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Red Bull's Questionable Transfer Policy

Saturday 14th January 2017
With new signing Dayot Upamecano becoming the fourth player since August to sign for RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg, questions are again being asked of the relationship between the two clubs. Leipzig have paid Salzburg over 35 million euros in transfer fees this season and fans of the Austrian arm of Red Bull are beginning to get annoyed, but are they justified?

In the summer transfer window, with the Germans leaving his team devoid of three key players, Red Bull Salzburg manager, Oscar Garcia, described his club as a ‘feeder team to Leipzig'. He was echoing the feelings of many of the club's fans who have regularly watched players leave for East Germany since Red Bull made the move to Leipzig. All four players who have moved to Leipzig this season have been subject to offers from some of Europe's leading sides, including Bayern Munich, yet all have made the decision to join an unknown quantity in RB Leipzig. Many observers of the game have asked if these transfers are by the book and fair, but with money changing hands between the two sides, neither are breaking the rules.

Club development partnerships are not uncommon, Chelsea have one with Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem, and they are generally regarded as mutually beneficial. The partnership between the two Red Bull sides, however, has been called into question because it seems to be very one way. Leipzig seem happy to take all the best young talent from Austria, but it does not work the other way round even though Red Bull Salzburg had European football to offer this season.
European football may become an issue, however, with UEFA having a hard-line stance on this. As was touched upon above, money is still changing hands, however it must be noted that Red Bull seem to be paying Red Bull for these players. With the drinks company being majority shareholders in both clubs it would appear that the money is going in a circle. Sceptics would say that RB Leipzig are effectively paying themselves when buying players from Salzburg, and this is something UEFA are very hot on. Should both clubs qualify for Europe this season, which is looking increasingly likely, it could cause problems. UEFA rules state that one company cannot own more than one team in European competition, meaning that the team qualifying for the lesser competition (at this moment in time Salzburg) would not be allowed to play.

Red Bull also have an academy and team in Brazil, a hot spot for South American talent. Bernardo, the now Leipzig full-back, came through this academy. He has claimed that it was made clear to him from day one that his path to the riches of European football would be RB Leipzig via Salzburg. Channelling players through in this manner may seem morally wrong, but it is paying dividends for the Red Bull franchise.

The issue here, at the moment at least, appears to be a moral one rather than a breach of financial legislation. For player development I believe that the Red Bull model cannot be faulted, however how morally right is it for Leipzig to continually take Salzburg's top performers? Looking from a purely success driven point of view there is nothing wrong with the idea, but how long can Salzburg realistically sustain themselves whilst constantly having to rebuild and redevelop players year after year? The fact of the matter is that this model will not stop any time soon. Whilst Leipzig are performing so well, in a richer league with more potential and power, it is a simple business decision to supply them with the best tools, even if it kills the original Red Bull project in Salzburg.
Stephen Parkinson
23 year old Football fan, player and referee. Specialising in the Bundesliga since having lived in Leipzig for 2 years.

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