Ralf Rangnick sat down with Thomas Berthold - the former Germany international who crossed paths with Rangnick at Stuttgart - and shared a few thoughts in an interview published by Deutsche Welle. And DW has even taken the time to translate the discussion into English, so no need for the intervention of Google Translate. In his chat with Berthold, Rangnick settles concerns that he might be approaching the end of his time with Red Bull soccer, and also provides some insight into how he characterizes the work being done at Leipzig:
We are very happy with our sponsor, but we never think for one minute about how we can sell more cans [of Red Bull]. What drives and motivates us is developing players. We are not a marketing tool.
Of course, Red Bull's soccer teams are a marketing tool. But to Rangnick's point: he isn't the marketing department of Red Bull GmbH. He is a soccer guy hired to do soccer things, as are all the sporting-side appointments across RB Global Soccer. It is unusual for a global beverage brand to have a soccer department, but there you are: Red Bull is unusual.
Rangnick has held a number of roles within Red Bull Global Soccer since joining the enterprise in 2012. He is currently Sporting Director at RB Leipzig, but his influence stretches across the entire RB soccer organization - most obviously reflected in a common playing style and youth-oriented transfer policy now in place at all Red Bull's clubs around the world.
Oliver Mintzlaff, the CEO of RB Leipzig and head of RB Global Soccer, recently described Rangnick as the "architect" and "sporty engine" of RBL's sudden rise to upper reaches of the Bundesliga table. That was with specific reference to Rangnick's contribution to Leipzig, but it applies more broadly - as New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch once admitted in an interview with Pitch Pass, calling Rangnick and his adviser Helmut Gross "the soccer minds behind the overall philosophy of what's trying to get done at Red Bull".
Ralf Rangnick's significance to all Red Bull soccer is why Once A Metro calls RBNY's current identity "RalfBall": it's Ralf's plan that New York's Red Bulls are trying to make work in the context of MLS. (Though, curiously since he was the one who pointed it out to us, Jesse Marsch is disinclined to embrace the nickname.)
Rangnick's contract at Leipzig is up in 2019. There is no particular reason to believe he is going anywhere, and Mintzlaff has repeatedly stated that losing his "sporty engine" is not a pressing concern. In remarks to Kicker back in early January, Mintzlaff said:
I'm not worried he's looking for another challenge, I'm sure he'll stay with us over 2019.
And he made a more nuanced point more recently in comments at the SPOBIS conference in Dusseldorf, as reported by Merkur, assuring the audience that he was confident both Rangnick and Leipzig head coach Ralph Hassenhuttl were happy in their work, but also noting, "Leipzig will continue to exist even without Mintzlaff, Rangnick, and Hassenhuttl".
For his part, Rangnick told Berthold that he was very happy with his current situation:
I really appreciate what I have here. And to be frank, it is just starting to be fun here. We are now sowing the seeds of the development work that we have done over the past four years. At the moment, I can't imagine anything coming along that would entice me away. We know from the Hoffenheim experience that now that it things are working, somebody like myself is needed to ensure that the things that affect the atmosphere around the club don't change.
He should be happy, by his own telling he is doing the job he told Papa Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, was the only one he'd do for RB Soccer. In an interview with Die Welt, Rangnick recalled the conversations that brought him into the Red Bull fold:
Mr. Mateschitz had actually contacted me then, because he wanted to win me as coach for Sazlburg. And I told him clearly that he cannot convince me with this idea, because I'm not going to Austria as a coach.
Two hours after that, Mateschitz had helicoptered in to make the chat face-to-face:
He wanted to know ...what I would change at Red Bull. I told him that I would create synergies. If you already have two clubs in Europe and several academies around the world, you have to structure and organize things so that all the sites benefit from it. For that was by no means the case at the time.
There has been steadily growing synergy at Red Bull Global Soccer since Rangnick's appointment as sporting director of Salzburg and Leipzig in 2012.
Given his influence (even Oliver Mintzlaff is a Rangnick-connected hire: he was Ralf's agent when the deal with Red Bull was negotiated; by the time there was need to discuss an extension, Mintzlaff had moved to RB's side of the table) succession planning for the 58-year-old Rangnick's exit is a concern for Leipzig in particular and RB Global Soccer in general. But it seems, for now, Red Bull's "engine" isn't going anywhere.
Indeed, his presence is still driving hiring decisions within RB Soccer. Mintzlaff is currently thought to have three jobs: head of RB Global Soccer, CEO of RB Leipzig, and currently acting managing director of the Bundesliga club. The latter role is one he is actively seeking to assign to someone else. In January, he told Kicker the search was proving difficult and there would be structural changes to RB Leipzig announced by the end of the month, though he expected to continue to carry his "triple load" to the end of the 2016-17 season.
At the SPOBIS conference in Dusseldorf, reports Merkur, Mintzlaff let slip that a solution had been found for the commercial side of RB Leipzig's affairs, but he was still seeking someone to take on a managerial role on the sporting side. The problem: "It is not so easy to find someone who is compatible with Rangnick."
For DW, Thomas Berthold reminded his old coach of some of the more eccentric restrictions he placed on players at Stuttgart, including rules on the types of car they could drive. Rangnick confirmed he has similar "guard rails" in place at Leipzig:
Here we have decided that the youngsters who don't have much experience with cars should not get cars that have the most horsepower, but instead normal, not particularly fancy automobiles. The players that are a bit older, between 21 and 24, may have a somewhat bigger car. And of course, the veterans may choose a large SUV. It's all about a certain modesty, that you don't have to purchase a big car as a status symbol right after you have signed your first big contract.
More modest salaries for young players in MLS make that a less relevant policy for RBNY, perhaps.
But the bigger picture considerations - playing style, transfer policy - come from the mind of a man who persuaded Dietrich Mateschitz to fly out to a Stuttgart suburb and toss him the keys to RB Global Soccer. And he seems happy enough to stick with the job he apparently created for himself at that meeting.
With what seems inevitable change coming to RBNY's front office - sporting director Ali Curtis' departure from the club would seem to be a fact just waiting for a statement to confirm it - maybe it is some small comfort to fans in New York to know that the larger organization of which the MLS Red Bulls are a part is still enjoying relative stability and commitment to the path chosen for it by Ralf Rangnick.