RasenBallsport Leipzig e.V., commonly termed as RB Leipzig is a professional football-club from Leipzig in the state of Saxony and currently is a member of the 1.Bundesliga, the top-flight of league football in Germany.
The club was started in 2009 by Red Bull GmbH, the Austrian-Thai energy-drink company, which acquired the playing-rights from 5th division side SSV Makranstädt in East Germany.
Despite drawing a lot of controversy and opposition from football fans as well the DFB, RB Leipzig successfully realised its objective of reaching the 1.Bundesliga within a span of 8 years.
With the massive funding from its corporate owners, the club was able to earn back-to-back promotions through the divisions to rapidly establish itself as one of the top football teams in the country.
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With the intention of gaining a foothold in the German top-flight, Red Bull GmbH co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz made a 3 year and a half year search before settling upon Leipzig. The East German city was recommended by German football legend Franz Beckenbauer who was also a close friend of Mateschitz.
Initially the company settled upon FC Sachsen Leipzig which featured in the Oberliga, at the time the 4th tier of German football league. The DFB however vetoed the proposed name change of the club and also feared the overbearing influence of the corporation. Sachsen Leipzig fans also rejected the proposed takeover, sometimes even violently, forcing Red Bull to withdraw its plans.
The company then turned towards West Germany to FC St. Pauli in the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the club well known for its leftist leanings. But St. Pauli fans had already made a stance against the takeover of SV Austria Salzburg by the energy-drink giant in the previous year. Realising that company intended for a lot more than conventional sponsorship, it also turned down the negotiations.
Next, Red Bull looked towards TSV 1860 München, one of the founding members of the Bundesliga that was playing its trade in the 2nd division. After the proposal was rejected it approached TuS Fortuna Düsseldorf, another traditional club with over a century old history. When fans learned the company wanted a more than 50% share-hold and to change the name of the club, there were once again wide protests.
Emergence of RB Leipzig
Nevertheless, Leipzig still remained the most favourable for investment. The city had a rich tradition in football yet there was no team in the professional league of Germany. The infrastructure was already in place while the city also had a massive population which was desperate for top-level football. Therefore Red Bull enquired about the process for establishing a football club in Saxony.
An established club would need a team and playing rights. Without the latter, it would have to start in the lowest-tier known as the Kriesklasse. Therefore it decided to acquire an Oberliga club, the 5th division at the time and outside the licensing control of the DFB. It found SSV Markranstädt in a town 13 kilometres west of Leipzig and offered the club a takeover estimated at 350,000 euros but the amount has not been officially disclosed.
On May 19 2009, RB Leipzig was born and all seven members were either employees or agents of Red Bull GmbH. It became the 5th football entity under the company following FC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, New York Red Bulls in the United States, Red Bull Brasil in Brazil and Red Bull Ghana in Ghana. It avoided using the company name to avoid issues with the DFB and instead chose RasenBallsport which shared the same initials.
RB Leipzig acquired three men’s team and senior’s team from the takeover but it would also need 4 junior-teams including one A-junior team to earn the playing rights under the North East German Football Association (NOFV). Red Bull once again approached Sachsen Leipzig which was in financial trouble and unable to fund its youth program. It acquired 4 teams from the club and received the license from the NOFV.
Thus, RB Leipzig earned the right to play its inaugural season in the NOFV-Oberliga Süd in the 5th tier of German league football. It would play its home-matches in the 5,000-seater Stadion am Bad, the home-ground of SSV Makranstädt, before moving to the much bigger Zentralstadion upon reaching the 4th division. Red Bull GmbH had planned to rent the tenantless arena and also secured the naming rights for the stadium in 2010.
The First Steps
On July 31 2009, RB Leipzig played its first official match in the 1st round of the Saxony Cup against VfK Blau-Weiß Leipzig with the club picking up a 5-0 win as the home-team. It made its league-debut in NOFV-Oberliga Süd away to FC Carl Zeiss Jena II on August 8 2009 with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. On September 13 2009, the club tasted its first defeat against FSV Budissa Bautzen.
