Liverpool and RB Leipzig: Success via Sustainability

Michael Bisset
Read Time:6 Minute, 20 Second

Liverpool & RB Leipzig have tried to prove that success can be attained via sustainability. Liverpool were recently Champions of Europe, England, and the World – simultaneously.

In a modern footballing world, money is often the key to success.

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Likewise, Leipzig has risen from obscurity. Plucked from the fifth-tier of German football, they are now the most significant club in the East of the country.

How do Liverpool and RB Leipzig Compare?

Busting the Red Bull myth

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Red Bull is a company that needs no introduction.

Positioned at the pinnacle of the energy drink industry. The Austrian company sold an estimated 7,5 million units in 2019.

Marketing has been their greatest asset. Red Bull penetrated the market by associating with extreme sports and exciting events. Subliminally positioning their brand as adventurous and willing to take risks.

Thus, their approach to football would be similar to what has been seen at PSG and Manchester City, right? The polar opposite in fact.

Growing Pains

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Initially, mistakes were made.

Red Bull purchased Austria Salzburg on the 6th of April 2005. The organisation followed its standard procedure of rebranding and aggressive marketing. This approach was frowned upon strongly. Many of the Salzburg fans took offense and opted to end their support of the club and re-establish Austria Salzburg in the lower divisions.

Nevertheless, lessons had been learnt. June 2012 signaled a major turning point for the Red Bull footballing pyramid. Ralf Rangnick, appointed as the Director of Football for both Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig. Altering their philosophy and transforming them into the structure we are familiar with today.

Ralf Rangnick: The Archetype Director of Football

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Dubbed as the ‘super-computer.’

Ralf Rangnick is more of a ‘professor’ of football. His history in academia and his ability to strategically align multiple constituents make him unique. Pioneering a template for the Red Bull footballing pyramid.

Whilst firmly acknowledging that their unsavoury reputation is unlikely to disappear. The German is willing to spend in the market. However, he has done so astutely.

Leipzig’s presence in German football is positive. Despite supporters stating otherwise. The East Germans have promoted youth whilst offering first-team football to exciting prospects. Timo Werner, Naby Keita, Joshua Kimmich and Dayot Upamecano have all passed through the Red Bull pyramid.

Rangnick gambles on a youngster at a cut-price with the objective being to develop and move the player on for a massive profit. Red Bull have strategically selected their football clubs to advance their empire.

Levels of Progression

The clubs within the Red Bull pyramid are different in stature and location. Players can be progressed within. New York can be the first stage, Salzburg the next, and Leipzig the final destination.

Grooming talent with the same football identity.

Think of it like this, most clubs would need to loan their best talents out. These players are not ready for first-team football at their parent club and are in need of playing time.

Therefore, clubs work tirelessly to find the ideal fit. Clubs who match their vision, style of play, and overall mentality.

Red Bull’s pyramid does not have this issue. Hwang Hee-chan is the latest example of this. Consistent performances at Salzburg earned him a ‘promotion’ to Leipzig.

Clear Similarities to Liverpool FC

Subsequently, their desire for a sustainable football model mirrors that of Liverpool. Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have faced major criticism for their efforts to follow a model. People have also criticised Klopp’s willingness to work under a Director of Football.

These people are archaic in mindset. I acknowledge that there are times where FSG are frustrating. But, their money-ball technique brought them great success with the Boston Red Sox. As a result, they have maintained this approach at Liverpool. It has definitely produced success.

In fact, their astute business model facilitated by Michael Edwards has transformed Liverpool into a European powerhouse.

Liverpool’s Transfer Policy

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Similarly to the early days at RB Leipzig. Liverpool suffered many growing pains on their way to Premier League glory. FSG’s first decision was to sack Roy Hodgson and appoint Kenny Dalglish.

Dalglish was backed in the transfer market from the outset. Fernando Torres was moved on for 50m and Liverpool reinvested that money in Suarez and Carroll.

The Summer brought new additions. Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique were added as Liverpool sought to build a squad for the future.

Unfortunately, Henderson was the only success from those signings. Rodgers was introduced and his journey is well-documented in Ritchie Slack’s series on the LFC Transfer Room website.

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Liverpool only really started to see major progression when Klopp joined in October 2015. Like Leipzig, Liverpool needed the correct personnel to lead the revolution.

Since this decision, we have not looked back.

Appearing in two Champions League finals, a Europa League final, winning the Club World Cup, Premier League and Champions League. Liverpool has achieved these goals via a commitment to NET spend and working within their means.

The Struggles of Modern Football

Nevertheless, modern football offers an entirely different challenge. Remarkably, both clubs have risen from the ashes and overcome numerous challenges in the most recent decade.

Naturally, both clubs have received criticism.

Liverpool has fought one of football’s mega-rich clubs and won. Despite this, people from numerous Premier League rivals mock the Reds relentlessly. Many of these supporters openly backed Manchester City. This makes no sense.

In an era where money simplifies the game to such an extent. How could anybody judge the sustainable methods of Liverpool and Leipzig?

History is another line of similarity. Both clubs are bantered in various ways. Liverpool, for their successful past. RB Leipzig for their lack of longevity.

I struggle to recall the same treatment being dished out to Manchester City and Chelsea when they rose to prominence. Leipzig has not splashed their riches in any way comparable to the aforementioned pair.

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Tactical Profile

In fact, the similarities go further than transfer strategy. Both Liverpool and Leipzig play a high-tempo, possession-based game with quick transitions from defence to attack. Their manager, Julian Nagelsmann has been identified as a possible replacement for Jurgen Klopp once the latter decides to move on from Anfield.

As illustrated during Leipzig’s Champions League home tie with Manchester United. The fullbacks offer width and creativity with former Manchester City man Angeliño putting in a stellar performance.

Their attack can be characterised as fluid – meaning that Liverpool’s centre backs will need to be on top of their game on Tuesday night.

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RB Leipzig & Liverpool: The first competitive match

Finally, the two meet for the first time in competitive action on Tuesday in the Round of 16. Ironically, despite all the above mentioned similarities, the two couldn’t be more dissimilar at the moment. Leipzig have been on a strong-run of form and go into Tuesday’s tie as favourites.

Liverpool will need to muster all their European might to reach the quarter-finals. The subject of history may be the experience and advantage that the Reds have over their similarly constructed rival.

European pedigree may prove to be the difference. Regardless, it will be a fascinating encounter.

Read more by Michael Bisset.

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