When Union Berlin hosted RB Leipzig last year, instead of doing a 'rival preview' in their programme, they wrote a 700 word essay on the history of bull farming. This tells you all you need to know about how the other German clubs feel about RB Leipzig.
In 2009, Dietrich Mateschitz - the founder/owner/ of RedBull - purchased the licence of SSV Markränstadt, a club in the fifth tier of German football. German football regulations forbid him to use any sort of brand name (i.e., RedBull) in the name of the club. So, in a stroke of genius, he decided to call the club "Lawn Ball Sport" Leipzig.
Lawnball also mocks the "50+1 rule" in German football regulations, the idea of which is that club members hold the majority of the shares of the club, which gives them the balance of power in electing the board. Mateschitz's solution? Make club membership so ostensibly expensive that there are just the bare minimum number of members in the club (seventeen at last count).
Lawnball isn't the only RedBull owned football team. Mateschitz also owns the New York Red Bulls and RB Salzburg. In fact, the company has often been criticized for gutting the Austrian team so that the more "prestigious" German team can do better (just take a look at their transfer history).
Energy drink money can do wonders to a club - Lawnball managed to make it from the fifth tier of German football to the Bundesliga in just seven years. Mateschitz says "I don't want to be eighty by the time RB Leipzig win the Bundesliga" - that's seven years to hold them off, can the other Bundesliga teams manage it?
How did they do last season?
Lawnball played well enough to be promoted to the Bundesliga. They've proven that they're better than most other second league teams. It remains to be seen how well they'll do in the top league.
Strategy and tactics:
Lawnball management are actually pretty f*ing smart. They're buying young players, building a pacy attacking philosophy and implementing it in their new youth academy facilities. They have Ralph Hasenhütt as Manager, who's known for his fun/aggressive style at Ingolstadt. They also have Ralf Rangnick as Director of Sports, who's almost as good as Zorc at what he does.
I expect Hasenhüttl to continue the same sort of system he implemented at Ingolstadt, but with a better outcome since he has better players. I expect them to play three forwards with two wingers, making a very nice compact unit which is difficult to break through.
- Naby Keita (midfielder) - from RB Salzburg for 15 million Euros
- Timo Werner (forward) - from VfB Stuttgart for 10 million Euros
- Marius Müller (goalkeeper) - from Kaiserslautern for 1.7 million Euros
- Benno Schmitz (right-back) - from RB Salzburg for 0.8 million Euros
- Stefan Hierländer (central midfielder) - to Sturm Graz for free
- Georg Teigl (right-back) - to Augsburg for free
Timo Werner: The promising twenty year old German international wasn't quite promising enough to save VfB Stuttgart from relegation, but too promising to play second league football with Stuttgart.
Emil Forsberg: The twenty-four year old has been a bit of a revelation for both Sweden and Leipzig. Having him on the team was a big reason why Lawnball were so successful in the past year-and-half.
Naby Keita: The twenty-one year old brand-spanking-new central midfielder might just be RedBull's breakout star this year.
What to expect from them 2016/17:
I don't actually anticipate them being a threat to us this season. I expect them to finish anywhere between the 8th and 14th place. If they're lucky and they play really really well, they just might make the EL.
However, I expect them to be a serious annoyance in the years to come - which is why I wanted to rival-preview them. This club might be everything German football fans detest, but that won't stop them from becoming title contenders in the years. Especially with all that energy drink/vodka mixer money pouring in.