An analysis of Rangnick’s ’24 and under’ policy – comparing Leipzig, Salzburg and others

By Oliver Fisher -

Unless you’ve chosen to completely detach yourself from all matters at AC Milan recently (who could blame you), you’ll have probably seen that Ralf Rangnick is set to join in the summer.

Multiple outlets are now claiming that the German will take over from both Stefano Pioli and Ricky Massara, ensuing a role unprecedented in Italian football as a head coach and sporting director in one.

Currently, Rangnick holds the role as the Head of Football for Red Bull’s vast sporting empire, meaning he controls the recruitment of two upcoming European giants in RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg.

Recently, the staff interviewed Bild journalist Stefan Krause about what Rangnick would bring to the table, and he made an interesting point.

The most important thing in Rangnick’s philosophy is speed: fast players, fast football, fast success. In this way he led clubs such as Hannover, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig to the top,” he said.

I can certainly imagine that Rangnick will try to make the team younger also because he has never signed players over 24 years old. This is the philosophy and will continue to arrive in Milan. He is very good at discovering talented players and making them grow.

“An example is Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konatè: he took him on a free transfer from Sochaux in 2017 when nobody knew him and now he is one of the best central defenders in the Bundesliga. The dual role of sports director and coach is perfect for him.”

So, we thought we would take a look into what Krause is saying to try and understand the make-up of squad that Rangnick is actually looking for.

RB Leipzig

We begin with RB Leipzig, the flagship of the Red Bull fleet and a team that has found themselves in the midst of a Bundesliga title race despite having been in the third tier just four years ago.

As per transfermarkt, the Saxony-based club have a 29-man squad with an average age of 23.5 years old. Of those, 21 are foreign players (72.4%) and 15 of them play international football for their respective nations.

In addition, nine of their current squad are over the age of 24 at present, and only one player is over 30 – that being reserve goalkeeper Philipp Tschauner, currently on loan from Rangnick’s former club Hannover 96.

Ten of the 29 players are 21 or under, so overall it would be fair to say there is a strong balance of youthful exuberance and players currently in their prime years.

Red Bull Salzburg

Now we take a look at Salzburg, a team who coasted to the Austria Bundesliga title last season but this season find themselves in a tight race with LASK, with them currently sat six points ahead in first.

Again as per transfermarkt, Salzburg have a 25-man squad with an average age of 24 years old. Of those, 19 are foreign players (76%) and 12 of them play international football for their respective nations.

In terms of age, six of their current squad are over the age of 24 at present, with three players coming in at 30+. Again on of those is a back-up goalkeeper in Alexander Walke, the other being left-back Andreas Ulme – the club captain – and midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic.

Exactly the same as Leipzig, ten of the 29 players are 21 or under, with most of the youth situation in the forward department which lends to the idea of an intense press and fluidity in transition.

New York Red Bulls

Rangnick’s influences extend overseas, the Atlantic Ocean to be precise, and his influence can even be seen on the New York Red Bulls – currently top of the Eastern Conference in the MLS after one game.

As per transfermarkt, NYRB have a 26-man squad with an average age of 24.5 years old. They only have 11 foreign players (42.3%) – surprising given the globalised nature of Major League Soccer – and only 3 of them play for their national teams.

In the current squad, 11 players are over the age of 24, but only one is 30 or over: midfielder Marc Rzatkowski.

Six of the 26 players are 21 or under, and once again the team seems to move from older to younger from back to front.

Red Bull Bragatino

The latest addition to the energy drink’s sporting empire came in the form of Brazilian side Red Bull Bragatino, who in their first year under Red Bull (2019) got promoted into the top flight.

Given that Rangnick hasn’t had much time to influence the current squad, the signs are still there. The average age of the 28-man squad comes in at 25.2 years, but only one player is not Brazilian and they have no internationals at present.

Nine of those players are over the age of 24, with six of them 30 years old or over and only one of those a forward. Interestingly, they have six players on loan from other teams in the Red Bull network. Seven of the 28 players are 21 or under.

AC Milan

Just as a point of reference, it would be wrong not to include the team he will be potentially taking over at and the work he would have to do to get the squad more towards his usual dynamics.

The Rossoneri have a 24-man squad at present with the highest average age so far at 26.2, with 17 foreign players (70.8%) and 10 current internationals.

The number of players over 24 is also the highest yet as 14 of the Milan squad are beyond that age, although only five come in at 30+.

Finally, just two of the current squad members are 21 or under: defender Matteo Gabbia and forward Rafael Leao, both 20.

So, it appears that in the teams he has had time to work on, Rangnick prefers to stockpile talented young players in the midfield and attacking areas, which again feeds into his unique pressing style and the ‘8 second rule’.

Tags AC Milan Ralf Rangnick
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