The Significance Behind Oliver Burke’s move to RB Leipzig

One of the most unusual transfers that we’ve seen in the Bundesliga in quite some time just occurred a few days ago. Nottingham Forest midfielder and Scotland international Oliver Burke moved to RasenBallsport Leipzig for 13 million euros. The 19-year-old has only ever played in England, and is one of the few British players of note to leave British football in recent years. This makes Burke’s move unique, since he was linked only to English clubs during this current transfer window. Additionally, every Scottish international besides Burke plays his club football in either England or Scotland, which adds to the significance of this move since the youngster follows in the footsteps of no one recent by heading to German. By signing Burke, a hot property who’s scored four goals in the first five league matches for Forest since this season’s kickoff, RB Leipzig have created a wave of awareness of the just-promoted German club in the UK, a move that not only demonstrates the RBL’s intentions but should help the club buy players in the future.

Intention and Exposure

The intentions of RB Leipzig have been clear from their beginnings just seven years ago and have become universally apparent throughout Germany the last few years. The Red Bull-sponsored club want to become a German powerhouse, challenging for the Champions League and even the Bundesliga title down the road. The money they’ve spent getting to the Bundesliga on young talents along the way make this no secret. Players like Davie Selke, Emil Forsberg, Willi Orban, Bernardo and others have been brought in to fulfill the intentions that Leipzig have displayed so clearly. But the Burke signing shows even more intention than all of the other moves since his transfer features a different element — bringing in a noted player from the UK.

Besides the hefty fee for a very inexperienced player, signing a player from a completely different realm than their other new signings like Timo Werner and Naby Keita shows something else from Leipzig. It shows that Ralf Rangnick and Red Bull want to make this a club  known around the world and are willing to do so in ‘outside-the-box’ ways.  They aim to become a global superpower like Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and perhaps a few others are. They’ve seen what Bundesliga clubs like Bayern, Mainz, Leverkusen, Dortmund and Schalke have done in recent seasons, training and touring in the United States, China and other countries to broaden the club’s brand. exposure and eventually, revenues. The formerly insular Bundesliga clubs are looking outside Germany for more jersey sales, higher ratings on TV and additional passionate fans who love their adopted German club to its core.

Buying a player like Burke from the UK will only help the exposure of RB Leipzig, since now thousands of people in Scotland and Britain who were at most only vaguely aware of  RBL now know who they are. This will help their TV ratings in the U.K., and Burke might even get some Leipzig jerseys sold there as well. Scotland is unique as well, since besides Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen the clubs in the Scottish Premiership are no longer making a big impact in European tournaments although many still have a great following. The fans of the other clubs often support other teams as well. In fact, more Barca jerseys were sold in the Scotland in 2015 than the combined total of Rangers and Celtic,, which shows that RBL might be able to gain a significant British following.

RBL also have an American in Terrence Boyd, a good player slowed by injuries the last two seasons, again demonstrating  that RBL aren’t afraid of non-German talent and have tried to buy players like Burke before. Now that RBL have inked a player from the UK, it might help them lure British youngsters to their academy and perhaps create interest from other British players, who rarely play outside of England anymore because of the high wages, fueled by huge foreign and domestic TV revenues, paid in the EPL. With the facilities and track record that the several Red Bull clubs around the world have developing talent, the chances that they young British players come to the club over a team in Scotland or the Championship have certainly increased significantly with Burke’s signing.

But all of this only happens if the player purchased continues to develop and succeed. . At only 19, Burke has a lot of room to grow but he’s shown that he’s ready for a higher level of competition after more than 30 matches at Forest. The Scot isn’t by any means a finished product, but he isn’t a project or a huge gamble either. Since Burke has so much potential and can help grow the brand of a RBL in the UK, along with his hefty fee of 13 million pounds, he will surely get a chance to shine and get first-division minutes in Germany. While this might seem like a given, plenty of talented young players don’t get a chance to play all that much, while in Germany it’s not uncommon any longer for teenagers to earn important roles for their clubs..

Credibility and Future Moves

Signing Burke along with Werner, Bernardo and Keita this summer as a Bundesliga club is what RBL need to establish themselves in the top flight. These players might not be necessarily crucial to RB staying up, since the squad they had last season in the second tier would have probably had a decent chance to stay in the top flight had they been competing there.  But buying these young players is going to help the club in the long-term, since it will help RB gain credibility in the transfer market with players and other clubs. Getting quality players like Burke will make the team a more attractive option for other high-profile players to move to Leipzig.  

It’s always hard for newly promoted clubs to gain credibility in the market since such clubs usually lack the talent required and usually are happy to just survive. But Leipzig is quickly changing the norm and by investing and spending money they might become a more attractive option than some Bundesliga clubs are already, despite the huge anti-RBL feelings prevalent among many German fans because of the team’s business practices, which fall far outside the German tradition.  Burke himself said that “Red Bull Leipzig has a desire to be one of the top clubs in Europe and I am excited to be a part of that”. The fact that RBL’s ambition lured Burke to the club along with splashing the cash to make his transfer happen makes the club enticing for future suitors. Soon Die Roten Bullen might be forgotten as a new boy and might be thought  of as a very attractive destination. That’s what buying a player like Burke, one of the world’s fastest rising prospects, can do.

The Oliver Burke transfer to Leipzig is thus more than just the transfer of a rising starlet to a higher level of competition. If the youngster succeeds, RBL  will join the afore-mentioned German clubs in expanding their brand outside of Germany — something especially important for RBL considering the negative reception they’ve experienced from so many German fans. The Scottish people clearly look towards world-class clubs abroad like Barca, so if Burke becomes the country’s hero that would certainly help Leipzig. Also the fact that they can afford to buy a player with his potential from an English club not only grows RBL’s credibility on the market but may make it easier down the road to sign players like Arsenal’s German international Shkodran Mustafi, who RBL missed out on this summer.  If Burke has a successful season in Leipzig, the club will not only profit on the pitch but in building the club’s brand, and ultimately, sales of Red Bull.

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.

1 Comment

  1. An interesting article. It has always frustrated me that Scottish players do not seem to want to take the opportunity when it presents itself, to move abroad and develop their game and experience another culture. At the moment I think that there is only one other notable youngster signed with a foreign club, Ryan Gauld at Sporting Lisbon (loaned to Vitoria). As someone who has taken an interest in German Football for a number of years i remember how surprised I was when Otmar Hitzfeld signed a competent but journeyman like midfielder called Paul Lambert for his Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund from Motherwell. Hitzfeld converted Lambert to fill the holding role and he went on to have a stellar season culminating in a staring role in the Champions league win over Juve. I couldn’t believe it when Lambert left after one season to return to Scotland to play for Celtic. I hope that Burke is one of many youngsters who moves abroad to further their career rather elect to fill the bench at mediocre championship clubs. However his transfer to RB Leipzig has left me with contrasting emotions. As a Scotsman I want him to do well, as a football fan I want to see Leipzig relegated!!

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