Red Bull Salzburg have built a reputation as a talent factory ahead of Champions League clash


Bayern Munich will be familiar with this evening’s Champions League opponents Red Bull Salzburg. Any club with a scouting department worth their salt would be.

The Austrian outfit have made a habit of producing some of the top prospects to grace the game in recent years, a steady conveyor belt has moved some of the world’s best talent from the club’s academy, into the Red Bull Arena and then beyond into Europe’s biggest leagues.

It is a process that is working for Salzburg. Despite losing their best players season on season to astronomical bids from Premier League and Bundesliga sides, the flow of talent at the other end is more than enough to replenish their stocks.

Red Bull Salzburg will play their first Champions League knockout stage clash on Wednesday

Domestically, they are aiming for a ninth consecutive title. They’re on course for that, too. Their setup has also seen their performance in Europe improve. This is their first appearance in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Progress is being made.

It is remarkable that a side that has lost the likes of Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Erling Haaland over the past few years can continue to move forward. They are the types of losses that would debilitate even the continent’s biggest sides.

But they barely make a ripple at Salzburg, where there is a view and a focus on the long term. Already, the club will be making plans for the departure of Karim Adeyemi – the side’s current crown jewel.

Picked up from Unterhaching, a German club on the outskirts of Munich, the 20-year-old is already a full Germany international following his form in the Austrian Bundesliga.

Karim Adeyemi has starred all season for Slazburg and is attracting a lot of interest in Europe

Karim Adeyemi has starred all season for Slazburg and is attracting a lot of interest in Europe

He needs no introduction to Bayern having been on their books as a young kid before being released.

Instead, he has been left to find his feet in Austria. In 79 appearances in all competitions for Salzburg, he has scored 28 times. Eighteen of those have come this season alone.

It is his current form that persuaded former Bayern boss Hansi Flick to hand him his national team debut in September at just 19. He marked his 18-minute cameo against Armenia with a goal.

It is not purely the national team that have taken an interest in him. It is a foregone conclusion that Adeyemi will leave Salzburg this summer. Borussia Dortmund are pushing hardest for his signature.

That is due to the fact they are likely to be losing another Salzburg product, with Erling Haaland set to make his decision on where to carry on his career as the most feared striker in Europe. Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are all options – options that will one day likely be available to Adeyemi, too.

Erling Haaland is just one example of the stars that have come off the Salzburg production line

Erling Haaland is just one example of the stars that have come off the Salzburg production line

Money talks, and Salzburg have accrued a lot of it in transfer funds. Last year it was calculated that the club had earned a staggering €218million (£183m) in transfer fees over a five year period. Of teams in the Champions League, only Ajax and Benfica could boast more.

While deals for the likes of Dominik Szoboszlai to RB Leipzig demonstrate the historic trend of personel moving between the two Red Bull affiliated teams, moves for Patson Daka to Leicester and Enock Mwepu to Brighton show others are taking note.

It is a telling illustration of just how powerful the Salzburg academy – and the talent it produces – is.

The training complex opened in 2014, and brought with it a number of innovations that at the time were groundbreaking. 

The Soccerbot 360 was installed, a piece of equipment that test players ability to react and pick out passes in an immersive situation. Players can be transported back to a point in any previous match using technology, allowing them to directly learn from previous mistakes. It is a tool that has only just made its way to England this year, with Norwich City becoming the first Premier League club to install the machine.

Nothing is left to chance at the Red Bull Academy – which hosts 200 players from seven countries supported by 120 staff – with infra-red cameras calculating the exact power a player is generating when lifting weights in the gym area.

There is also a ‘moonwalker’ – a machine originally designed to aid astronauts adjust to zero gravity, it has been adapted to help players recover more quickly from injury and return to running much sooner than would ordinarily be anticipated.

The Red Bull Academy hosts 200 players from seven countries supported by 120 staff

The Red Bull Academy hosts 200 players from seven countries supported by 120 staff

These elements make it the perfect breeding ground for young talent. It also makes it a perfect location for coaches to learn their trade.

All bar one of the head coaches to have taken charge of Salzburg in the past decade are still in a managerial role across Europe. Marco Rose is currently managing Borussia Dortmund, while Roger Schmidt is currently in charge at PSV Eindhoven. The exception is Jesse Marsch, the American who followed the well-trodden path from Salzburg to Leipzig. He is currently on a shortlist at Leeds should Marcelo Bielsa not renew his contract this summer.

Getting to know your way around the Red Bull operation is part and parcel of any role within the group. Current boss Matthias Jaissle began his coaching career in the youth set up at Leipzig, before taking on his first head coach role at FC Liefering in 2021 – a club that is part of the Red Bull family, playing in the second tier of Austrian football. It is a club that is often used as a finishing school for Salzburg – with the likes of Adeyemi having spent time on loan there in the past.

Matthias Jaissle is the latest to take the Red Bull Salzburg hotseat having come from Liefering

Matthias Jaissle is the latest to take the Red Bull Salzburg hotseat having come from Liefering

Jaissle has the club firing once again domestically, having taken over from Marsch. It is an important few weeks for Salzburg, who face second-placed Wolfsberger in the league and the Austrian Cup in the next two weeks.

No thoughts are straying further than tonight though, as the club prepare for the biggest game in their history. There will be familiar faces on the opposite side – Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer are among those who have flown the Red Bull nest to have landed in Munich.

As has always been the case, Salzburg won’t begrudge the next batch a chance to spread their wings and leave this summer. Especially if they can make a name for themselves tonight.



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