SV Column: Are RB Leipzig just like any other nouveau riche club?
Everyone, including major international outlets, is talking about RB Leipzig these days. When in 2006 the Red Bull company started looking for a club in Germany they could use to market their famous energy drink, who would have thought that their project would make such headlines within a few years.
Especially at the beginning, Leipzig struggled to get out of the lowland of fourth division football. But after overcoming that hurdle, the club found its groove. Instead of buying cohorts of over-the-hill 30-somethings, Leipzig kept an eye on almost every young talent in Germany and beyond. Red Bull want to sell the image of an energy drink that belongs in the handbag of every hip, hard-working young man or woman. So it’s only logical that their club shouldn’t contradict that image.
The football business has seen the rise of several nouveau riche teams in the last few years, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain as obvious examples. But while the Premier League in particular is mostly in the hands of financially strong investors nowadays, the Bundesliga still sticks to its 50+1 rule that is supposed to ensure that the club’s members still hold a majority of voting rights.
That said, RB Leipzig have bent the rules to some extent, according to the German Football League. Red Bull don’t owe the club, but the deciding boards had been composed by either employees or agents of the company. That’s why in 2014 the RB Leipzig made a binding declaration to ensure that the management board will be occupied by a majority of persons independent of Red Bull.
So the first Eastern German club that competes in the Bundesliga since Energie Cottbus was relegated in 2009 definitely cause controversy. Yet, on the other side, RB Leipzig don’t appear to be a German version of nouveau riche clubs elsewhere. Sport director Ralf Rangnick and his team don’t make a grab for the crowbar to force success no matter what it takes. Sure, the top brass want to build up a team able to compete against the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
They choose to make small steps instead of trying to make big ones and tripping in the process. Looking at the current roster, you see several young talents who, despite being signed for high transfer fees in most cases, are still growing. Even a €10million signing like Timo Werner from VfB Stuttgart is far from reaching his peak. And sometimes, RB Leipzig’s player won’t make their final steps to the top wearing the club’s shirt. Joshua Kimmich had been built up for two years before he left to join Bayern where he became an integral part of the defence almost instantly and got nominated by national coach Joachim Löw for the Euro 2016.
Kimmich won’t be the last talent that leaves Leipzig prematurely. It is part of their business concept to develop player, but also to sell them if the price is right. The club emphasis the fact that they are not willing to be heavily in the red. It is somewhat of a protective mechanism forcing the persons in charge to spent money in a relatively though-out manner. We have seen several nouveau riche clubs that signed player after player because they are able to, not because they follow any concept.
RB Leipzig, however, have a clear-cut concept on and off the pitch. They put up a €30million academy; they scout youth matches anywhere; and they won’t challenge Bayern and Dortmund for the title this season. They even could slip into a relegation battle. That is part of the deal, and that is why we should view RB Leipzig differently than your normal up-and-coming or established financial powerhouse.