Messi or Ron­aldo? No thanks, says Leipzig boss

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LEIPZIG: Nei­ther Lionel Messi nor Cris­tiano Ron­aldo would be con­sid­ered fresh enough at youth­ful Bundesliga lead­ers RB Leipzig, says sports di­rec­tor Ralf Rang­nick.

Founded in 2009, Leipzig are bankrolled by en­ergy drinks giants Red Bull and are cur­rently top of the Bundesliga af­ter four pro­mo­tions in seven years. Im­pres­sively, they have done it with a squad with­out su­per­stars and an av­er­age age of 23. Eight of the play­ers who started Satur­day’s 2-1 win over Schalke played for RB in the sec­ond di­vi­sion last sea­son.

Rang­nick, 58, be­came sports di­rec­tor in 2012 when Leipzig was in the fourth di­vi­sion. He 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 shakes 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 with Scot­land winger Oliver Burke, 19, signed from Not­ting­ham For­est, Guinea mid­fielder Naby Keita, 21, and Brazil­ian de­fender Bernardo, 21, both from sis­ter club RB Salzburg. “We have the youngest team-and most un­ex­pe­ri­enced-in the league,” he said.

Rang­nick ad­mits the suc­cess of RB Leipzigthe only club from for­mer East Ger­many cur­rently in the Bundesliga-has caught him by sur­prise.

“I don’t know if it’s a revo­lu­tion, but it’s un­usual that a team, who was in the fourth di­vi­sion three-and-a-half years ago is now on 33 points af­ter 13 games,” he said.

“No­body ex­pected this.”

‘11 CANS’

Leipzig are un­pop­u­lar with some Ger­man fans, who say the team only ex­ists to sell Red Bull’s drinks. Dort­mund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke de­scribed RB Leipzig as ‘per­form­ing cans’, words he may re­gret now 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 with a grin.” Rang­nick has been here be­fore. He was coach of Hof­fen­heim in 2008/09, who are bankrolled by a Ger­man soft­ware bil­lion­aire, and were also un­pop­u­lar un­til they beat Bay­ern to first in the league ta­ble by Christ­mas, only to even­tu­ally fin­ish seventh. “When­ever a new club comes along, fans of ri­val teams see them as an op­po­nent and an en­emy. “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.”

ENG­LAND ‘HON­OUR’

Rang­nick is seen as one of Ger­many’s most tal­ented man­agers. He was sounded out about be­com­ing Eng­land man­ager when Roy Hodg­son stood down af­ter Euro 2016 be­fore Sam Al­lardyce’s ill-fated 67-day reign.

“I still think it was an hon­our 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 Reb Bull com­pletely. “We are build­ing our own tra­di­tion and writ­ing our own story right now.”

Rang­nick re­jects the no­tion that Leipzig are Ger­many’s ver­sion of Leicester City, last sea­son’s sur­prise Pre­mier League win­ners, “we share the first three let­ters in our names, but lit­tle else”.

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

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

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

LEIPZIG: In this Tues­day photo Leipzig’s sports di­rec­tor Ralf Rang­nick watches a train­ing ses­sion of RB Leipzig in Leipzig Ger­many. — AP

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