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RB Leipzig still winning despite selling their star players: Supercup success shows value of having a clear philosophy

With insight from Red Bull Soccer's technical director, Adam Bate explains how RB Leipzig are able to lose their best players but still bounce back to beat Bayern Munich in the Supercup. The players change but the philosophy remains the same…

Collective goaljubel after goal to 0-1 by Dani OLMO (Leipzig), jubilation, joy, enthusiasm, action. Lois OPENDA (L),Timo WERNER (L), Xaver SCHLAGER (L), Benjamin HENRICHS (L),Mohamed SIMAKAN (L), Nicolas SEIWALD (L). Football DFL Supercup 2023 / FC Bayern Munich - RB Leipzig 0-3 on August 12th, 2023 in Munich
Image: RB Leipzig made it three trophies in 15 months as they lifted the Supercup in Munich

Dani Olmo had spoken before the game of the need to build chemistry with his club's new signings. It was physics that he defied for the second of his three goals against Bayern Munich. An impossible pirouette before stabbing home to silence the crowd.

"I have scored a lot of beautiful goals but this goal will have a special place in my career, for sure," said a clearly delighted Olmo in the mixed zone afterwards. The best goal of his career so far? "Probably. In a stadium like this, the Allianz Arena. In a final."

On Harry Kane's big day, the Spain international was the star of the Supercup for RB Leipzig but he was not alone in making Bayern look ponderous in their play. Leipzig's players pressed the Bundesliga champions, full of energy, punishing them on transition.

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The best of the action from the Supercup as RB Leipzig defeated Bayern Munich

That may sound like typical Leipzig but there was uncertainty coming into this season. Josko Gvardiol, Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai all left for the Premier League this summer, three of the outstanding performers in the league let alone their team.

Crucially, Olmo remains.

"I feel important. We lost many important players but the players who came are really good, young and experienced with an ambition to win. That is very important for us. They work a lot. We worked together offensively and defensively. We played the perfect game."

Lois Openda has arrived from Lens and was particularly impressive. Nicolas Seiwald and Benjamin Sesko have been signed from sister club Red Bull Salzburg. Xavi Simons and Fabio Carvalho have come in on loan from Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool, respectively.

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The names change but the identity remains.

DFL Supercup 2023, FC Bayern Munich - RB Leipzig, 0: 3, Timo Werner, Willi Orban, RB Leipzig, RBL, Leipzig ,full figure, gesture, jubilation, trophy
Image: RB Leipzig stunned Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena to win the Supercup

For many in Germany, the name of RB Leipzig is still a dirty one. They object to their brazen circumvention of the regulations, buying and rebranding a fifth-tier team to help sell energy drinks. And yet, the irony, one few will accept, is that there is much to learn and admire too. It is a club whose philosophy sustains their success.

Mario Gomez, the former Bayern striker, is now the technical director for Red Bull Soccer, overseeing teams in Sao Paulo and New York as well as Leipzig. His floating role is not focused on the day-to-day running of these clubs. So what exactly is his job?

"To be sure that we are following our guidelines because if there are two teams you should always see which one is the Red Bull team," he says. "This is what we want. This is also how we are selecting players because we have profiles that we are looking for."

Gomez was in Sao Paulo to see Red Bull Bragantino dismantle Brazilian giants Flamengo 4-0 earlier this year. "It was like the perfect Red Bull game. We were pressing them, it was amazing. They were so annoyed by us that they were just kicking the ball long."

DFL Supercup 2023, FC Bayern Munich - RB Leipzig, 0: 3, President Herbert Hainer, FC Bayern Munich, Bayern, FCB, Munchen, Mario Gomez, in conversation
Image: Mario Gomez in conversation with Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer at the Supercup

Afterwards, he shared his joy with the Bragantino players. "I told the team the day after that it was the best performance by a Red Bull team in 2023. It was just amazing to see. This makes me happy because it shows that we are on the right way."

That Red Bull way was in full flow in Munich on Supercup weekend, the high tempo, the transition game, proving too much for Bayern. As long as teams try to play possession football paired with a high defensive line, there will be opportunities for it to flourish.

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"They like to play a lot with the ball," said Olmo. "We knew we had to press and to run." Alongside Simons and Openda, he did that. So devastating were Leipzig in their lightning breakaways that Gomez may well have a new favourite Red Bull game of 2023.

"In the Bundesliga, it is clear that with the team Bayern Munich has, the glamour, it is very difficult to say at the start of the season that we are going to challenge them," Gomez explains. "So we have to find other ways to be better than them. It is not easy."

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Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, those perennial giants of the German game, remain the favourites to contest the Bundesliga title. Bayern are trying to make it 12 in a row. "As you can see last season when Bayern were struggling, they were still the best team."

But in struggling to deal with Leipzig's transitions on the pitch, Thomas Tuchel's team showed that they are in transition off it. His predecessor Julian Nagelsmann had different ideas. There appears to be a lack of clarity among the players about the style of play.

This could be the key point of difference. Leipzig, a team that, on the face of it, is in continual flux as Europe's richest clubs swoop to sign their star players, are actually the more stable. A player like Openda can come in and seem right at home in their system.

"He had been there on the list of the scouts for months, maybe years, before he did this great season last season. Everybody knew him before," insists Gomez. "There are millions of good players. We have to see which ones could fit with the philosophy that we have."

Will it be enough to beat Bayern over 34 games rather than one? "If they do a great season, we have no chance, to be really honest," adds Gomez. "Our idea is to be there if Bayern are struggling again. When they struggle, Dortmund or us should be there."

That is Olmo's plan too. "That is why I stayed. To keep winning. It will be important to start good. You have to be consistent the whole year." In their own way, and for all the changes at the club, Leipzig have shown that they can be consistent for a lot longer than that.

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