‘We had to drag him off the training ground!’ – Former coach debunks Marsch’s claims on Lookman

In a debunking of former RB Leipzig manager Jesse Marsch's recent assessment, Super Eagles forward Ademola Lookman has been described by one of his former coaches as one of the most dedicated professionals he has seen.

Stuart Gray had the opportunity to work with the Super Eagles man during his loan spell with Fulham in the 2020/21 season.

At that time, the 26-year-old, who was then a player for Leipzig, was loaned out to gain playing time after a difficult start to his Leipzig career. Gray served as the assistant to Scott Parker.

Lookman could only manage four goals in 34 appearances for the Cottagers during his loan spell. Gray's assessment of the Atalanta forward sharply contrasts with the views expressed by Jesse Marsch, who was then the assistant coach at RB Leipzig.

Leipzig had secured the Nigerian's services from Everton on a permanent basis after Lookman excelled with them during a loan spell in the 2018/19 season.

In that season, Lookman scored five goals in 11 appearances for the German outfit.

Marsch's remarks on Lookman

In a recent interview on the CBS Sports Golazo Podcast, Marsch discussed players he coached who didn't demonstrate sufficient effort or commitment during training sessions.

Specifically, he mentioned that Lookman performed poorly in training during their time together at Leipzig and was not among the top performers during practice sessions.

The 50-year-old American answered, “Ademola Lookman, maybe in Leipzig,” when asked about who he felt stunk and were not up to their best during training.

Ademola Lookman: Former coach debunks Jesse Marsch's training claims
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Gray's differing opinion on Ademola Lookman

Gray offers a compelling perspective on the player's evolution since his departure from RB Leipzig. Lookman's journey has taken him to Serie A side Atalanta, where he seems to have found a new lease on his footballing career.

Gray's insights shed light on Lookman's transformation, highlighting not just his physical development but also his mental fortitude and dedication to improvement.

The 63-year-old said, “He was first in the building and would leave when the staff did. The biggest thing was trying to educate him that Saturday when we played was most important. We had to drag him off the training ground!

“He would stay back for hours working on technical work, taking free-kicks, crossing or shooting. It was a case of restricting the time he wanted out on the training pitch, the amount of shots he would take, to make sure he had enough energy for us at the weekend.

Ademola Lookman: Former coach debunks Jesse Marsch's training claims
Photo by Icon Sport

“It was knackering for our goalkeeper who had to face him!

“He’s become physically stronger. His brain seems to be working quicker, his first touch, his receiving of the ball. His confidence as well, the boy can take anyone on and think he’s going to beat them. He’s like a golfer with the amount of hours they put in. It’s credit to him that he’s not just stayed in this country.

“He’s got off his backside and gone abroad. He’s only 26, he’s not even peaked.”

How has Ademola Lookman fared since leaving RB Leipzig?

Since joining Serie A side Atalanta in August 2022 on a four-year deal for a reported fee of €15 million, Lookman seems rejuvenated under Gian Piero Gasperini.

In 64 games since his arrival, Lookman has scored 24 goals. In the current campaign, he has been involved in 13 goals in 32 appearances- scoring nine and registering four assists across all competitions.

It was never in doubt that Lookman would come good on Merseyside. Players of his ilk never lose their God-given talent.

Is Ademola Lookman set for Atalanta departure?

The Nigerian has been linked with a move away from Atalanta, with Napoli rumoured to be interested in his services.

A bid of £20 million could convince Atalanta to let go of their prized asset, with Napoli considering him as a replacement for Victor Osimhen.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.