Messi, Ron­aldo ‘too old’ to help lift lit­tle Leipzig

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Leipzig, Ger­many

Nei­ther Lionel Messi nor Cris­tiano Ron­aldo would be con­sid­ered fresh enough at youth­ful Bundes­liga leader RB Leipzig, ac­cord­ing to team sports direc­tor Ralf Rang­nick.

Founded in 2009, Leipzig is bankrolled by en­ergy drink gi­ant Red Bull and tops the Ger­man league af­ter four pro­mo­tions in seven years.

Im­pres­sively, it has done it with a squad with an av­er­age age of 23 — and de­void of any su­per­stars.

Eight of the play­ers that started last Satur­day’s 2-1 win over Schalke played for RB in the sec­ond di­vi­sion last sea­son.

Rang­nick joined Leipzig in 2012 when the club was in the fourth tier.

The 58-year-old showed the door to those the wrong side of 30, sign­ing young­sters on their first or sec­ond con­tracts, in­clud­ing cur­rent club cap­tain Do­minik Kaiser.

And Rang­nick shook his head when asked if he would like to sign Real Madrid’s Ron­aldo, 31, or Barcelona’s Messi, 29.

“It would be ab­surd to think that it could work with them here,” said Rang­nick with a grin.

“They are both too old and too ex­pen­sive.”

His most re­cent re­cruits il­lus­trate the point.

Scot­land winger Oliver Burke, 19, ar­rived from Not­ting­ham For­est, while Guinea mid­fielder Naby Keita, 21, and Brazil­ian de­fender Bernardo, 21, both came from Leipzig’s sis­ter club, RB Salzburg in Aus­tria.

“We have the youngest team — and most in­ex­pe­ri­enced — in the league,” he said.

RB Leipzig is the only club from the for­mer East Ger­many in the Bundes­liga, and its suc­cess has caught Rang­nick and many oth­ers by sur­prise.

“I don’t know if it’s a rev­olu- tion, but it’s un­usual that a team that was in the fourth di­vi­sion three-and-a-half years ago has 33 points af­ter 13 games,” he said. “No­body ex­pected this.”

‘Per­form­ing cans’

Leipzig is un­pop­u­lar with some Ger­man fans, who say the team only ex­ists to sell Red Bull’s drinks.

Borus­sia Dort­mund chief ex­ec­u­tive Hans-Joachim Watzke de­scribed RB Leipzig as ‘per­form­ing cans’, words he might now re­gret as Dort­mund lost 1-0 at Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena in Septem­ber.

“If that was true, then 11 cans beat 11 bot­tles, which in Ger­man (slang) means ‘some­one who played poorly’ — I say that with a twin­kle in my eye,” said Rang­nick, who has been here be­fore.

He was coach of Hof­fen­heim in 2008-09, which is bankrolled by a Ger­man soft- ware bil­lion­aire — a club that was un­pop­u­lar un­til it beat Bay­ern Mu­nich to first in the league ta­ble by Christ­mas, only to even­tu­ally fin­ish seventh.

“When­ever a new club comes along, fans of ri­val teams see it as an op­po­nent and an en­emy,” said Rang­nick.

“It was the same with Hof­fen­heim, we were dis­liked in the sec­ond di­vi­sion, but re­ally dis­liked when we went up to the Bundes­liga.

“Then we played Bay­ern and we were top, and every­one was sup­port­ing us.

“There are peo­ple, not just in Leipzig, who think we de­serve what is hap­pen­ing to us right now. Neu­trals will say we de­serve what we have with such young play­ers.”

It would be ab­surd to think that it could work with them here. They are both too old and too ex­pen­sive.” Ralf Rang­nick, on the idea of Messi or Ron­aldo go­ing to Leipzig

Eng­land in­ter­est

Rang­nick is seen as one of Ger­many’s most tal­ented managers.

He was ap­proached about the Eng­land job when Roy Hodg­son stood down af­ter Euro 2016, ahead of Sam Al­lardyce’s ill-fated 67-day reign.

“I think it an honor that they asked a Ger­man coach if I was avail­able,” he said.

“But even if they had of­fered it to me, I wouldn’t have stopped work­ing for Red Bull com­pletely. We are build­ing our own tra­di­tion and writ­ing our own story right now.”

Rang­nick re­jected the no­tion that Leipzig is Ger­many’s ver­sion of Le­ices­ter City, last sea­son’s sur­prise English Premier League win­ner.

“We share the first three let­ters in our names, but lit­tle else,” he said.

“In a nor­mal sea­son, Bay­ern will win the ti­tle, but maybe this isn’t a nor­mal sea­son.

“Our match against them (Dec 21) won’t be de­ci­sive, but it will be ex­cit­ing.

“Last sea­son, we were the fa­vorites in each (sec­ond di­vi­sion) game. This sea­son we have noth­ing to lose.”

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