In 2009, VfL Wolfsburg became the last team to win the Bundesliga title that wasn’t Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund. That same year, a small club in Saxony called SSV Markranstädt underwent a transformation that was born out of a desire to challenge Germany’s duopoly. In 2009, four days before Wolfsburg were crowned Bundesliga champions, RasenBallsport Leipzig e.V. was born.
The most hated team in Germany – RB Leipzig’s second-placed finish in their maiden Bundesliga campaign confirmed that the young club, backed by energy drink company Red Bull, meant serious business in reaching the heights of Bayern and Dortmund.
Here, we’ll look at if the 8-year-old club have all the ingredients to succeed in offering Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund a long-term title challenge in the Bundesliga.
Where Others Have Failed
Since FC Köln lifted the first Bundesliga title in 1964, there have been 11 other winners of the German league title. Bayern Munich have dominated the Bundesliga over the last half-century, winning 26 Bundesliga titles since it’s inauguration at the start of the 1963/64 season.
Thanks to a decade of dominance in the 1970’s, Borussia Mönchengladbach are the Bundesliga’s second most successful club alongside Borussia Dortmund, both clubs with five league titles to their name.
Four previous Bundesliga title winners, which includes two-time winners FC Kaiserslautern, are no longer is the first division of German football. Only one previous Bundesliga winner is sat outside of the top three divisions, with 1965/66 champions 1860 Munich currently sat in the Regionalliga Bayern, the fourth tier of the German football pyramid.
The RB Effect
It took RB Leipzig just four years to break the €1m barrier for a single transfer. The Red Bull-backed club opened their chequebook up to sign a 19-year-old Danish striker called Yussuf Poulsen in 2013, ahead of their first season in the 3. Liga.
Leipzig’s immediate promotion into the 2. Bundesliga allowed them to stretch their financial muscles once again, this time signing seven players for over €1m. The likes of Omer Damari (Austria Vienna), Massimo Bruno (RSC Anderlecht) and Emil Forsberg (Malmö FF) moved to the Red Bull Arena for a combined €15.7m.
Since then, RB Leipzig have spent over €150m on transfers alone, their record signing currently being the acquisition of Naby Keïta from RB Salzburg – Leipzig’s Austrian sister club – and have gone on to send almost €60m in Salzburg’s direction in the shape of transfer fees.
Investing in Youth
As a club that’s primary concern isn’t their finances, RB Leipzig could be forgiven for splashing the cash on a number of top European stars.
Although they haven’t been reluctant to get their wallet out, Leipzig’s recruitment has been very impressive. Opting to buy players that not only have the potential to become top European players, Die Roten Bullen have invested in youngsters that have a large sell-on value.
Leipzig are already set to make close to €70m in the sale of Keïta to Liverpool next summer, with the likes of Timo Werner, Dayot Upamecano and Bruma likely to follow in the Guinean’s footsteps in the future.
The Man in Charge
As a player, Ralph Hasenhüttl was on the books at FC Köln and Bayern Munich in the latter stages of his career.
The 50-year-old turned to management in 2007, brought in as the interim coach at SpVgg Unterhaching. The Austrian was then given the full-time role at the Sportpark Unterhaching and remained on the outskirts of Munich until 2010.
Going on to then take charge of VfR Aalen and FC Ingolstadt 04 over a five-year period, Hasenhüttl was given the opportunity to sit at the helm of RB Leipzig in 2016. The Austrian guided Leipzig to an incredible second place finish in their maiden season in the Bundesliga, largely down to his counter-attacking style of play and resiliant variation on the classic 4-4-2 formation.
A Serious Title Challenge?
Leipzig have only been in the Bundesliga for one full season, so it is likely too early to judge if Red Bull’s project will have a long-term effect on Germany’s footballing hierarchy.
Borussia Dortmund are one of the most popular clubs in world football, while Bayern Munich overshadow most European giants with ease.
At this stage, Leipzig are nothing more than an overperforming club who have an exciting group of young players. However, their financial backing allows them to grow at a much quicker rate than the rest of the Bundesliga clubs and the possibility of a league title on display at the Red Bull Arena at some point over the next decade is a realistic aspiration for Die Roten Bullen.