FIFA U-17 WC: RB Leipzig, the German supply line

At the ongoing mega event, Germany has four players in its squad who are from Leipzig — Elias Abouchabaka, Nicolas Kuehn, Erik Majetschak and Kilian Ludewig, who flew back owing to an injury.

Elias Abouchabaka, a gifted left-footed No. 10 who has drawn comparisons with Mesut Ozil, is also from Leipzig.   -  PRASHANT NAKWE

 

When RB Leipzig was promoted to the German top flight in 2016, there was much consternation. Bankrolled by Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, the club was seen as an affront to the famed German system which mandated that club members — and by extension fans — should control the club and not millionaire investors.

Since then, Leipzig has shown that its heart may lie in the right place. For all its wealth, the club's policy is one that focuses on youth. At the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup, Germany has four players in its squad who are from Leipzig.

Read: The Indian hand behind Niger’s rise

Elias Abouchabaka, a gifted left-footed No. 10 who has drawn comparisons with Mesut Ozil, the silky Nicolas Kuehn and skipper Erik Majetschak are all from Leipzig. The fourth, Kilian Ludewig, flew back owing to an injury, but it still leaves Leipzig with the largest contingent.

At the senior level, Timo Werner, who might finally fill the void left by Miroslav Klose, and Joshua Kimmich, the prodigious Bayern Munich defender, both emerged from Leipzig.

“I consider Leipzig's to be a very good youth system,” said Germany coach Christian Wueck. “They develop players who are very technical, fast and strong. Normally I also have three or four from Bayern (Munich). But Leipzig is doing great work and it is up there with the best.”

A single club providing a cluster of players isn't new. Real Madrid has five and Barcelona, four players in the Spanish U-17 team. Five of the English players are from Chelsea.

“Our aim is always to develop the players for the 'A' team (seniors),” explained Wueck. “We start with the under-15. We work in such a way that in five to six years, they can play for Joachim Löw (German manager).”

Like the Holland of Johan Cruyff, the whole of Germany seems to be in agreement on the kind of football that should be played — a high pressing game involving rapid transitions. A German fan, who has considerable stake in his hometown club, is also the one who wants to see his national team succeed.

This perhaps explains Germany's outstanding record this year. A young squad with as many as eight U-21 players won the Confederations Cup and a second string U-21 team won the Euros. Germany may yet fall short in India, but the supply line, comprising the likes of Abouchabaka, Kuhn and Jann-Fiete Arp, looks never ending.

As Simon Kuper, the Dutch football expert remarked recently, “At a time when the Dutch have stopped thinking, Germany is playing the best Dutch football.”