As the sun rises on a new season, a new era is upon the horizon for RB Leipzig. Ralf Rangnick, who has been the figurehead of Leipzig’s ascent to the bright lights, has stepped aside from his joint role as sporting director and head coach to become the head of sport and development soccer at Red Bull, paving the way for two fresh-faced prodigies to take the reigns.
Unveiled in the new home strip a year after his announcement, Julian Nagelsmann’s face was at last shown within the Cottaweg walls, where he was warmly greeted by players, staff, and fans alike. Awaiting his arrival was the facilities to build on his predecessors success – a renovated tactics room with a cinema screen for the 32-year-old to conduct his orchestra to produce finely tuned music.
The German has a tough task exceeding the success of last season, in which a first DFB-Pokal final was reached and Champions League football secured, but he has stated that he wants to build onto the foundations that have been set, in particularly in defence, which saw Leipzig concede a mere 29 goals in 36 matches, and add his possession-based philosophy to the team that had one of the worst pass completion rates in the Bundesliga.
Pictured on the other side of club CEO, Oliver Mintzlaff, in the away kit during the first press conference of the season was the highly-touted Markus Krösche, a man that, in the space of two years, resurrected Paderborn after back-to-back relegations before his appointment to aid their return back to the Bundesliga with consecutive promotions in 2017/18 and 18/19.
“We’ve signed the two men we wanted in Julian Nagelsmann and Markus Krösche. We’re now entering a new era. Last season, we had a taste of the cup final, and now we’re hungry for more!,” said Mintzlaff. [DieRotenBullen.com]
The deal to bring him in sparked outrage amongst Paderborn fans and parts of the Bundesliga because it entailed a non-sporting cooperation. Albeit legal under the DFL’s guidelines, it was felt that the club was selling its soul, and after lengthy protests, threats of boycotts, as well as discussions with Paderborn officials, the agreement was called off.
It wasn’t the ideal start to the new era, and a 4-1 defeat to FC Zürich in Nagelsmann’s first game wasn’t much help to the cause, either. However, a few days into the annual training camp in Seefeld, Krösche bolstered Leipzig’s already strong midfield options with the signing of Christopher Nkunku (21) from Paris Saint-Germain – beating Arsenal to the Parisian’s signature.
This was merely the start to Leipzig’s summer spending and less than a week after defeating Galatasaray 3-2 in Innsbruck, two new faces entered the picture as the club announced the signing of 18-year-old Welsh international, Ethan Ampadu, on a season-long loan from Chelsea and the long-awaited homecoming of Ademola Lookman (21), who signed on a five-year deal from Everton, ending the club’s long-term pursuit of him.
The newbies were out on display for the first time on Leipzig’s return to the Stadion am Bad in a peculiar three-halved encounter with Stade Rennais that ended in a 2-0 triumph. However, a 3-1 defeat at the Red Bull Arena to Premier League returnees, Aston Villa, dampened the mood ahead of next weekend’s curtain raiser in the DFB Pokal against Osnabrück.
The new era will face an early test of its credentials as it encounters Eintracht Frankfurt (H), Borussia Mönchengladbach (A), and Bayern Munich (H) in the opening four fixtures, then Schalke 04 (H) and Bayer Leverkusen (A) on matchday six and seven. In the meantime, the first hurdle to overcome will be the anticipated toxic atmosphere at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei in Union Berlin’s first-ever Bundesliga match on August 18.
Irrespective of the challenge ahead, Red Bull co-founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, is confident Leipzig will aloft the Bundesliga crown within three seasons under Nagelsmann and has bet on it with Uli Hoeneß. The weight of expectation is a lot, yet with his expertise and squad at his disposal, it could well be a possibility. For the season-being, the focus is on contesting for a Champions League place and being ready to pounce should Bayern and Dortmund falter.