed Gvardiol. At times his challenging can be over-exuberant and he can get caught out going forward, but he possess the pace to get back and recover. The 20-year-old is already targeting a place in the French squad for next summer’s European Championships and is hoping that this next stage of his career at RB Leipzig can help him attain that.
“Castello Lukeba was our number one target for the centre-back position” explained Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl. “We have been interested in Castello for a while now. His style of play will fit perfectly into our side and he will be a key part of our squad. Despite being just 20, he’s already developed a lot and is one of the most talented young defenders in Europe.
“He is left footed and can play as a left-sided centre-back in both a back-three and a back-four. Castello’s main strengths are his tough-tackling nature, his pace, his positioning and how good he is on the ball.
“The negotiations were quite long-winded, but sometimes that’s just how it is. We obviously would have liked to have signed him during pre-season, but at least we have completed the transfer before the start of the league campaign. We have managed to secure the player we desperately wanted and Castello is joining the club he really wanted to move to as well.”
The player himself is ready to get started and help the Roten Bullen challenge at the top this season. “I was extremely keen on joining RB Leipzig and moving to the Bundesliga, so I’m really happy that the move is now complete” he said after signing his five-year contract. “I’m excited by the training ground, the stadium, the city and, above all, the team with all the young players– I can’t wait to play football here. As a result of all that, I knew that the move to Leipzig was absolutely the right one for me.
“I’m joining an exciting team and a club with lots of ambition. RB Leipzig stands for a particular style of football and for a constant upward journey. This is a great place for young players to develop at the highest level, as a number of French players have already proven in the past. The league starts next week, which makes it even more important that I settle in quickly to be able to help the team.”