They are the first team to truly contest FC Bayern Munich since Borussia Dortmund in 2012. In fact, they might just be the Leicester City of yesteryear.
And yet RasenBallsport Leipzig, commonly known as RB Leipzig, are completely different from their supposed British counterparts.
Because this isn’t a club looking for immediate success.
Having dwelled in the cellar since their 2009 foundation, Leipzig are part of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz’s portfolio of sports teams, which also includes Red Bull Salzburg and the New York Red Bulls. However, their rapid rise has been greeted with much disdain. Many in Germany, having seen their success bankrolled by Red Bull, resent such a close association between a football team and a large corporation. Upon their takeover the club were given a transfer budget of €100m (£85m), according to British publication The Guardian.
Exciting, attractive and hugely effective – their football has been anything but dull. Headed by young stars such as Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita, they have scored more goals than any other side. And they have picked up more points away from home than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues this season. As the Daily Mail put it, Leipzig are in an unprecedented purple patch.
Another particularly criticism is to do with Germany’s ’50+1 rule’ whereby all clubs must hold a majority of their own voting rights. Most German clubs are part fan-owned, meaning the supporters can have a say on important matters. However, Leipzig membership costs €1,000 (around £860) per year and as a result they only have 17 proper members, with the majority being employees or associates of Red Bull. This is a significant contrast to clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, where 139,000 fans have a say.
It’s a story which won’t go anywhere anytime soon. Mateschitz and his troops have certainly made it clear that they are here to stay – and stay they will.
Slowly but surely, a fortress is being built in West Germany – sustained by wealth and an intrinsic desire to win. A desire almost overriding of all else.
Whether or not this approach can sustain over the long term remains to be seen. For now though, it is clear that RasenBallsport Leipzig is so much more than just a football club.
They are an organisational dream. A billionaire’s pet project. A fascinating oligarchy.
And they want take off.
Even better – can someone, or something, give them wings?
Only time will tell.
Originally published by Spalk as ‘How RB Leipzig conquered the Bundesliga.’