Mon, 28 Sep 2020

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Julian Nagelsmann roared with laughter in his typical way after his side booked a place in the Champions League semifinal.

Of course, the eastern-German side is dreaming of the final, the coach of this season's biggest Champions League surprise commented after the underdog had outpaced the experienced favorites Atletico in the quarterfinals by 2-1.

"That is in the mind of every footballer getting to that stage," the 33-year-old added. "But we are far from announcing anything like that having to face a team like Paris and its stars," he emphasized. Leipzig is crossing swords with Neymar Junior and Kylian Mbappe next Tuesday evening in Lisbon.

Nagelsmann took the unexpected triumph on face value; another surprising chapter in the club's unusual story that took the side from the fifth division to the last four in Europe.

Within the space of 10 years, Leipzig has gone from the fifth division to the Bundesliga. The team has grown together as several players in the current squad were part of the team that made their way from the third to the first tier and then the international stage.

UNKNOWN PLAYERS

Mostly unknown performers such as Dayot Upamecano have developed to one of Europe's most promising central defenders, alongside Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann, who have been capped for Germany.

Since the club's founding in 2009, the strategy has been to sign mainly U-23 players.

RB's main target always has been to shape a team without big stars despite the enormous financial support of investor Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of an energy-drink manufacturer.

In 2017 midfielder Naby Keita joined Liverpool for 70 million euros. 2020 German international Timo Werner went for Chelsea for 50 million.

"Our current success is a team effort," Nagelsmann said after knocking out star coaches such as Jose Mourinho (Tottenham) and Diego Simeone (Atletico).

BRILLIANT COACHES

Ralf Rangnick and Nagelsmann have the biggest share in success. Rangnick was RB's architect from 2012 on as sports director and coach.

Nagelsmann lifted the side to an advanced international level after taking over as a coach in 2019.

Bavarian-born, he is the youngest coach to ever lead a team into the semifinal at an age of 33 and 21 days.

APPRENTICE MEETING TEACHER

Having to quit his career as a footballer at the age of 20 due to a knee injury Nagelsmann became Thomas Tuchel's assistant. In 2008, the current Paris coach was in charge of the Augsburg under-23 team.

Nagelsmann started scouting Tuchel's opponents. The Leipzig manager remembers his first job having to investigate details in the seventh division.

"I was highly nervous," he said. His first words to Tuchel tell the story.

"I told him; I am not sure if my expertise is what he is expecting."

Reports speak of him having handed in tons of written paper with a new passion in his heart.

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