The news that RB Leipzig has snapped up Paul Mitchell - the man credited with brokering Sadio Mane’s move from Salzburg to Southampton and Delle Ali’s arrival at Tottenham Hotspur - as its new Head of Recruitment and Development included a somewhat surprising footnote: RBL has also nabbed the New York Red Bulls Head of Scouting, Benjamin Ehresmann.
Benjamin Ehresmann (formerly of @NewYorkRedBulls) has also been named new chief scout, while René Grotus (previously Fortuna Düsseldorf) will take over from Frank Aehlig as sporting co-ordinator.— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) February 6, 2018
Ehresmann joined RBNY in September, 2017, having previously worked as Leipzig’s Head Video Analyst for Scouting. His arrival in New York was signaled by an official announcement including quotes from RBNY sporting director Denis Hamlett:
He has a great track record of identifying young, talented players, which fits into our club philosophy. We look forward to getting him up to speed to strengthen our scouting network.
And Ehresmann himself:
I would like to use my many years of experience to contribute to the success of the New York Red Bulls. As the head of scouting, I have the task to build up a professional scouting department and to work together very close with [sporting director] Denis Hamlett, [head coach] Jesse Marsch and the coaching staff, and also [academy director] David Longwell to find the best and most talented players.
And perhaps he is owed some share of the credit for the off-season arrival of Venezuelan teenager Cristian Casseres and multi-million-dollar signing (yet to be announced, but it’s coming - surely) Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra.
Whatever Ehresmann’s contribution to RBNY, he is making it no longer. The Red Bulls of New York confirmed their erstwhile Head of Scouting had returned to RB Leipzig.
The catalyst for this move would appear to largely be Leipzig sporting director (and Red Bull Global spiritual leader) Ralf Rangnick, who verbally torched his club’s player recruitment and development set-up just last week. Frustrated with RBL’s failure to find adequate replacements for injured players in the winter transfer window, Rangnick spoke of “urgently needed” changes to the team’s scouting arrangements, and said the club’s U-19 team was the worst he’d seen at Leipzig since he joined Red Bull.
Rangnick also announced his intention that RB Leipzig would seek to equip itself to “know every player in the world” - an ambitious project, but Rangnick’s entire tenure at Red Bull Global Soccer could be characterized as an ambitious project.
The first visible step toward knowing every player in the world would appear to be the senior appointments to the scouting and recruiting divisions announced today.
Has trying to fix Leipzig’s problems created a problem for RBNY? In the short-term, it’s hard to see how it hasn’t: the New York Red Bulls no longer have a head of scouting. In the longer-term, some will note that Ehresmann said his job at RBNY was to work with the club’s senior technical staff to “build up a professional scouting department”. It’s difficult to support the claim that this job was done in four months (Rangnick, after all, is essentially complaining he hasn’t quite managed to do it in six years at Leipzig - albeit with constantly shifting playing priorities) - nor does anyone appear to be making that claim - but maybe Ehresmann’s job has expanded more than it has changed completely.
RBL’s latest ambition is essentially to have a bona-fide global scouting network, and it certainly makes sense to pull in a former employee like Ehresmann who knows Leipzig’s set-up and has now had experience working in a different part of the world with RBNY. Perhaps the fact RBL wants someone with experience scouting for other parts of the RB Global Soccer family speaks to a renewed ambition to unify and coordinate scouting between RB clubs.
None of that speculation changes the fact that RBNY used to have a head of scouting and now needs to find a replacement. Rangnick’s big shake-up of scouting at Leipzig has already cost the Red Bulls in New York; we must wait to see if RBL’s latest restructuring delivers any benefits to RBNY over time.