RB Leipzig: New Kid in Town

There’s something brewing in the town of Leipzig in Eastern Germany, an uncanny project founded by the company behind a not so unknown can. Could RB Leipzig’s new found wing take the club to the Bundesliga or is the club flying too close to the sun?

A Greek myth tells the story of a young man, Icarus, who in an attempt to escape from Crete is given wings constructed from feathers and wax. His father instructed him not to fly too close to the sun as the wax would melt and destroy the wings. However, Icarus was overcome by the endless possibilities the wings gave him, so he ignored his father’s warning and eventually fell from the skies and crashed into the deep dark ocean.

Matisse’s version of the Icarus myth.

RB Leipzig might not suffer such a cruel fate as another of the company’s affiliates already took it upon him to do the Sky-to-Earth adventure, but it will not be a stroll in the park to achieve their ultimate goal: winning the Bundesliga.

However, a recently-gained promotion to the 3. Liga took the club one step closer and if anything is greater than their ambitions, it’s their wallet. The Leipzig-based club is backed by the energy drink giant Red Bull (as you probably already gathered) and besides taking over the World Cup-venue Zentralstadion (naming it Red Bull Arena) with capacity of 45,000, it is speculated that the company is willing to invest €100m in the coming years.

Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena – the largest stadium in the former East Germany – hosted 2006 World Cup matches.

Red Bull tried to break onto the German football scene as early as 2006 when it tried to purchase the traditional FC Sachsen Leipzig, but those plans were abandoned as lengthy fan protests got violent. Reportedly, there was also interest in Fortuna Düsseldorf, but eventually (in 2009) the company settled on the fifth division side SSV Markranstädt, which had a much smaller fan base and less rich history, smoothing the rebranding process. However, Red Bull’s move didn’t not go unnoticed and the pitch was at one point destroyed with herbicides.

The focus on Leipzig is not a coincidence. Located in Saxony, the city has more than 500,000 inhabitants, but the region’s football clubs haven’t been able to fulfill the ambitions of its peers with most of the clubs struggling financially. The area is thus in need for sporting (and financial) success and a survey published in the Leipziger Volkszeitung revealed that more than 70% of the residents welcomed Red Bull’s involvement in local football, perhaps more out of necessity than anything else. As Matthias Gärtner of the Alliance of Active Football Fans told Spiegel.de: “Red Bull has approached a football-loving town which is at absolute rock bottom. At this point, the devil himself could show up and, if he happened to have a few million in his pocket, be welcomed with open arms.”

RB Leipzig, or RasenBallsport Leipzig (Lawn Ball Sporting) as they awkwardly have been named due to DFL regulations, did instantly secure promotion when Red Bull took over in 2009. They did, however, have to spend three seasons in Germany’s fourth tier, Regionallliga Nord (in 2012/13 Nordost) before gaining promotion to 3. Liga in last season – a season which broke the record for highest attendance at a fourth tier match: 24,795 at the Leipzig-Derby, a sign that the people of Leipzig have embraced the new club.

With an aim to play in the Bundesliga within 8 years from 2009, there isn’t much time for lingering in each division and the club have moved swiftly to strengthen their squad and make the push for 2.Bundesliga. Judging by sporting director Ralf Rangnick’s comments, they won’t be doing so by splashing the cash and as he told kicker: “We do not play Monopoly. Without exception, I’ll only buy players I would if the money were mine”. The club’s philosophy is to secure young talented players, who are capable of competing on a higher level, so that the squad doesn’t need overhauling after each promotion.

One example of this type of player is the Danish Under 19’s international, Yussuf Poulsen, who this week signed with Die Roten Bullen for a fee of €600,000 according to Transfermarkt. However, reports in Denmark are suggesting the fee could amass to more than double that when all bonuses and add-ons are taken into account.

The striker came from second tier club Lyngby BK where he scored 11 goals in 29 matches and was also part of the Danish Under 19’s side that beat Germany 4-1 (in which he scored). A lot of clubs were interested in Poulsen including Danish top teams, Tottenham Hotspur, VfB Stuttgart and Hertha Berlin.

Choosing RB Leipzig over such teams underlines the project’s appeal, but it is undoubtedly also the result of thorough scouting and talks held with the player – talks which have been ongoing for 10 months, Rangnick revealed in an interview with Tipsbladet. The former Hoffenheim and Schalke coach also said that the plan for both club and player is to be in the Bundesliga within 2-3 years and that Yussuf Poulsen might not be the last Dane to set foot in Leipzig: “Denmark is one of the countries we’re scouting on a regular basis. We have a great focus on the Scandinavian market and we’re looking in Denmark, Norway and Sweden before South America for instance,” Rangnick remarked to Tipsbladet, perhaps taking a dig at his former employer.

The question now is whether RB Leipzig can emulate the achievements of Hoffenheim who in the Regionalliga Süd picked up Sejad Salihović before splashing the cash in 2nd Bundesliga on players such as Demba Ba, Vedad Ibišević, Carlos Eduardo, Luiz Gustavo and Chinedu Obasi.

However, if Red Bull remain committed to the club and their ambitions, we might see RB Leipzig in the 2nd Bundesliga in the near future and, eventually, as a part of the Bundesliga.

Header courtesy of bulls-club.de

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Martin Krag is a football writer and analyst living in Denmark. He covers German football for BetXpert.com and runs the Danish language Bundesliga blog www.bulibold.dk Follow Martin on twitter @martinkrag

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