What's Next for Ralf Rangnick and is Red Bull's Success Replicable?
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
The following has been edited and abbreviated for text. For more details and information, along with musical scoring and news clips, listen to the Football Today episode below.
When Ralf Rangnick took over as Sporting Director and manager of RB Leipzig in 2012 the club were in the 4th division of German football. Now the club are transformed. They have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League and are pushing Bayern Munich for the title.
However, a couple weeks ago German newspaper Bild reported that Rangnick, who is the Head of International Relations and Scouting at Red Bull, was set to join AC Milan as a manager and sporting director. This report was contradicted by La Gazzetta dello Sport who said last week that Milan wouldn't be hiring him based on his inexperience in Serie A.
Aside from the Bild report, are we even sure that Rangnick even wants to leave Red Bull and manage again?
The answer to that is a yes, according to Honigstein. He explains, "I think it's definitely true that there is interest. I know as much myself.
"I do know that Rangnick is open to going back into a more active role because right now he's he's a more slightly more administrative role." - Raphael Honigstein
"I think he was very flattered to be linked with the Bayern [Munich] managerial] job and there were negotiations, ultimately [it] didn't work out. I think he was quite open to listening to Premier League clubs who were interested. There was a big meeting between him and somebody from Man United. Ultimately, it didn't quite evolve into something more serious, but they did sit down talk a lot about the setup at Red Bull and possible lessons that could be learned etc."
In fact, this desire could date back to this summer because of what is happening at Red Bull. Says Marcotti, "there were rumors that they were going to divest themselves of their Major League Soccer franchise and at that point if you're Rangnick, all of a sudden you're just looking after two clubs. One of them, RB Leipzig, you used to coach and with a guy [Julian] Nagelsmann who's going to be what 31,32, huge personality and obviously wants more control. So maybe Rangnick needs a job."
So assuming Rangnick is looking for a new job, what does he need?
Rangnick and his Red Bull model is known for pressing and young players. When it comes to recruitment the policy is recruit players aged 17-23. So he needs a club with young players or one willing to invest in young players. "Technically, his philosophy is all about pressing," says Honigstein. "It doesn't sound very interesting or novel now, but it certainly was when he came through as a manager." These young players need to be pacey, athletic and able to play direct in order to maximize his pressing style.
The most important ingredient for his next job is control. He needs power, like the kind he has at Leipzig.
"I think he needs first of all a degree of control. I think it's very difficult for Ralf Rangnick just to be the coach.
I think he would find it very difficult for him to just be given a squad with very little input and to be told, 'now you coach the squad' because his whole approach is very holistic. He wants players that can fit the way he wants them to play. So the real work starts way before the squad is there."
Despite being extremely successful at Leipzig and previously with Hoffenheim and Schalke, Rangnick has never managed a big club or one outside of Germany. Why is that?
According to Honigstein, "what makes him strong and what makes him unique is also sometimes difficult as a USP because you need to find a club that is ready to say, 'okay, we're going to give him basically the keys to the house.' You can now for the next 2, 3, 4 years build this house, build this club from the ground up. I think by definition, clubs who are in need of that type of management, that all encompassing coaching and management, are either in real trouble which makes them less attractive for him or they don't quite have the the caliber and the stature that that would attract him to the job."
Marcotti believes the Red Bull model isn't as easy to replicate as it may appear.
"I think there's a bit of a dirty secret to the Red Bull model, which is that it's fun to watch and it works and then you know, the longer term players go out and go through, but it costs a lot of money to run. It is expensive, you need the capital. So it's not something that you're going to necessarily be able to do if you're a mid table side. If you try to go down that route and you get it wrong, you could find yourself stuck in a relegation battle very very quickly."
For bigger teams another issue arises. The model prioritizes young players and some who have failed elsewhere such as recent signing Patrik Schick. "So they're operating in a sphere where they're saying we can't go out and sign superstars but we're going to try to go for these value signings, trying to relaunch his career... and [big clubs] say what the hell is this? I'm all for value, but I can't afford to try to relaunch people's careers. I need to go and win now. They would rather look at it and say 'why don't I go and cherry pick some of the great players that they've produced.'"
So should a club this summer sign Rangnick? Yes according to Honigstein, "I think because his identity and his ideas are so well defined, and well refined as well after working 40 years in this business. Any club I think can benefit from his coaching, especially if he'll be given given the means for financially but also in terms of the authority to build a squad along those lines."
But what is clear it has to be the right club with the right ingredients. Listen to the full episode for a full explanation from Honigstein and Marcotti.