Leeds United’s interest in signing Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig was more than predictable because the United States international is much more than just a former player for Jesse Marsch. The bond between them was forged many years ago.
That was clear when speaking to Marsch in 2020 during his time in charge of Red Bull Salzburg. The topic of conversation inevitably shifted towards Erling Haaland. It was Marsch who soon shifted it back towards a teenage talent from his homeland.
“I have worked with a tonne of talented players,” he told Sky Sports.
“But the ones that right away you can see they have something, it is everything to do with their mentality, to do with what they consider success. It is the work they do on a daily basis, their love of improvement, their love of competitiveness, their fearlessness.
“Honestly, the first player that I ever coached who I saw that in was Tyler Adams. I met him when he was 15-years-old. I watched him play a game. I had a 10-minute conversation with him after the game and I said to myself, ‘This kid is going to be massive.’
“At 15, it was so easy to see that he had the tools, mostly from a mental and intelligence perspective, to do whatever it takes. Obviously, they need to be steeped in talent but it ends up being more about their mindset than it does about their actual talent.”
The pair were in New York at the time. Marsch was the New York Red Bulls head coach. Adams was in the academy there. His potential was so obvious to Marsch that he gave him his first-team debut for the club in a friendly against Chelsea aged just 16.
Adams not only played but scored in a 4-2 win and made his MLS debut the following year. Speaking to him in 2021 about Marsch’s role in his development, he does not remember what he said in that 10-minute conversation that so impressed his manager.
But he cannot forget Marsch’s role in what has happened since.
“Jesse was such an influential figure for me when I was coming through the system,” Adams told Sky Sports. “When I was coming through the academy, the person who ultimately convinced me to sign a professional contract was him.
“He had this blueprint for me before watching a tonne of games of me playing. He had this plan that made me believe in myself and my abilities that basically convinced me that if I were to succeed it would be through this system. It all worked out.
“He had trust in me and I trusted him.”
Adams has repaid the faith by dedicating himself. Even his decision to study psychology was motivated out of a desire to become better. “I knew it would relate to my everyday life which is playing football. Now I am at the point where it can help me.”
After that conversation when Adams was 15, the Chelsea game at 16 and the MLS debut at 17, came his first senior cap for the United States at 18. It was Marsch who left for Leipzig the following year to assist Ralf Rangnick as they finished third in the Bundesliga.
Adams joined the team in January. Just as they had planned.
“We had talked about it when I signed my contract in MLS that my ambition was to play in Europe and he knew that was my goal. He wanted me to succeed in every way possible in America to ultimately prepare me for the jump to Europe.”
They parted company again at the end of that season when Marsch moved to Salzburg. Adams continued to develop under Rangnick’s successor Julian Nagelsmann, having to evolve tactically, playing wide or, as he calls it, as a “hybrid six or eight” under the German.
The next reunion came when Marsch returned to Leipzig last season.
That stay was brief but the relationship endures.
“We have such a great relationship to this day,” said Adams. “We talk a lot. We are always in contact. It was great for me that he was at Leipzig when I arrived because it made the transition very smooth for me. I was very grateful for that.”
Leeds will hope their next link-up will be the most fruitful.