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RB Leipzig: A flash in the pan or the real deal?

RB Leipzig have crashed the Bundesliga party...and they're not going away anytime soon. (Photo: Bundesliga.com)

RB Leipzig have crashed the Bundesliga party…and they’re not going away anytime soon. (Photo: Bundesliga.com)

Back in 2008, RB Leipzig were not competing in the Bundesliga. Nor were they in the 2. Bundesliga. Or the 3. Liga. In fact, Leipzig did not even exist as they had not been founded yet. In May 2009, world-famous energy drink maker Red Bull decided that they wanted to add another football club to their growing portfolio. The conglomerate already were affiliated with four other teams: FC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Red Bull Ghana, Red Bull Brasil, and arguably the most well-known, New York Red Bulls, but wanted to delve into the German football landscape.

Mind you, their quest was not simply to field a grassroots outfit. No. RB Leipzig, as the club became known after Red Bull bought SSV Markranstädt’s license in 2009, was created with the intent to feature in the Bundesliga. Yes, alongside well-established German powerhouses like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. They wanted to mix it up with Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke, and Mainz. At first glance, one would assume that this objective had a time-frame of 20 or 30 years – after all, one can’t become a first-tier team in just a few years, right?

From humble beginnings to the top tier: Leipzig’s unprecedented rise

Think again. RB Leipzig’s owners wanted to see die Bullen in the top flight within eight years. Yes, that is right: eight. At the time they took over SSV Markranstädt, the club spent their debut season in the NOFV-Oberliga Süd. For those not familiar with German football’s ladder, that is the fifth tier. A year later, they were in the  Regionalliga Nord, which is not especially notable as many teams obviously move from the fifth to the fourth tier each season. What would transpire, however, over the next few campaigns is something unprecedented.

In the 2013/2014 term, RB Leipzig, after a few years of slogging it out in the fourth tier, broke into the 3.Liga. And that is where things really started to pick up steam. Die Bullen spent just one year in the 3.Liga before making the jump to the 2.Bundesliga. In doing so, they became the first team in history to earn promotion to the second tier after just one season.

Their rapid rise did not go unnoticed, but it was not until the 2015/2016 season that they started generating buzz. Quite a lot of it, frankly, was negative. Why?

As the term approached its end, people began to realize that RB Leipzig, a team founded back in 2009, was on the cusp of making it into the Bundesliga – which they did by finishing second in the 2.Bundeliga. In total, it had taken them a grand total of seven years to go from the regional leagues to one of the “Big 5” leagues in Europe.

So were people happy to see this meteoric rise? After all, it’s the perfect Cinderella story. Everyone likes to see a whole “starting from the bottom” kind of story, right?

Think again.

Gate-crashing the elite party…and not going away any time soon

People were not just unhappy to see them gate-crash the party. They were incensed. Players, coaches, and executives of rival clubs did not hide their disgust and dismay at RB Leipzig, a team younger than the players themselves, were now going to feature on the same stage as the luminaries of German football. The whole idea that the team was created by a corporation really stuck in some people’s craw; after all, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, despite being decades older than RB Leipzig, are still criticized and described as “plastic clubs” due to their rich corporate backers.

Well, like any gate-crasher, RB Leipzig simply did not care what the others thought. They are here and they certainly are not going away any time soon. 11 rounds into the 2016/2017 season, they are not just surviving. They are thriving. Currently three points clear of Bayern Munich, they sit on top of the table. Yes, that is correct. 7-year-old RB Leipzig are on top of the Bundesliga. They also have yet to lose a game this season and have conceded just nine times. That’s only bettered by Bayern Munich’s seven.

Die Bullen also have the third best attack (23 goals) in the league. More important, during their unbeaten run – which has seen them win six games on the trot – they have faced some tough sides. On Friday, they knocked off Bayer Leverkusen by digging deep to pick up a 3-2 result. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men have also played Wolfsburg, Mainz, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Borussia Dortmund and have beaten three of those opponents, including die Schwarzgelben.

Can RB Leipzig keep this up? Are we seeing a Leicester in the making?

By avoiding defeat for 11 rounds, RB Leipzig set a new record for the most consecutive unbeaten games by a newly promoted Bundesliga side. They are also the first ever league leader from Saxony in the Bundesliga’s entire history. The question is: Are they the real deal? Or are they just a mere flash in the pan?

For starters, no Bundesliga team has ever completed a league campaign sans defeat. RB Leipzig are not likely to become the first. That being said, they have just one competition to focus on – the Bundesliga – after being knocked out early from the DFL Pokal. Unlike Bayern or Dortmund, who are competing on three fronts, die Bullen can allocate all their resources into one thing: the domestic league. No cup action to distract them. Nor is there any European football – although, they just may be making their Champions League debut sooner rather than later.

So, with that in mind, they certainly can “do a Leicester” and upset the apple cart in Germany. However, unlike in England, where the plucky Foxes endeared themselves to neutrals and even rival fans, one can be sure there will be not nearly as many exuberant celebrations should die Bullen end Bayern’s stranglehold on the title.

That is, unless if one is a RB Leipzig fan. They surely are awaiting their next game, where die Bullen are backed at at 10/11 to beat upcoming opponents Freiburg this Friday.

Wed 23 Nov, 2016
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