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Bundesliga: Do RB Leipzig have any players left?

July 7, 2023

With Josko Gvardiol and Marcel Halstenberg reportedly set to follow Dominik Szoboszlai, Christopher Nkunku and Konrad Laimer out of the RB Leipzig door, director of sport Max Eberl has a big rebuilding job on his hands.

Cheering RB Leipzig players with trophy in front of fans
After winning the German Cup for the second time, RB Leipzig are facing a mass exodusImage: Jan Huebner/IMAGO

Of the 11 RB Leipzig players who started the German Cup final last month, four will no longer be at the club when the new campaign gets underway away at Bayer Leverkusen in August, leaving the RB sporting hierarchy facing a challenge to adequately replace key figures.

On Sunday, Liverpool confirmed the signing of Hungarian midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, RB's leading Bundesliga assist-provider last season, for €70m. The 22-year-old follows top-scorer Christopher Nkunku to the Premier League, the Frenchman having joined Chelsea in a €60m move.

A third Premier League departure is also on the cards, with Manchester City reportedly having offered €80-85m for Croatian centerback Josko Gvardiol — a figure RB would like to push towards €100m.

Austrian international Konrad Laimer's free transfer to Bayern Munich was one of the Bundesliga's worst kept secrets, while German left-back Marcel Halstenberg has also stated his desire to return to boyhood club Hannover 96 for private reasons. Less concrete rumors have seen out-of-favor striker Andre Silva linked with a move to Serie A.

Dominik Szoboszlai
Dominik Szoboszlai has joined Liverpool, one of several high-profile departures from RB LeipzigImage: motivio/IMAGO

Max Eberl: 'We're not unprepared'

While the selling spree is set to bring in over €200m in transfer fees, the caliber of the departures has left fans concerned about the ability of head coach Marco Rose's side to continue to compete.

After Rose replaced Domenico Tedesco after Matchday 5 last season, no other club racked up as many Bundesliga points as RB Leipzig, who top the table with 61 points, ahead of Bayern Munich (60) and Borussia Dortmund (59).

And so director of sport Max Eberl has moved to allay fears.

"I can understand the disappointment and the worries of the fans," he told the local Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. "No club, no official, no coach on this planet enjoys losing players of this quality. But we're not unprepared. I can promise that we will once again have a top class, exciting team.

"Even before my time here, RB Leipzig have always managed to compensate for high-profile departures, and that's what we're working on now with determination and conviction."

Indeed, in 2021, Leipzig lost captain Marcel Sabitzer, centerback Dayot Upamecano and head coach Julian Nagelsmann to Bayern Munich, plus Ibrahima Konate to Liverpool, the latter following in the footsteps of Naby Keita. Gvardiol and Silva were among the players who arrived in their place.

"We've already signed some very good lads and we'll get additional exciting players, too," continued Eberl.

RB Leipzig director of sport Max Eberl
RB Leipzig director of sport Max Eberl has a rebuilding job on his handsImage: Motivio/IMAGO

RB Leipzig transfer activity

In Christoph Baumgartner, RB have brought in an established Bundesliga attacking midfielder who has impressed in four seasons at Hoffenheim – although Nkunku and Szoboszlai have left huge boots to fill in that department.

Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing with French side RC Lens, who are holding out for up to €45m for Belgian striker Loïs Openda, who scored 21 goals last season as the Sang et Or finished second in Ligue 1.

But the two most high profile arrivals thus far have followed a well-trodden path, with Slovenian striker Benjamin Sesko and Austrian midfielder Nicolas Seiwald becoming the 19th and 20th players respectively to join Red Bull-backed RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg.

Back in 2017, when both teams qualified for Europe, UEFA declared that the two clubs were sufficiently separate from one and another to not infringe regulations preventing clubs with the same owner competing in the Champions League or Europa League. The transfer activity between the two, including the controversial case of Sabitzer in 2014, suggests otherwise, as do personnel links further up the hierarchy.

In 2019, former RB Leipzig head coach and sporting director Ralf Rangnick also held the role of Head of Sport and Development Soccer at Red Bull for a year, while former RB Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff left the club in November 2022 to join the three-man executive board at Red Bull.

RB Leipzig might need to compensate for a number of high-profile departures, but their position as the top of the food chain in Red Bull's multi-club ownership system puts them in a uniquely advantageous position to do so.

Edited by James Thorogood