RB Leipzig and Milan are two vastly different clubs.
One is a young, some would say, artificial club, backed by a conglomerate. The criticisms of some of the ways in which RB Leipzig act, such as finding a controversial loophole in Germany’s 50+1 rule, are warranted, but it’s difficult not to admire what the club have achieved and the way in which they’ve achieved it on the pitch
RB Leipzig have risen from the fifth division to Bundesliga title contenders within the space of a decade and yes, this was achieved partly through outspending some of their rivals. But the club have a clear and effective philosophy, opting to buy and develop youth talent as opposed to splashing the cash on proven stars. It’s a very positive way to run a club and it’s yielded them great results so far.
Milan, on the other hand, are an historical and highly decorated club, one of the best supported in the world. The heyday of their success, under the ownership of Silvio Berlusconi from the 80s to the early 2010s, is now long over, with the Milan of recent times characterised by on-the pitch mediocrity and off-the-pitch instability. A supposedly elite club who haven’t qualified for the Champions League in nearly seven years, and whose player and managerial recruitment have been a joke.
Compare that to RB Leipzig, who’ve signed the likes of Timo Werner and Marcel Sabitzer for far less than what they are worth now and managed to appoint Julian Nagelsmann, a promising, innovative coach that has made Die Roten Bullen into a genuine threat to Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga dominance.
The architect of all this success is Ralf Rangnick, who was with RB Leipzig – both as sporting director and occasional manager – from 2012-2019, helping them ascend from the fourth division to the Champions League.
Rangnick is a coach respected across Europe, having also had successful managerial spells at the likes of Hannover, Hoffenheim and Schalke. He led Hannover back into the German top-flight after thirteen years, Hoffenheim from the third division to the Bundesliga and Schalke to the Champions League semi-finals (thrashing Inter the process).
He’s someone renowned for discovering and then developing youth talent and believes that clubs should follow the three K’s (Kapital, Konzept and Kompetenz (capital, concept and competence) for success. Capital, of course, refers to a club having enough financial resources to facilitate this success, concept refers to a club having a clear footballing philosophy and competence refers to ensuring a club is run efficiently. Looking at RB Leipzig, this model is clear for all to see and has paid dividends.
When Rangnick was first linked to Milan, it was a sign that the club were finally moving in a positive direction. Their managerial appointments over the last seven years, a mixture of Serie A journeymen and club legends, was a sign that the club had no real plan or philosophy. In other words, they seriously lacked ‘concept’. As for competence, Milan lack that too, having been through three sets of owners and countless technical directors.
Rangnick will reportedly be given absolute power over the playing side of things at Milan, with him not only being linked to the club as a coach, but also as sporting director, giving him total control over transfers and the style of play. This is a sign that the Milan owners, quite justifiably, have complete faith in his ability to turn things around at San Siro and that they believe that his methods are the best way to give the club the stability and future success it so badly needs.
If I Rossoneri do pull this off, it will be an incredibly shrewd appointment and an indication that their years of stagnation and mediocrity will soon be over. This is dependent on whether the Milan owners back him in the transfer market, of course. Rangnick will bring concept and a degree of competence back to the club, but it will be up the owners to provide him with enough capital to ensure he can bring in players that suit his successful footballing philosophy.