When is a manager not a manager? Or, more accurately, how many managers does it take to manage RB Leipzig? The jokes almost write themselves for the Red Bull-infused club when they announced their new plan to replacing the departing Ralf Hasenhuttl with essentially three different men. However, in this era of managers disposed of like cheap paper and a race to hire the most well regarded, this ambitious succession plan may be ideal for other clubs, including Borussia Dortmund.
First, the details for those who missed the announcement during the World Cup celebrations. In chronological order, RB Leipzig announced it was replacing Hasenhuttl with Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann, the wunder-gaffer sought after by many major clubs. Here is the catch, however: his contract runs from 2019-2023. For the 2018/9 season, the club then announced that Ralf Rangnick would manage the club for the upcoming season. Yet the legendary coach would still retain his Sporting Director title. Seemingly to run the day-to-day managerial duties, the Red Bull footballing empire imported Jesse Marsch as an assistant. The American had managed New York Red Bull in MLS and is considered a future national team manager candidate.
Similar to a club signing a player to a pre-contract, Leipzig will be watching its future manager try to qualify for the Champions League, possibly at the expense of his sort-of employer. In the interim, their manager will be delegating duties to an assistant whose highest level of experience was a U.S. club side. Where certain duties will fall are unknown. For a club with such ambitious expectations, these moves are, to be kind, ambitious.
However, there is a certain genius in scheduling their managers. Nagelsmann is in demand, but Leipzig have proactively secured him for the near future. If he finds more success at Hoffenheim and receives a better offer from a larger club, Leipzig presumably would be compensated. For Nagelsmann, a poor season still means a position waiting for him in 2019. If the entire scheme fails, at least there are two men with head coaching experience signed in 2018/9 who could be extended, depending on whether the club opts for experience or youthful promise. The Red Bull football empire also gives one of its promising coaches European experience, so Marsch could slot into Salzburg or eventually Leipzig. In a way, Red Bull is preparing not just for 2019, but well beyond.
To create such a forward-looking situation, your club needs to have enough capital to essentially pay three managers as well as the resulting additional costs. This model is not for the majority of German clubs, but larger ones such as Dortmund should consider the model. Imagine Dortmund identifying in advance a young German manager maybe in 2.Bundesliga and, if the Board felt confident, signing him to a future contract or bringing him to Dortmund as a de facto manager under a veteran sporting director. With the thin margin of error in hiring the right manager for a club like Dortmund, gambling on the future with an ambitious present plan may be a model to consider.