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German Bundesliga

The Red Bull Dilemma



RB Leipzig aren’t a team that gets mentioned on a day-to-day basis (unless you’re stuck in the deep realms of a football manager challenge forum), but day-by-day, seem to be gaining a reputation of a club on the up. Formerly SSV Markranstradt sitting in the basement of German football, 5th tier football wasn’t the plan for the new owners, Red Bull. Red Bull stated when they came in that within 10 years, they should be competing within the Bundesliga, challenging for a position that even Dortmund have failed to do so this year in reaching the Champions League.

Long story short, Leipzig have followed suit on the aforementioned Red Bull guidelines and hurtled like a madman to get just short of the golden chalice that is the Bundesliga. With four promotions within the last six years, the club have not only raised eyebrows over the nation, but are now tapping on the shoulder of giants.

Obviously clubs around them and teams still in the lower leagues aren’t happy with the way that Leipzig are going about things. “50+1” rulings are the law in Germany, meaning no club can be owned by parent investors holding majority rights where that investor has substantial links to a stock company, so no John W Henry or Roman Abramovich. The reasoning behind this is that it gives the leagues and the Football Association with a nice warm, fuzzy glow in regards to it being community run club just as Germany like to promote. But there are ways around it, Leverkusen are run by Bayer, a well-known pharmaceutical company, Wolfsburg are VW owned and Audi/Adidas have shares in Bayern Munich but are principally ran by “members of a committee”. Ironically, RB doesn’t even stand for Red Bull, it stands for Rasenballensport, which translates into “lawn ball sports”, which is obviously the way around not being able to name them after a commercial company.

Given that they sit on the precipice of the Bundesliga and the ideology of competing with the big boys of German football, they are making a strong case for reaching that sooner rather than later. An €8m purchase of David Selke, one of the up and coming talents of German football is a rather big eye opener. Not that he’s the only one. Nukan from Besiktas for €5m and have made big dents in the under-17 and 19’s campaigns in the last two seasons, alongside a manager with an excellent reputation in the footballing world in Ralf Rangnick, you could see them achieving to what they set out to do.

But could English football possibly be more reluctant to say no to a major player like Red Bull? Should they come along and sweep away a club, changing its crest, colours and half time drink choice. We’ve seen signs of it already, although just once (which for plenty, including myself, is more than enough), with MK Dons and Wimbledon. MK Dons adopted the idea of moving a club from the centre of London, 56 miles north to an outpost in Milton Keynes in the stead of the recently relegated Wimbledon. With the backing of the board of Wimbledon, Peter Winkleman with the help of retail partners in Asda and Ikea, bought the rights and relocated the club, changed name and saw Wimbledon’s history null and void. With this came fury. Understandably from Wimbledon fans, but more-so the footballing community as a whole, and saw the rise of AFC Wimbledon, which like the beautiful tale of FC United, undertook a promotion charge and now see themselves apart of the professional footballing league.

Stadium:mk, home of the relocated MK Dons

Stadium:mk, home of the relocated MK Dons

This has happened before in another league when Red Bull’s bus came into town. In sleepy Austria, SV Casino Salzburg were bought and rebranded in an unrelenting takeover, in which the club’s history was evaporated and a new club born. The fan base was torn and those that pledged their loyalty to the “violet whites” saw them re-register the club’s name and emblem (in which they got their club’s birth name in SV Austria Salzburg). But again, as on most occasions, they had to do it from the basement league of Austrian football. I don’t like to use the word “fairytale” or “narrative” in football, but these tales are worthwhile. In the 10 years since the dissolution of the Salzburg one into two teams, the violette have hit heights that sit along the same lines of what RB Leipzig’s current situation in just below the top league.

When looking at the possibility of an English Red Bull team, we need to look into the demographics and location that Red Bull seek out in a team. Size of the city seems to be a common theme, having teams in Sao Paolo (14th most popular in Brazil), New York (one of the biggest American states), Salzburg (one of the largest metropolitan and historical sites in Austria) and lastly Leipzig which is 100 miles south of Berlin. Any team in London is likely tug at Red Bull’s attention and equally any side that remains close in proximity and sits either in the Premiership or Championship has a good shout. If Milton Keynes was open to another takeover, they’d be as good a shout as any for a Red Bull takeover, given the city’s size and links to London. Maybe I’m just being slightly biased against the Dons, but that would pretty the funniest reactions to since “winkgate”.