Despite a few setbacks, RB Leipzig managed to earn top-spot in the standings before the midseason-break. The club also signed Timo Rost from 2.Bundesliga side FC Energie Cottbus and became a much stronger force in the 2nd half of the campaign. It ended its maiden season by winning the league and secured promotion to the 4th tier, although it failed to win the Saxony Cup which allowed it to qualify for the DFB-Pokal.
Following the end of the 2009/10 season, the coaching staff and director of the club were relieved of their duties. Thomas Oral was named as the new coach while Dietmar Beiersdorfer was appointed as director of Red Bull’s football commitments. Dieterich Matsechitz revealed it as part of a change of strategy from the company in which RB Leipzig would become its chief football project in place of FC Red Bull Salzburg.
There were two further significant changes for the club before it began life in the Regionalliga. Firstly, RB Leipzig returned the 3 reserve-teams back to SSV Markranstädt. It then adopted the first-team of ESV Delitzsch to become its new reserve-team and purchased it playing license for the Bezirksliga Leipzig. Secondly, it moved into the 2006 World Cup venue, the Zentralstadion in Leipzig that was rebranded as Red Bull Arena.
Climbing up the Ladder
For the 2010/11 season, RB Leipzig started as a 4th division side in the Regionalliga Nord. It played its first match against Türkiyemspor Berlin in front of 2,028 people at the Red Bull. It took its first league-victory on Matchday 4 with a 1-2 win away at Holstein Kiel. The first home-win arrived in the next fixture with Leipzig earning a 2-1 win against 1.FC Magdeburg.
After making a moderate start to the season, Leipzig was chasing FC Chemnitzer in the league standings. Eventually it could only earn a 4th place finish which meant it failed to score promotion and Thomas Oral was relieved from his position as the coach. The club did however lift the Saxony Cup in 2010/11 by defeating FC Chemnitzer 1-0 in the final played in front of 13,958 fans at Red Bull Arena.
For the 2011/12 season, Peter Pacult was appointed as the new manager while just a handful of players from the original squad still remained at the club. RB Leipzig made its debut in the DFB-Pokal on July 29 2011 and defeated former 1.Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg 3-2 in the first round in front of 30,000 plus spectators at Red Bull Arena. However, it lost 1-0 against 2.Bundesliga side FC Augsburg in the 2nd round.
In the Regionalliga Nord, Leipzig registered its biggest ever win with an 8-2 demolition of SV Wilhelmshaven on February 19 2012. But a 2-2 stalemate with VfL Wolfsburg II on Matchday 33 ended its chances of promotion and it eventually finished in 3rd spot. As a result, former FC Schalke 04 head-coach Ralf Ragnick was named sporting director and he in turn, brought Alexander Zorniger to be the new manager of the team.
RB Leipzig would feature in the newly reformed Regionalliga Nordost for the 2012/13 campaign and the change of coaches proved beneficial as it took the Herbstmeister title two-games before the midseason-break. Leipzig then went on to clinch the 2012/13 Regionalliga Nordost as early as Matchday 18 and thereby earning a qualifying spot in the playoffs for promotion to the 3rd tier.
During the 2012/13 the club also enjoyed success in the Saxony Cup where it once again defeated FC Chemnitzer, this time with a 4-2 score-line, in front of 16,864 people at Red Bull Arena, the largest attendance in the history of the tournament. Leipzig faced VfL Sportfreunde Lotte in the playoff and took a 2-0 home-win in the 1st leg before drawing 2-2 in the return fixture to earn promotion to the 3rd division.
For 2013/14, RB Leipzig became part of 3.Liga, the recently created nationwide league which served as the new 3rd division of the German football structure. It was a huge step up and therefore the club had to revamp the team accordingly. Most notable among the new signings were Joshua Kimmich from VfB Stuttgart and Yussuf Poulsen from Lyngby BK while Diego Demme arrived from SC Paderborn 07 in the winter transfer-window.
However, the 2013/14 campaign did not get off to an auspicious start when RB Leipzig lost 0-2 at Red Bull Arena to FC Augsburg in the 1st round of the DFB-Pokal. Leipzig had a better start in the 3.Liga, winning 0-1 at Hallescher FC on July 13 2012 and staying undefeated until the end of August. Before the winter-break, it defeated league-leaders 1.FC Heidenheim to move up to 3rd spot in the table.
