Where it Went Wrong for Jean-Kévin Augustin at RB Leipzig

Not long ago Jean-Kévin Augustin had the world at his feet. Once outshining the current poster boy of French football on the international stage, his career to date has undergone a contrasting path to his compatriot having had unsuccessful spells at RB Leipzig and Monaco. Now, at the age of 22, he is looking to reignite his career under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United.

Labelled as someone ‘who loves the goal’ by former France Under-19 head coach, Ludovic Batelli, Augustin definitely knew how to find the back of the net when he was in the youth ranks of Paris Saint-Germain and France – scoring 6 in 6 for France Under-20s and 12 in 13 for the Under-19s.

At club level, to this day, he ranks joint-third in the UEFA Youth League’s all-time scorer’s list with 12 in 20 matches over three seasons. Augustin had a key role in PSG’s run to the final in 2015/16, scoring 5 en route to Nyon but missed the opportunity to increase his tally from the spot as his penalty was saved in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. That summer, he made amends as he outshone none other than Kylian Mbappé in the 2016 Under-19 European Championship.

Leading the line, Augustin hit the ground running and scored in all three group stage matches (including a hat-trick against the Netherlands) to put himself in the running for the Golden Boot. However, when Mbappé bagged a brace in the semi-finals, the two were neck and neck heading into the final versus Italy. Within six minutes, the contest was over as Augustin spun through two defenders and sat Alex Meret down on course to not only securing the Golden Boot, but a place in the Team of the Tournament and the status of Player of the Tournament.

Despite having a standout tournament and being labelled as ‘the future of PSG’ by Unai Emery, Augustin found minutes hard to come by under the Spaniard in 2016/17 and primarily had to watch on as Edison Cavani fired 49 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions. He made 13 appearances that season (3 from the start) and between January 14 and the end of the season, he was left out of the squad for a Ligue 1 fixture 15 times and was on the bench just once. This signalled a new chapter in his career.

In July 2017, after the club had been following him for some time, RB Leipzig announced his arrival from PSG for a reported €16 million. His first season in Germany proved to be a strong step in the right direction as under Ralph Hasenhüttl he went on to play 37 times in all competitions, starting in eight of Leipzig’s twelve European matches, and scored twelve as well as assisting six, including three goals and three assists in the final two Bundesliga matches of the season to help Die Roten Bullen secure sixth.

That summer Hasenhüttl vacated his position and was replaced by Ralf Rangnick. Life under the new coach didn’t begin well as he, Dayot Upamecano and new signing, Nordi Mukiele, were accused of not taking their off-season fitness regime seriously and forming a small group away from the squad. He went onto redeem himself by starting the 2018/19 season with four goals in succession against Zorya Luhansk, Viktoria Cologne, Borussia Dortmund, and Freiburg.

Just as the clouds cleared the sky, the red mist began to descend. In the first international break of the campaign, Augustin rejected a call-up to the France Under-21 squad due to fatigue, but after the French Football Federation was made aware of his 45-minute cameo in a friendly against Zagłębie Lubin, it filed a complaint to the FIFA Discliplinary Commitee and Ralf Rangnick was advised by Leipzig’s legal team to rest the forward against Hannover 96 when the league resumed.

Augustin returned to the line-up in the Europa League against Red Bull Salzburg the following match and further tarnished his name. As he and Mukiele sat on the bench using their phones, an action deemed sacrilegious under Rangnick, a manhunt ensued that resulted in the squad being two minutes behind schedule. Following an anonymous first-half showing, Augustin was hauled off at half-time then he later had an altercation with Yussuf Poulsen after the Dane called him out for using his phone again after the 3-2 defeat.

As a consequence, Augustin was dropped in the next fixture versus Eintracht Frankfurt and fined a five-figure sum by the club. This would prove to be the start of a domino effect in Saxony as he started only two Bundesliga matches in the remainder of the season, wasn’t used in the DFB Pokal from the round of 16 onward and was excluded from the cup final squad, while between March 16 and May 11 he did not feature a single minute in the ten matches played.

With Julian Nagelsmann’s arrival impending, the 22-year-old saw it as an opportunity to get his career back on track and headed to Miami alongside Mukiele to begin pre-season training two weeks ahead of schedule. Unfortunately for him, his efforts proved unrewarding because an ankle injury sidelined him for the start of the Bundesliga season and he was loaned out to Monaco at the end of August to accommodate the loan signing of Patrik Schick from Roma.

His time with Les Monégasques panned out unsuccessfully as his struggles continued upon his return to French football. From 13 appearances in domestic competitions, Augustin could only find the net once and provided two assists before his loan was terminated to help secure a move across the English channel to Leeds United on a six-month loan. The deal includes a compulsory purchase clause of €21 million should the EFL Championship club secure promotion to the Premier League this season.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Augustin’s chance to make a name for himself in England has been on hold since mid-March. With the club on the cusp of ending a 16-year hiatus from the top flight, Augustin could find a home in the Yorkshire city and under Bielsa’s guidance, the Frenchman could reignite a promising career and reach the heights anticipated for him when he leading his nation to European glory at youth level.

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