Murmurings of takeovers at Leeds and my hometown team Notts County in previous years, with Leeds fans probably now more accepting of the idea than their current Italian overlord, have left English teams waiting to see if and when Red Bull make the plunge into English football. In April, a formal offer was made to Leeds United, but the lack of progress leads to the assumption that the offer is now off the table. Such takeovers seems to tear teams and their fanbase in two, whether they build a new team from the foundations or continue following a club that’s history will be wiped for a new beginning. The most obvious dilemma that arises from this scenario is the growth of the English league and sponsorship of pretty much anything that can house a brand. Whilst German and Austrian authorities largely maintain a consensus against commercialism in football, whether that consensus could be built England is a different kettle of fish altogether.

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Borussia Dortmund

Three talking points as Tottenham secured top spot with a Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund



Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham ensured that they progressed to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group H winners after coming from behind to see off Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Tuesday night.

Dortmund – who were reliant on Real Madrid dropping points at Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia in the evening’s other fixture to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16 – took the early advantage when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished smartly from Andriy Yarmolenko’s clever flick.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side nearly crafted an equaliser before the break, only for both Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier to be denied in the space of a few minutes after superb work by ‘keeper Roman Burki.

But it didn’t take long for the visitors to draw level in the second-half, with Harry Kane afforded too much space on the edge of the box as he arrowed an effort into the corner with his first real chance.

Son Heung-min’s effort 15 minutes from time, a fine curling finish after tenacious work from Dele Alli, then sealed the turnaround and condemned the hosts to a shock early Champions League exit.

Tottenham bounce back after derby disappointment

After Saturday’s harrowing and disappointing defeat to old foes Arsenal, manager Mauricio Pochettino summed up Tuesday’s performance perfectly by labelling it as the ‘perfect reaction’.

It is hard to disagree with the Argentinian either, with his side displaying far more grit, determination and character at the Westfalenstadion to forget about their Premier League defeat and come from behind to beat a strong Borussia Dortmund outfit, securing their surprise status as Group H winners.

It seemed like they were suffering a North London derby hangover of sorts when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired the hosts in front on the half-hour mark, but Spurs dug deep and showed that they are aiming to do more than just make up the numbers in the Champions League this campaign.

All of a sudden they burst into life after the break, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli – who were both anonymous at the Gunners – getting involved more and causing problems for a tiring home defence.

It was the former who levelled things up when Kane’s neat low drive found the back of the net, signalling his sixth Champions League goal in five appearances this season, whilst Alli was influential in assisting both goals, seeing off two Dortmund defenders before laying off to Son Heung-min for his winner.

It wasn’t a match that needed to be won, considering Tottenham had already secured their safe passage into the knock-out stages, but the manner of victory will no doubt send out a message across Europe.

Dortmund’s decline ends in Champions League exit

Yet, whilst Tottenham will be buoyant and nervously await the draw for the last 16 next month, Borussia Dortmund will be reflecting on where things went wrong after a dismal European outing this season.

Despite having a number of world-class individuals in their ranks – Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, the young Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze and the injured Marco Reus are all part of the squad at the disposal of manager Peter Bosz – it’s been a stuttering season both in Europe and domestically too.

Their inability to beat Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia across two matches all-but put an end to any aspirations of knock-out football, and it seems that the Europa League will now be their next destination.

Add this to their woeful Bundesliga form of late, losing four of their last five matches and drawing the other one to leave them nine points adrift of the top of the table, and warning signs are now flashing.

It’s all a stark contrast to 2013, the year that the German side fell narrowly short in the Champions League final, and it’s clear for all to see that something is fundamentally not right just four years on.

The fact that Aubameyang – who was left out of the Dortmund squad for their Bundesliga defeat at Stuttgart last week after being sanctioned by Bosz – barely celebrated a sublime goal tells its own story of the club’s affairs, and it seems that the head coach could be walking on a very fine tightrope.

Pochettino’s conundrum after Aurier impresses

One thing that was clear from Pochettino’s team selection on Tuesday, other than the clear fact that he was looking for a quick response to the Arsenal defeat by selecting a strong side, was that summer signing Serge Aurier seems to be the preferred right-back option for the Champions League this season.

The £24 million man may have garnered a reputation for being a bit erratic but, contrary to some of his rash moments this season, he played with an element of maturity and care on Tuesday evening.

He certainly warranted his selection at Dortmund, always offering an outlet on the right-wing and constantly finding himself with a wealth of space to run into behind their captain Marcel Schmelzer.

Aurier’s delivery was generally accurate too, forcing the Dortmund defence into last-ditch blocks inside their own area with Kane lurking, whilst he kept things compact alongside Davinson Sanchez at the back.

It would no doubt have hurt the Ivorian to have been omitted from the side for the mightily impressive win over Real Madrid after playing in Tottenham’s opening three European matches, but on Tuesday’s showing he’s laid down a marker for rival Kieran Trippier ahead of the knock-out stages.

