‘Haaland knew that even if he played poorly he would play again’ – How Red Bull became the scout kings of Europe
A host of the continent’s best talent has come either through Leipzig or Salzburg, and now those who have made it are building their own projects.
Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane, Timo Werner, Dayot Upamecano, Naby Keita … the list of talents to come into the Red Bull system is long.
Whether a player makes his mark at RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg, New York Red Bulls or Red Bull Bragantino, what makes the system so unique is that each club has the same clear vision for their players.
Other clubs are forced to catch up on talent identification and scouting, and it’s no surprise that a host of former Red Bull squad staff are now working at other big clubs. .
From AC Milan to Chelsea, Monaco to Southampton, Red Bull’s fingerprints in terms of scouting and coaching can be found almost everywhere, and the same can be said of Eredivisie Vitesse’s outfit.
Johannes Spors, once head scout in Leipzig, is now the sporting director of the Dutch club and has brought a number of his former colleagues to work alongside him in Arnhem.
Spors, like so many coaches and sports directors across Europe, draws inspiration from Ralf Rangnick – the man nicknamed the “godfather” of modern German football.
Rangnick has made a name for himself as both manager and sporting director at Red Bull, and Spors now aim to put into practice what he has learned under the 62-year-old himself.
“Ralf is very clear in his style of play, with the coaches he has developed,” said Spors. Goal. “This is how his style spreads, when you see how many coaches in Germany and Europe have worked with him.
“There are also people like me who have different roles, and all of these people are convinced of that style of play. It’s a massive development and it’s important for football. At the end of the day, football is always a battle of ideas, the important thing is that it is only an idea.
“Ralf’s great strength is club building. He took me to Red Bull. [after working together at Hoffenheim] and because of him I went there. We went from the second division to the Champions League. We spotted and recruited all the players together, including Timo Werner, Upamecano and Naby Keita.
“I learned a lot from him thanks to very intense work. He’s always in charge and he wants a lot of everyone, but you can always trust that he does even more himself.
“It’s always putting philosophy first. It’s very important and it’s a big difference between Red Bull and other clubs. It’s a key factor for a successful club: trying to innovate in every department every season. “
Spors stepped into his role of Speed after signing both Werner and Upamecano for Leipzig – two players the Bundesliga title challengers have since sold for a total of € 95million (£ 84.5million / $ 111 million) at Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively. These signings followed an extended screening period before the club’s vision was presented to the player.
Similar processes are taking place at Salzburg, the club that persuaded a teenager Haaland to join Molde in 2019 before he emerged as the best young striker in world football.
“Timo Werner was one of the players we spotted, he had just been relegated to the second division with Stuttgart,” continued Spors. “Again, why did we decide to go for him? Because there was a clear strategy.
“There was a clear profile of his position in terms of where he fit into. That’s one of the qualities of good scouting: seeing the potential and having an environment ready for a player to grow.
“When recruiting young players, clubs in Germany can often be for the start of a career. It’s the same at Vitesse. I tell my players when we sign them here at Vitesse, I say in four years, we don’t want to be. I want you to take the next step, and I’ll take you there.
“The key for a young player is playing time. A young player needs playing time that is high enough for his development, but not too high, which is why Haaland is a very good example.
“I’m sure he was lucky enough to go straight to a big English club, but you need the base of your career between 17-20 to have top level matches, but not too much. exactly what Haaland had in Salzburg.
“He knew he would play and if he played badly he knew he would play again.
“I still remember when Upamecano came to Leipzig, the first two games where he was substituted at half time or before half time. He played against [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and received a yellow card, committed a second foul and [Ralph] Hasenhuttl had to replace him.
“He didn’t kill him for making a mistake or almost making a mistake. He brought him back right away, and then you see the development. It’s important to see the right level of playing time, that is. ‘is important.”
Now at Vitesse, Spors finds himself further down the football food chain, but with more responsibility.
Although famous in the UK for his multiple loans from Chelsea players, Speed is much more than that.
They want to develop through sustained European qualifying, although they understand that closing the gap with much richer sides such as Ajax is a challenge.
“Vitesse has given me a very good logical first step as a sporting director, because it is again an innovative environment,” adds Spors. “They were looking for a sporting director to implement a clear vision and strategy at the club, so I felt there was enough room for me to influence the club.
“After my career, that’s where I come from: putting the style of play and the philosophy first. This is what I learned from Ralf Rangnick at that time.
“They are an innovative club that wants to develop young players and as a whole. Europe is the goal. Europa League or Conference League, not the Champions League, if we are honest with ourselves.”
“When it comes to winning the league, honestly, it’s unrealistic. The budget difference between us and Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and even AZ Alkmaar is so huge. But we want to work for it. fill the gap.
“Of course you see this season, we are in the cup final and we are still in this competition to win it. In the league, you would have to work very hard to close that gap.”