In Matchday 35, RB Leipzig notched a crucial 1-0 victory against SV Darmstadt 98 to overtake it into 2nd spot in the standings. A fortnight later, it defeated 1.FC Saarbrücken 5-1 with a nearly sell-out attendance of 42,713 people at Red Bull Arena which ensured a direct promotion to the 2nd tier on its first attempt. At the end, Leipzig lost the 3.Liga title to 1.FC Heidenheim on goal-difference and had to settle for a runners-up spot.
Reaching the Top
With its 2nd place finish, RB Leipzig was the first club to earn promotion to 2.Bundesliga in a single season since the inception of 3.Liga. However, it now came under the control of the German Football League (DFL) rather than the DFB. The DFL had set 3 conditions to be fulfilled by the club in order to obtain a license: to change the club logo, change the club’s organisational bodies and open up the club for new members.
In late April 2014, RB Leipzig filed an appeal while Sporting director Ralf Ragnick spoke on the willingness to reach a compromise. The appeal was rejected and Dieter Matsechitz publicly criticised the DFL’s decision and even threatened to end the project in Leipzig. A second appeal was lodged and ultimately a compromise was reached, with the club changing its logo and ensuring its management was independent of Red Bull GmbH.
In the summer transfer-window of 2014, RB Leipzig invested 12 million euros in signing new players such as Rani Khedira from VfB Stuttgart, Lukas Klostermann from VfL Bochum and Marcel Sabitzer from FC Red Bull Salzburg. Its spending-spree was greater than any of the 2.Bundesliga teams for that particular transfer-period and in fact put in 8th position amongst all the Bundesliga clubs.
On August 2 2014, RB Leipzig started its 2.Bundesliga campaign with a goalless-draw with VfR Aalen at Red Bull Arena. It took its first victory on Matchday 2 with 0-3 away-win at TSV 1860 München and 12 days later recorded its maiden home-win with a 1-0 score-line against FC Erzgebirge Aue. The club also defeated SC Paderborn 2-1 after extra-time in the 1st round of the DFB-Pokal.
RB Leipzig then won 3-1 in extra-time against FC Erzgebirge Aue in the 2nd round to reach the last-16 of the DFB-Pokal for the first time. But its form dipped in the coming weeks and Leipzig lay in 8th spot at the winter-break. RB Leipzig splashed 10.7 million euros in the transfer-market, almost the entire spending of 2.Bundesliga for that period, the most prominent of which became Emil Forsberg from Malmö FF.
In February 2015, Leipzig succumbed to a 2-0 loss against Erzgebirge Aue which ended any realistic chances of promotion. Following that defeat, the club hierarchy parted with manager Alexander Zorniger and appointed U17 coach Achim Beierlorzer to take charge of the team. Leipzig lost 2-0 at home to VfL Wolfsburg in the 3rd round of the DFB Pokal and the 2.Bundesliga campaign in 5th position.
For 2015/16, Ralf Ragnick wanted Thomas Tuchel to become the new manager but after negotiations broke down, Ragnick took the job himself with Beierlorzer as his assistant. RB Leipzig pumped 18.6 million euros on new players, more than all the 2.Bundesliga clubs combined, including Willi Orban from 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Marcel Halstenberg from FC St. Pauli and Davie Selke from SV Werder Bremen.
RB Leipzig was scheduled to play away at VfL Osnabrück in the 1st round of the DFB-Pokal. It was trailing 0-1 when the match was halted after repeated interference from the crowd. The tie was eventually called off and the DFB awarded Leipzig a 0-2 win. But in the 2nd round, Leipzig suffered a humbling 0-3 defeat away to 4th division side SpVgg Unterhaching from the Regionalliga Bayern to eliminate it from the competition.
In 2.Bundesliga, RB Leipzig had moved to the top of the standings by mid-December and went into the midseason with the Herbstmeister title. But a 1-3 loss to 1.FC Nürnberg on Matchday 27 dropped the club to 2nd position but the club did manage to extend the gap to 3rd placed Nürnberg in the next few weeks. And on May 8 2016, Leipzig beat Karlsruher SC 2-0 at home to confirm 2nd spot and a direct promotion to the top-flight.
