Editor’s note: ESPN’s chief Bundesliga commentator, Derek Rae, is in Leipzig this week for Friday’s return to Germany’s top flight and examines the possibility that the most established clubs will have little time for them, perhaps even in represent Bayern’s closest employees for a long time.
January in East Germany can be a rough time with cold, chilly weather, which serves as a reminder of why the Bundesliga has historically had a long winter break that stretches from before Christmas to the new calendar year. Despite the bitter cold in Saxony and a forecast that points to a liberal helping of snowfall, there is optimism among those leaning on the new Eastern clubs that RB Leipzig can, at the very least, finish in second place. Oberhaus as they have polarized twice before in their short history.
That they are not to everyone’s taste is important for those who follow German football closely to know. A few years ago, a UK colleague asked me about RBL and suggested that their rapid rise to division should be seen as a wonderful romantic story. Maybe if they were an English club, that might be true – not many people in the German fan scene find it remotely weird or romantic.
Red Bull looked long and hard before finding Leipzig as a suitable city to make an impact, essentially taking over then-fifth-tier SSV Markranstadt and rebranding them. The “RB” in “RB Leipzig”, it should be noted, stands for Rasenballsport – “lawn ball sport”. In Germany, new clubs may not bear the name of a sponsor or company and are restricted in terms of what can be called a sports club, so someone cleverly thought of RasenBallsport or RB. It’s still interesting how few people in the Anglo world actually think it’s officially called “Red Bull Leipzig”, which was the whole point of the exercise. Leipzig’s marketing department loves the nickname “Die Roten Bullen” (Red Bulls) and conveniently ignores his RasenBallsport label.
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Their initial interpretation of the 50+1 rule — which dictates that fans must own the majority of a club — with very few members, and all associated with the energy drink company, allowed them to operate at a distance from the club. norms in Germany. In 2016, RB Leipzig, under the astute supervision of Ralf Rangnick on the football side, went all the way to the top flight.
In the years since, they have boasted prominent figures in the German game as they finished in the top half of the Bundesliga table. Former Bayern Munich manager Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he saw them as “eine Bericherung” (“a fortune”) for the league.
RB Leipzig’s sports facility in Cottaweg is the envy of most other clubs, and their financial support certainly helps, but Rangnick was a man with a plan that worked. The idea was to sign top young players, scout them, have them play the RBL Gegenpressing (“counter-pressing”) route and then sell them for a lucrative transfer fee. It’s a technique they’ve repeated over the years.
They are helped by partner clubs under the RB name, especially FC Salzburg in Austria.
German football is essentially an expression of a wider community, and it remains to be seen that RB Leipzig has yet to properly establish this, preferring to rank among structural advantages when looking at what football is like in a country with the highest average attendance. singing high praises. in Europe.
The intense hatred of RBL will not go away either. Row-and-leaf club fans have been heard to say that they prefer to see Rekordmeister Bayern are looking to win the title for the 11th year, as they need to see RB Leipzig break the cycle.
At one point, Borussia Dortmund were accused of not doing enough to prevent their key players from going straight to Bayern. The reality in 2023 is that anyone who believes it is still happening should look at a different travel route: from Leipzig to Munich.
It really all started with Joshua Kimmich in 2015, but it has increased in recent years. Not long after Dayot Upamecano agreed to commit his future to Bayern in 2021, as Julian Nagelsmann — who made Leipzig more of a beleaguered team — became the man Rummenigge & Co. wanted as a head coach. His presence later helped secure the signing of another Leipzig star in Marcel Sabitzer. It now looks like it is only a matter of time before Bayern confirm the signing of Sabitzer’s Austrian teammate Konrad Laimer from the summer.
They say imitation is a form of sincerity, but there’s no need to imitate when you have nowhere to go and get exactly what you want from a major competitor. The truth is that Bayern – with its record of success – remains a dream for most German footballers.
So how does RBL deal with this reality? That’s the task facing Max Eberl, Borussia Monchengladbach’s long-time sporting director, who has returned to action in Leipzig after almost a year out.
For a start, Leipzig has an excellent track record when it comes to planning to win. The loss of Naby Keita, Ibrahima Konate and Upamecano did not hurt RBL too much. When you can stay ahead of those expected departures, identify and sign the likes of Josko Gvardiol, Mohamed Simakan and Dani Olmo, it’s a plus. Eberl’s contact and eye for a player is essential to move up just this side of the transfer belt at the club, even if – as is likely – Bayern continue to appeal to the rest of the Bundesliga.
RBL have been semi-finalists in the Champions League and Europa League, and last May won their first major trophy over the people’s choice, SC Freiburg, in the DFB-Pokal final.
They went from Gegenpressing under Nagelsmann, more Gegenpressing under Jesse Marsch, and then back to ball control with Domenico Tedesco. Now, coach Marco Rose has come up with an effective hybrid formula. To use an English expression now common in German, “tendency is your friend.” After going 3-0 down against FC Augsburg at the end of October, Leipzig made it four in a row against Bayer Leverkusen, TSG Hoffenheim, Freiburg and Werder Bremen, while their Champions League form ended with a win at the same time. showed the next color.
Against Bayern on Friday (2:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+ and ESPN2) However, Leipzig know that they must swim against the tide of history that has only once, in March 2018, defeated Germany’s top club. Repeating that feat will not be easy without the injured Christopher Nkunku, but there is enough quality in Rose’s squad to beat them. a blow to the chasing pack as a whole, especially against a Bayern team that has been salted in Manuel Neuer’s next few months.
RB Leipzig will remain largely unloved by the other side. Admire them or hate them, though, they won’t be hitting the stage anytime soon.