Scotland winger Oliver Burke relishing his German education at RB Leipzig

Oliver Burke
Oliver Burke made his Scotland debut off the bench in a friendly against Denmark in March 2016
International friendly: Scotland v Canada
Venue: Easter Road, Edinburgh Date: Wednesday, 22 March Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

When Adam Lallana's diving header sailed past Craig Gordon to double England's lead over Scotland at Wembley Stadium last November, all but one head on the Scottish bench slumped to a resigned sigh.

Although he had not made the squad for the previous qualifier in Slovakia a month before, Oliver Burke still believed his coach Gordon Strachan would swivel on his seat and turn to the recently acquired RB Leipzig signing in the hope that he would change the game.

In front of the famous Wembley crowd Burke believed he would be Scotland's hero.

Yet the Scotland coach did not pick the 19-year-old talent. In fact, he didn't pick anyone at all until Gary Cahill had made it 3-0 11 minutes later, when defensive midfielder James McArthur was brought on to limit the damage already done.

"I'm sure any player would say that he wasn't very happy," Burke told BBC Scotland when asked about that day. "But really I think I just had to take a step back and realise what I'd done and where I am.

"Obviously I'm still very proud to be a part of the team and at the end of the day it's the manager's choice."

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Oliver Burke: 'I'm getting better and better'

Any misplaced assumptions of playing a key role for the national team that night are quickly excused when consideration is made for the hype that has followed Burke to Leipzig over the past eight months.

Compared to Real Madrid star Gareth Bale owing to his style of play, and touted as a future Scotland star, the German club were inundated with requests to interview Burke when he first arrived. Despite only scoring his first goal for Nottingham Forest 11 months prior to that night at Wembley, the young talent was already an established name within the European game.

"I was really taken aback," said Burke when asked about the attention. "I didn't really think this was a part of football as much. When you're a young kid you don't see these things. You just see footballers playing and enjoying it out on the pitch."

Learning the Leipzig way

Despite his new-found fame, Burke had joined a club that stresses the importance of team performances over individualism and was quickly made aware that he had plenty to learn before he would be stealing the headlines in Leipzig, as he had done in Nottingham.

After setting up the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund in the opening game of the season, Burke's coach Ralph Hassenhuttl chose to instead note that the player had an "empty hard drive" - referring to his reluctance to track back and follow his marker.

"It took me a long while to get used to it and get me up and running," said Burke when asked about the re-education he has had since leaving England. "There are so many little bits in this team. So if you're not doing your job as well as you possibly can then it can cost you in the Bundesliga. That's how tough this league is."

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Scotland's Oliver Burke making his mark in the Bundesliga at RB Leipzig

Ralf Rangnick, RB Leipzig's director of football, was the man who brought Burke to Germany after watching a video prepared by the club's analytics team of the Forest prospect. After just 10 minutes the former Stuttgart, Schalke and Hoffenheim coach decided he had seen enough. Two weeks later Burke was on a plane to Leipzig sitting alongside Rangnick, as he explained the club's playing ethos.

"When we saw and scouted him we could easily see the weapons he has," the 58-year-old told BBC Scotland. "He's very powerful, very fast and physically strong. He's good on the ball for a player of that size and that tempo. Where he still has to improve is tactically - 'when do I have to do what?' - our style of football is a little bit different from what he was used to in England."

He added: "Obviously those are things that nobody has told him in the past and he has to learn that. He has improved but there is still plenty of room for further improvement."

'I love the fact I'm getting better and better'

Rangnick gives off a headmaster-like demeanour that fits in with the manner in which Leipzig intend to run their club. Buying young, raw talent to develop in to continental stars is the plan at a fledging club backed by the ambitious energy drink makers Red Bull.

Despite sitting second in the German top division, the average age of Burke's teammates is just 24.2 years. In Leipzig, the 19-year-old has not joined a normal football club, but instead a purpose-built academy in one of the best football leagues in the world.

Oliver Burke in action for RB Leipzig
Burke has to displace Timo Werner or Emil Forsberg for a place in the RB Leipzig team

"I've loved every moment of it and I just love the fact that I'm getting better and better," noted Burke. "That's what I came here for. I wouldn't want to go to a club not knowing that I'm going to get better than what I was at Nottingham Forest."

He added: "I've got to take a bit of pressure off myself at times because I do pressure myself, but I'm enjoying it."

Indeed, it may be some time before Burke displaces striker Timo Werner, the 21-year-old German talent who has scored 14 Bundesliga goals this season and just earned a call-up to his national team. Or even 25-year-old Bundesliga player-of-the-year contender Emil Forsberg on the left wing.

Yet in Leipzig the Scottish international continues to work hard as the country's most exciting work in progress.

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