The Bundesliga Journey
Following its promotion to 1.Bundesliga in order to focus on his role as Sporting director, Ralf Ragnick withdrew himself from the coaching duties and named Ralph Hassenhüttl as the new manager of RB Leipzig.
The Austrian was managing FC Ingolstadt 04 since 2013 and had overseen its rise to 1.Bundesliga and also retained top-flight status of the club during the 2015/16 campaign.
The Early Years
RB Leipzig started its 2016/17 campaign with a penalty-shootout loss to SG Dynamo Dresden in the 1st round of the DFB-Pokal. It began the 1.Bundesliga season with a 2-2 draw away at TSG Hoffenheim. On Matchday, it beat title contenders BVB 09 Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at Red Bull to register its first victory in the top-tier while also making a huge statement for the future.
After staying undefeated through its opening 13 league-fixtures, RB Leipzig set a new record for the longest unbeaten-streak for a newly promoted side. On Matchday 13 it even stood at the summit of the 1.Bundesliga standings, becoming the first former East German club to do so since FC Hansa Rostock topped the league-table for a few weeks more than 25 years ago.
A 4-0 victory over SC Freiburg in Matchday 29 ensured Leipzig a berth in European competition, the first time a Bundesliga debutant achieved this feat. It also became the first former East German club to do so since 1.FC Union Berlin at the start of the century. On Matchday 32, it won 1-4 at Hertha BSC to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Leipzig eventually finished its maiden 1.Bundesliga season in the runners-up spot.
In the subsequent 2017/18 campaign however, Leipzig could only take a 6th place finish. Moreover, it also failed to enter the knockout-phase of the UEFA Champions League. A 3rd place finish in its group did however drop the club into the UEFA Europa League where it was eliminated by Olympique de Marseille in the quarter-finals. At the end of the season, Hassenhüttl was denied an extension to his contract.
For the 2018/19 season, Julian Nagelsmann was brought in by the club to be its new manager. Leipzig did not make a blistering start under its bright, young coach and only won half of its league-fixtures until Christmas. But after the winter-break the team went unbeaten until the last day of the season to clinch 3rd spot in the league. It also reached a maiden DFB-Pokal final where it was soundly beaten 3-0 by FC Bayern München.
In 2019/20, RB Leipzig showed consistent form in 1.Bundesliga, losing just 4 league-matches all season to finish in 3rd position. In the UEFA Champions League, it emerged as group-winners from a competitive pool containing Olympique Lyonnais, SL Benfica and FC Zenit. It then dispatched Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico de Madrid before bowing out to Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals.
RB Leipzig got off to a solid start in 2020/21 to emerge as the only possible challengers to Bayern München for the 1.Bundesliga title. However, it form dropped off in the latter stages and in the end finished 15 points behind the record-champions in 2nd position. It reached the final of the DFB-Pokal for the 2nd time but lost out on its first major trophy with a 1-4 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
By the start of the 2021/22 campaign, Julian Nagelsmann had departed RB Leipzig to take charge at FC Bayern with Jesse Marsch being promoted to the job from sister-club FC Red Bull Salzburg.
Some key players had also left the club and the American coach got off to a rocky start with 3 defeats in the first 4 league-games. More setbacks soon followed in the UEFA Champions League where it lost its opening 3 fixtures.
A run of 3 straight defeats put Leipzig outside the top-half of 1.Bundesliga while it was already eliminated from the Champions League at the start of December. This was the most turbulent period in its short history and the club raised the axe on Jesse Marsch.
Former Schalke 04 boss Domenico Tedesco, still one of the most highly-rated young managers, was appointed as the new manager.
After an encouraging start, RB Leipzig gained form rapidly under Tedesco following the midseason-interval. It ended with the best record in the 2nd half of the season, sealing a top-4 finish on the final matchday. It had also reached the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League before being knocked out of Rangers FC. Nevertheless, Leipzig ended its season by beating SC Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal final to lift its first major piece of silverware.
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