RB Leipzig: New kids on the block target first trophy | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.05.2019
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RB Leipzig: New kids on the block target first trophy

RB Leipzig head into the German Cup final against Bayern Munich aiming to win their first piece of silverware. Victory would send a message to German football that RB are ready to challenge the Bayern hegemony.

Depending on who you ask, Rasenballsport Leipzig are either the villains or thesaviors of German football.

Some say they're buying their way to the top while threatening the more traditional Bundesliga business model. Others say they're developing an exciting and youthful side that pose a long-term threat to Bayern Munich's hegemony.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle, encapsulating both viewpoints, but one thing's beyond debate: the 10-year-old club is making a splash in the Bundesliga.

Over the past five seasons they've spent a net sum of more than €150 million ($170 million at today's exchange rate) on new signings, more than their immediate competitors Bayern Munich, who have a net spend of just €88 million, and Borussia Dortmund, who have actually recouped a net sum of €126 million on transfers in that period.

The investment of energy drinks giant Red Bull is starting to bear fruit and on Saturday RB Leipzig have the chance to win their first  piece of silverware in the German Cup final against Bayern Munich.

Changing the landscape

Focusing purely on their on-field exploits, RB Leipzig are promising to increase competitiveness in a country where Bayern have won the last seven Bundesliga titles and eight of the last 16 German Cups.

RB haven't finished lower than sixth in their short Bundesliga history and under coaches Ralph Hasenhüttl and Ralf Rangnick the team have played some scintillating football mixed with defensive grit. Before losing their last match of the Bundesliga campaign, RB had gone on a 15-match unbeaten run. They finished with the league's best defensive record (29 conceded in 34 games), and claimed third spot in the table.

Sporting director Rangnick is the mastermind of the project; he doubled up as coach for this campaign. He'll hand over the coaching reins to Julian Nagelsmann next season. Victory in the German Cup would be the perfect swansong.

"To win our first title on our 10-year anniversary against Bayern Munich would top off an extraordinary season," Rangnick told SID this week.

Fußball Bundesliga RB Leipzig v Bayern München Fans (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

RB Leipzig's fan culture is still in its infant stages

Fighting for the east?

"The cup has never been won by an Eastern team... I think that more people than ever will be wanting us to win on Saturday," Rangnick said.

The first part of that statement is a matter of fact, the second claim is rather more open to debate. Supporters of clubs with real roots in the former East Germany's football divisions, like promotion hopefuls and cult club Union Berlin, might not see RB Leipzig as one of their own. 

But RB Leipzig have often been held up as a bastion for eastern Germany as the only current representative of what used to be East Germany in the Bundesliga. The region has had little to cheer about in terms of football or financial prosperity since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"It would do the cup good to have a new tattoo, a new engraving," RB Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff told Bild. "It's not only Leipzig but the whole region that is excited. We would like to win the cup for the east."

Bundesliga Bayer 04 Leverkusen v RB Leipzig (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd)

Timo Werner has had a breakthrough season with 19 goals and 10 assists

Bright future

Whether or not RB Leipzig truly do represent the whole region with their controversial football project, they're certainly bringing success to the city.

"If a young kid wanted to support a Bundesliga team around here, there weren't many options before," Rangnick said. "Now kids are walking around proudly in RB shirts."

RB are still lagging behind when it comes to fostering their fan culture in the mold of the traditional German clubs, but on the pitch success is coming.

A Cup victory against the current rulers of German football would send out an emphatic message to RB Leipzig's rivals, but even in defeat this team's ascendancy will continue to gather pace.

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