Considering the question marks hanging over the head of boss Pochettino about whether Kyle Walker could be replaced it’s certainly not a bad dilemma to have, and a bit of healthy competition between two viable wide options could prove key for Tottenham as the season goes on.

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Borussia Dortmund

Analysing Tottenham striker Harry Kane’s two-goal heroics against Borussia Dortmund

Rob Meech



Harry Kane

Much had been written about Harry Kane’s barren August, in which he failed to score. However, the drought is well and truly over now September has arrived. Since finding the net for England during the international break, the 24-year-old has rediscovered his scoring boots in spectacular fashion.

His brace against Borussia Dortmund in Tottenham Hotspur’s opening Champions League Group H clash was as impressive as it was timely, providing his side with the perfect start to their European adventure and banishing the Wembley Stadium hoodoo.

It’s no secret that Tottenham are heavily reliant on Kane (perhaps overly so) to be their chief attacking threat, but he rarely lets them down. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that his star man is back to his best.

The England striker had a hand in all three of their goals against Dortmund, setting up Son Heung-min for the first before netting either side of half-time to ensure Spurs sent home their supporters happy.

Both goals underlined Kane’s natural ability as a finisher, which has earned him the Premier League’s Golden Boot trophy in the previous two seasons. His first was a carbon copy of Son’s, cutting in from the left and unleashing a rasping drive that beat Roman Burki at his near post.

Perhaps the Dortmund keeper’s positioning was questionable, but such was the power and pinpoint accuracy of Kane’s strike that it would have taken some stopping wherever he had been stationed.

Although Dortmund looked vulnerable at the back, their attacking prowess had caused Spurs problems all night and a 2-1 lead seemed precarious. So Kane’s second of the night was mightily important because it effectively killed off the game.

After being put through by Cristian Eriksen, Kane still had work to do to create enough space to get his shot away. Once again, the accuracy was such that it left Burki with little chance of preventing it from nestling in the back of the net.

Kane could have completed his hat-trick before he was substituted to a rapturous reception from the Wembley faithful, but the damage had been done. Everyone knows Kane likes to shoot from all areas of the pitch, but opponents seem powerless to stop him.

His two goals from four efforts – as well as an assist – represented an excellent night’s work for a man who has grown in stature to become one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Kane will remain fundamental to Spurs’ hopes of honours this season, both domestically and in Europe.

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Borussia Dortmund

“The Wembley curse is over” – Three things learnt from Tottenham 3-1 Borussia Dortmund



Harry Kane

Tottenham may face a tough Champions League group including Real Madrid and APOEL alongside Borussia Dortmund, but they could not have gotten off to a better start than with a 3-1 home victory over the Germans.

Son Heung-Min raced clear in the opening minutes to give Mauricio Pochettino’s side the lead, but that lead was quickly pegged back after Andriy Yarmolenko looped an effort over Hugo Lloris and into the corner of the net.

That sparked Harry Kane to life, shrugging off two challenges before firing the ball into the back of the net for a third goal inside 15 minutes. After that the game calmed down as Kane’s second goal midway through the second half put the tie to bed.

A late sending off for Jan Vertonghen, who saw a second yellow for a flailing arm, marred things slightly but Spurs still got off to a dream start at Wembley on Wednesday night.

Here are three things that The Boot Room learnt from the game…

The Wembley curse is over

The tag of a Wembley curse has dogged Tottenham at the start of this season, not helped by defeat to Chelsea and a draw with Burnley, but there is no more emphatic way to put an end to such concerns than by wiping the floor with a difficult Champions League opponent.

Tottenham got off to a dream start through Son Heung-Min and even after conceding an equaliser they reacted well to rapidly re-take the lead. Such a win will give a huge confidence boost and Spurs fans will hope that it will remove any Wembley hoodoo too.

Dortmund continue to disappoint

Gone are the days when Borussia Dortmund were a force to be reckoned with in Europe under Jurgen Klopp, but their performances at Europe’s most elite level have been underwhelming for some time. At Wembley, they once again failed to deceive.

For all their possession and time on the ball in the Tottenham half, they failed to create many clear cut chances, with even their goal coming courtesy of an inspired strike from distance. Defensively they were poor too, with Tottenham scything the back four apart on the counter attack. Mauricio Pochettino will be confident of qualifying from a tough group on the back of that display.

Fernando Llorente offers an entirely different option

He may only have got a few minutes, but right from the off it was clear that the Spaniard’s introduction for Harry Kane would give Tottenham a different dimension in attack. Spurs immediately went for a more direct style with Llorente giving a real focal point in attack.

It’s likely that Llorente will have to wait until the Carabao Cup clash with Barnsley next week for his first start in Tottenham colours, but such aerial presence and power could come in handy against sides like his former team Swansea, who his new club face this weekend.

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