Earlier this week, BigAppleSoccer.com's Kristian Dyer related an interesting story: Papa Red Bull (Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder and de facto owner of Red Bull GmbH) stayed up late in Austria to watch the New York Red Bulls play Toronto on Wednesday night (his Thursday morning).
Add that story to Jesse Marsch's comments to the Pitch Pass podcast about Mateschitz's enthusiasm for the team. Coordinated effort by RBNY to get the word out on Papa's love for his MLS team? Perhaps. But Marsch's Pitch Pass interview was in August, and Once A Metro caught wind of a rumor that Papa was in the habit of staying up late to watch RBNY before the Toronto game.
Which is to say: if there is some sort of PR effort to get the word out about Papa's infatuation with RBNY, it would seem to just be trying to amplify a message that has been seeping out for many months, and therefore feels authentic.
Papa loves us! Well, of course he does. RBNY is part of the Red Bull soccer family. And the whole family is now connected by the "red thread" Papa instructed Ralf Rangnick to use (initially) to pull his Salzburg and Leipzig teams together.
The same BAS article also reported the presence of Oliver Mintzlaff at RBNY training. Mintzlaff has been the head of Red Bull Global Soccer for something like 12 months (it was last October when Kurier was asking Papa to clarify the relationship between Mintzlaff and his predecessor in the role, Gerard Houllier - who retains a consulting connection with Papa's global soccer organization).
Dyer reports for BAS that "Mintzlaff has led the push for the Red Bulls to get younger and be less reliant on aging stars". Oh. So it is OliverBall we're playing at RBNY? MintzlaffBall? Maybe, MintziBall?
Not so fast. As is often mentioned, Mintzlaff's background is the business side of the sports industry. Prior to joining Red Bull, he was an agent. One of his clients? Ralf Rangnick.
As has been noted in the German media, Mintzlaff appears to have had the unusual privilege of being the man who negotiated Rangnick's first contract with Papa Red Bull back in 2012, and then being the man to negotiate Rangnick's contract extension (to 2019, announced earlier this year) on Papa's behalf.
If Red Bull's global soccer plans are truly long-term, then one day RalfBall will probably have to manage without Ralf. Rangnick is 57, still young enough to be a likely candidate for other jobs, before or after his current contract expires. It is likely he will move on at some stage.
What appears to be happening at Red Bull in Europe and within the Global soccer set-up is the appointment of younger coaches and executive staff who are well versed in Rangnick's methods and philosophy - which are now the foundation of Red Bull soccer's methods and philosophy.
Mintzlaff's relationship with Rangnick predates Red Bull: he was his agent; he is presumably someone Ralf knows well and trusts. The head coach at Salzburg, Peter Zeidler, was an assistant to Rangnick at Hoffenheim. Zeidler was promoted to his current position from managing FC Liefering, Salzburg's reserve team. His replacement at Liefering, Thomas Letsch, is an internal hire, having spent the previous three years of his career on Salzburg's technical staff.
More directly related to RBNY, the Global Soccer team was joined by Jochen Schneider recently. He was announced as "Coordinator Sport Global Soccer" (per Google Translate) back in late September (he officially started last week; hat tip to MetroFanatic.com commenter 123NYwins for spotting the news when it broke).
Schneider was originally reported to have responsibility for "coordinating" all four of Red Bull's global soccer sites: Leipzig, Salzburg, New York, and Sao Paulo (RB Brasil's base). Subsequently, however, it has been suggested he won't be working with Salzburg - which may be related to Papa's ongoing gentle effort to keep Leipzig and Salzburg sufficiently disentangled that it doesn't look fishy if they ever meet in European club competitions. Though Rotebrauseblogger.de, as close a follower of Red Bull soccer as you will find anywhere, suggests it may simply be the case that the Salzburg and Leipzig operations are already so close as to not really need any active coordinating.
What does a global soccer coordinator do? When Schneider's appointment was announced, Mintzlaff described the role as being intended to "better link the different locations together and continue our sustained way consistently." The job has also been described as tasked with developing synergies between the various outposts of Papa's soccer empire. Schneider sounds a lot like the man responsible for tightening the red thread that connects the Red Bull soccer family.
Rotebrauseblogger.de notes Schneider, in common with many of Red Bull soccer's core staff, can be assumed to be a Rangnick "confidant". The new Global Soccer Coordinator recently turned 45 and had spent 16 years working at VfB Stuttgart, where he held a number of senior executive roles. Most recently, he was the club's Sporting Director.
Stuttgart is a club that features prominently in Rangnick's career. He had three stints there between 1985 and 2001, intersecting with Helmut Gross, the man regarded as Rangnick's mentor and an important part of the brains trust now in charge of Red Bull soccer (a 2009 article on Spox.com identifies Rangnick, Gross and Zeidler as the "Der Think Tank in Hoffenheim"; Gross seems to follow Rangnick around).
Schneider started at Stuttgart in 1999, the same year Rangnick took over managing the first team - his first head coaching position at Germany's highest level (Stuttgart was a Bundesliga club at the time). Zeidler was attached to the Stuttgart second team from 1998 to 2000.
More pertinently and more recently, Stuttgart has connections to the current Red Bull set up. Joshua Kimmich is a 20-year-old midfielder who was transferred from Stuttgart to Bayern Munich this summer for a fee reported to be in the region of $8 million. He spent two seasons on loan with Leipzig prior to his transfer.
Current Stuttgart coach Alexander Zorniger may not be coaching there for much longer (he has got off to a terrible start to the season: Stuttgart is currently bottom of the Bundesliga), but moved to the club from Leipzig.
The "synergies" Schneider will be expected to generate may be along the lines of the Kimmich deal: identifying ways to get the most out of young talent, both on the pitch and in the transfer market. The man he is reporting to - Oliver Mintzlaff - has a presumed expertise in business. Schneider, an experienced sporting director, would seem to bring greater footballing knowledge to the Global Soccer operation, perhaps filling the gap left by Gerard Houllier's retreat from the front line of the organization.
Rangnick likes to raid his former clubs for technical and administrative talent. A couple of weeks ago, Bild reported Leipzig had snagged Hoffenheim's chief scout, raising the number of former Hoffenheim players and staff poached by Leipzig since Rangnick joined Red Bull to 10. And a Hoffenheim video analyst has recently joined Salzburg.
It is standard in soccer for coaches to surround themselves with colleagues they know and trust. Jesse Marsch has appointed old friends and colleagues from his Chicago Fire days to his technical team, for example. It is the scale of the appointments that makes what is happening at Red Bull remarkable: Red Bull is effectively staffing two clubs (Leipzig and Salzburg) and an overarching Global Soccer outfit with a team of trusted RalfBall lieutenants and disciples. If and when Ralf himself does move on to another position, it is unlikely it will be to an organization in need of quite so many people; the RalfBall philosophy will continue at Red Bull, if that is the desire.
What does this mean for RBNY? Well, a video analyst in Salzburg doesn't seem likely to have much impact in Harrison. But the use of an integrated scouting network makes a new scout in Leipzig potentially significant to RBNY. And those charged with running the Global Soccer operation - Mintzlaff primarily, now aided by Schneider - look very much like advocates of the RalfBall way, which is now the Red Bull way.
Mintzlaff turning up at RBNY is not new. Jason Ader mentioned his name back in January when talking about his relationship with (and interest in buying) the Red Bulls. But his presence in training this week is a reminder that RBNY is part of a larger project. Jochen Schneider's appointment is a signal that the project is getting more attention, not less. And now we know Papa is watching closely too.
The red thread is a little more visible than it used to be, and perhaps it will soon start drawing the clubs it strings together ever closer to each other.