Editor’s word: ESPN’s lead Bundesliga commentator, Derek Rae, is in Leipzig this week for Friday’s return of Germany’s high flight and examines the likelihood that the membership most hard-core followers have little time for would possibly nonetheless symbolize Bayern’s closest pursuers over the lengthy haul.
January in Eastern Germany generally is a grim time with bleak, chilly climate, serving as a reminder of why the Bundesliga has traditionally favoured a prolonged winter break extending from earlier than Christmas and nicely into the brand new calendar yr. Despite the bitter Sachsen chill and a forecast hinting at a liberal serving to of snow showers, there may be optimism amongst those that have latched on to the most recent of latest golf equipment within the East, that RB Leipzig can, at a minimal, end second within the Oberhaus as they’ve performed twice earlier than of their transient, polarizing historical past.
That they aren’t to everybody’s style is necessary for individuals who do not intently observe German soccer to know. A number of years in the past, a UK-based colleague requested me about RBL and prompt that their speedy stand up the divisions have to be considered as a splendidly romantic story. Maybe in the event that they have been an English membership, that could be true — not many within the German fan scene see it as remotely great or romantic.
Red Bull regarded lengthy and onerous earlier than deciding on Leipzig as an appropriate metropolis to wield their affect, basically taking on the then-fifth-tier-side SSV Markranstadt and rebranding them. The “RB” in “RB Leipzig,” it needs to be identified, stands for Rasenballsport — “lawn ball sport.” In Germany, new golf equipment might not tackle the title of a sponsor or firm and are restricted by way of what a sports activities membership may be referred to as, so somebody cleverly considered RasenBallsport or RB. It’s nonetheless exceptional what number of within the Anglo world truly suppose they’re formally referred to as “Red Bull Leipzig,” which was the entire level of the train. Leipzig’s advertising division likes the nickname “die Roten Bullen” (the Red Bulls) and conveniently ignores their RasenBallsport branding.
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Their preliminary interpretation of the 50+1 rule — which stipulates that followers should have majority management of a membership — with only a few members, and all related to the vitality drinks enterprise, allowed them to behave in a way out of kilter with membership norms in Germany. By 2016, RB Leipzig, underneath the astute stewardship of Ralf Rangnick on the soccer facet, had ascended all the best way to the highest flight.
In the years since, as they’ve entrenched within the high half of the Bundesliga desk, notable figures within the German recreation have sung their praises. Former Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has mentioned he sees them as “eine Bereicherung” (“an enrichment”) for the league.
RB Leipzig’s sporting setup in Cottaweg is the envy of most different golf equipment, and their monetary backing actually helps, however Rangnick was a person with a plan that labored. The thought was to signal high younger gamers, polish them, get them enjoying the RBL Gegenpressing (“counter-pressing”) means after which ultimately transferring them on for a worthwhile switch price. It’s a method they have repeated over a few years.
They are assisted by having companion golf equipment additionally underneath the RB title, particularly FC Salzburg in Austria.
German soccer at its core is an expression of wider neighborhood, and the suspicion stays that RB Leipzig have but to correctly construct this, preferring to leap the queue by structural benefits whereas using roughshod over what makes soccer sing in a rustic boasting the best common attendances in Europe.
The intense dislike of RBL isn’t going away, both. Fans of rank-and-file golf equipment have been heard to say that they would like to see Rekordmeister Bayern win the title for an eleventh yr operating than have to bear the sight of RB Leipzig breaking the cycle.
Once upon a time, Borussia Dortmund have been accused of not doing sufficient to forestall their high gamers from transferring on to Bayern. The fact in 2023 is that anybody who believes it is nonetheless taking place ought to have a look at a unique course of journey: from Leipzig to Munich.
This truly all began with Joshua Kimmich in 2015, however has intensified lately. No sooner had Dayot Upamecano agreed to tie his future to Bayern in 2021, than Julian Nagelsmann — who made Leipzig extra of a rounded crew in possession — was the person Rummenigge & Co. needed as their head coach. His presence then helped safe the signing of one other Leipzig stalwart in Marcel Sabitzer. Now it appears to be like like solely a matter of time earlier than Bayern verify the acquisition of Sabitzer’s fellow Austria midfielder Konrad Laimer as of the summer season.
They say imitation is the sincerest type of flattery, however there is not any have to imitate once you have the wherewithal to go and get precisely what you need from a fundamental rival. The truth is that Bayern — with their observe file of success — stay a dream for many German-based footballers.
So how do RBL hold tempo with this truth? That’s the duty going through Max Eberl, the longtime Borussia Monchengladbach sporting chief, who’s again within the recreation at Leipzig after taking virtually a yr out.
For a begin, Leipzig have a wonderful observe file in terms of succession planning. Losing Naby Keita, Ibrahima Konate and Upamecano hasn’t broken RBL an excessive amount of. It’s a plus once you’re in a position to keep forward of these anticipated exits, figuring out and signing the likes of Josko Gvardiol, Mohamed Simakan and Dani Olmo. Eberl’s contacts and eye for a participant ought to solely elevate this conveyor-belt facet on the membership, even when — as is probably going — Bayern proceed to come back calling for the very best of the remaining within the Bundesliga.
RBL have been Champions League and Europa League semifinalists, and final May, bagged their first main trophy by overcoming the folks’s alternative, SC Freiburg, within the DFB-Pokal closing.
They’ve gone from Gegenpressing to possession with Nagelsmann, to extra Gegenpressing underneath Jesse Marsch, after which again to ball management with Domenico Tedesco. Now, coach Marco Rose has provide you with an efficient hybrid components. To use an English-sounding expression now frequent in German, “the trend is your friend.” After pulling again a 3-0 deficit to attract at FC Augsburg in late October, Leipzig adroitly reeled off 4 successive wins towards Bayer Leverkusen, TSG Hoffenheim, Freiburg and Werder Bremen, whereas their Champions League kind confirmed the same run of consecutive victories.
Against Bayern on Friday (2:30 p.m. ET, stream reside on ESPN+ and ESPN2) nonetheless, Leipzig know they have to swim towards the tide of historical past having solely ever defeated Germany’s foremost membership as soon as, in March 2018. Repeating that feat with out the injured Christopher Nkunku will not be straightforward, however there’s sufficient high quality inside Rose’s crew for them to strike a blow for the chasing pack as an entire, particularly towards a Bayern crew shorn for the subsequent few months of Manuel Neuer.
RB Leipzig will stay largely unloved by the in any other case dedicated. Admire them or detest them, although, they don’t seem to be going to be exiting the stage any time quickly.