RB Leipzig youth focus an exciting antidote to the hate

RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig’s model make them arguably the most hated club in Germany, but it’s not all bad, writes Sam McGuire, with a look at the club’s youth strategy and exciting emerging talent…

RB Leipzig are, rightly or wrongly, the most hated club in Germany. They go against everything a traditional German club stands for. They’re viewed as a soulless club with no identity and no history in a league, and country, which prides itself on its heritage.

RB Leipzig have adapted to life in the Bundesliga pretty quickly with an opening day draw against Hoffenheim before claiming wins against Hamburg, Dortmund and a draw with Gladbach.

It must be dreamland for fans of the club who only seven seasons ago were plying their trade in Germany’s fifth division. It’s been a remarkable rise by the club now backed by energy drink producer Red Bull.

While the viewpoint of German fans is understandable, it is a bit outdated in the cash-rich world of professional football. And for neutrals the Leipzig project is an exciting one to watch.

For avid players of the Football Manager gaming series the Leipzig project is one many, if not all, have tried to undertake at some stage. It’s easier to piece together a squad of readymade talent than it is to nurture and develop a squad full of youngsters. Taking on the latter isn’t the way to go for those only interested in short-term gains.

The aim is to put together a young team that will peak together with aspirations of European football and the chance of making huge profits on said individuals as they start to hit their prime. Rinse and repeat. It’s a four/five-year cycle.

RB Leipzig youth focus

For the upcoming Bundesliga season RB Leipzig named an 18-man squad with an average age of just 23 years old and only five players over the age of 25. There’s potential throughout the team.

RB Leipzig are in a position most clubs in the world are envious of. They’re able to pay young players a fairly substantial wage, offer them game time – which is vital for their development – without the added pressure of having to immediately perform, because expectations at the club aren’t overly demanding, yet. They’re able to play through the bad patches and the inconsistent form.

It’s almost a risk-free experiment for RBL. The players they’ve signed are likely to retain value for the foreseeable future so even if they don’t develop as expected the club aren’t likely to lose any money.

The money offered to these players makes their decisions a little easier, but it’s not the driving force behind the moves. The players they landed this summer all had bigger clubs interested. Upon signing many commented on being attracted to the Leipzig project.

Who can blame them? The club wants to give young players the opportunity. They play attractive attacking football which encourages players to take risks. They’re not signing confident players and sticking them on the bench to stunt their development for a season or two like some of the bigger clubs do.

The stadium the team play their home games at was redeveloped ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, has since been upgraded and has a capacity of 43,000. The owners have also spent £22 million on training and youth facilities.

It’s all there for the players.

They don’t need to go elsewhere as a stepping stone; they can simply move from Leipzig onto their preferred destination whenever they’re ready much like the poster boy of the new RBL Joshua Kimmich did when he left for Bayern Munich for €7 million in 2015.

SEE ALSO: The #JF70 – Top 10 best young players to watch in the Bundesliga in 2016/17

Exciting young summer signings

This could be the summer that RB Leipzig dines out on for years to come. They’ve shown they’re an appealing proposition to young players even without European football and they’ve shown, rather emphatically, that they can compete with the big money of the Premier League.

Nottingham Forest’s explosive winger Oliver Burke, dubbed the Scottish Bale, signed for £13 million. While Premier League clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester City, Everton and Chelsea all had scouts watching the player none of them made a move and RBL managed to sign the 19-year-old virtually unopposed and out of nowhere. He made an immediate impact by setting up the winner against Dortmund.

Highly sought after goal scoring midfielder Naby Keita turned down the reported advances of Arsenal and Liverpool to sign for a reported £12 million as the German club made the most of their affiliation with Red Bull Salzburg to bring both the midfielder and defenders Bernardo and Benno Schmitz to Germany. Keita notched the winner against Dortmund on his home debut.

SEE ALSO: Naby Keita and 14 Bundesliga summer signings to get excited about

Timo Werner signed from relegated side VFB Stuttgart for €10 million. He was once touted as the next big thing in German football but after stagnating in a disappointing Stuttgart side the move may be the adrenaline shot the 20-year-old’s career needs to really kick on. He scored a double in RBL’s 4-0 win against Hamburg and one against Gladbach and is already looking confident and comfortable in his new surroundings.

RBL agreed a season-long loan for experienced Bundesliga defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos from Bayer Leverkusen. Despite only being 24 the Greek international has played close to 150 times in Germany and has European experience which will be vital to an inexperienced Leipzig backline.

These talented players join the likes of 22-year-old midfielder Rani Khedira, Sami’s brother who signed from Stuttgart in 2014, 20-year-old full-back Lukas Klostermann who impressed at the Olympics having signed from VFL Bochum in 2014, as well as 21-year-old German teammate Davie Selke who signed for RB Leipzig in the summer of 2015 in a shock move from Werder Bremen for €8 million.

There’s talent and potential throughout the squad and if all goes to plan RBL can triple the value of these players over the next few years with the way the transfer market is heading.

In the past clubs looking to buy success failed at the first hurdle when buying readymade stars who, after a while, got bored and agitated for moves away whereas with youngsters they’re always looking for the big move so are likely to perform on a regular basis in their quest to grab the attention of the Real Madrids and Barcelonas.

When Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of Red Bull, founded RBL he said he wanted Bundesliga football within a decade. They achieved it.

Their next target is Champions League football, and with the cluster of teams below the big two being so competitive there is a chance RBL can surpass them over the next few seasons, especially with the resources and the potential quality at their disposal to cement themselves as a Champions League club. But it all depends on how they manage these young players.

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(main image credit: RB Leipzig via Twitter.)

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