Manchester United have appointed Ralf Rangnick as their interim manager and their supporters will be hoping for some inspired moves in the transfer market.
United have established a reputation for making wasteful signings but Rangick has demonstrated an incredible eye for a player throughout his time as a manager and technical director of the Red Bull clubs and even before that at Schalke.
We’ve compiled an XI of players Rangnick signed or discovered during his career to date, lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
GK: Manuel Neuer
Neuer was already at Schalke when Rangnick arrived in 2004 but he was promoted to the senior team under him for the 2005-06 season.
He may not have made any first-team appearances during Rangnick’s first spell but he helped guide the Gelsenkirchen-based side to the Champions League semis under Rangnick in 2011 – and it was the first indication that the future United boss had an eye for young talent.
And, as we all know, Neuer went on to become one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and basically reinvented the role of sweeper-keeper that is so commonplace among elite sides today.
Safe to say that Rangnick got this one right.
RB: Joshua Kimmich
Perhaps Rangnick’s greatest ever bargain was the signing of an 18-year-old Kimmich, who joined Leipzig from Stuttgart for €500,000 in 2013.
Stuttgart included a buy-back clause in the deal and used this to sell him to Bayern Munich for a fee of €7m – having resigned Kimmich for just €750,000.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Rangnick said. “He came to us and within two years has become a regular for Bayern and Germany.”
Six Bundesliga titles and one Champions League medal later, Kimmich’s market value is now listed on Transfermarkt as £81m and is widely regarded as one of the best full-backs in world football.
CB: Ibrahima Konate
Journalist Guido Schafer told the Liverpool Echo in 2021: “Jurgen Klopp asked Ralf Rangnick a couple of years ago: ‘Who is the better player: Dayot Upamecano or Konate?”
“Rangnick told Jurgen: ‘When you are able to buy both, buy both’”.
Klopp took part of his advice and signed Konate in the summer of 2021 – and the centre-back has instantly slotted into Liverpool’s backline.
And, after becoming one of Europe’s most sought-after centre-backs at Leipzig, it’s further evidence of Rangnick’s keen eye for a player.
CB: Dayot Upamecano
Salzburg, Leipzig, Bayern Munich – Upamecano’s path has become a familiar one under Rangnick’s watchful eye and he was incredibly coveted before moving to the German champions this summer.
Some United fans will be hoping Rangnick identifies a replacement for the club’s current crop of centre-backs.
LB: David Alaba
Yes, Alaba was only a loan signing – but we make the rules around here.
He may have developed into one of the leading defenders of his generation, first at Bayern Munich and now with Real Madrid, but Alaba was only a teenager when Rangnick borrowed him for Hoffenheim back in 2011.
It was during this time that the Austria international scored his first Bundesliga goal and helped Hoffenheim to a mid-table finish.
United fans may be hoping Rangnick makes inspired loan signings like these in the upcoming January transfer window.
✅ Play at left-back
✅ Play at centre-back
✅ Play in midfield
✅ Create goals
✅ Score goals
✅ Play the piano
Is there anything David Alaba can't do? 😮pic.twitter.com/DD9jl1at61
— GOAL (@goal) March 25, 2020
CM: Naby Keita
Keita was such a success story at RB Leipzig that interest from elite European clubs was inevitable – but Rangnick was desperate not to sell the midfielder to Liverpool in 2017.
Acting as Sporting Director at the Bundesliga club, Rangnick said: “Lately we got a €75m offer for Naby Keïta. No way! He has a contract and he will accomplish it.
“To sell him would not only be a proof of distrust to our fans but also the wrong sign for our players like Timo Werner, who is in demand too.”
But Rangnick was forced to part with Keita a year later, as the Guinea international moved to Anfield for £52.75 million.
Keita has been bedevilled by injuries during his time at Liverpool but there was a reason Jurgen Klopp was so eager to sign him – and Rangnick deserves credit for spotting his potential.
CM: Marcel Sabitzer
One of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga, Sabitizer’s rise to prominence has been an increasingly common one during the Rangnick era.
The Austria international was plucked from Rapid Vienna by Leipzig (then in the second tier of German football) and instantly loaned to sister club RB Salzburg.
After scoring 27 goals in 2014-15, Leipzig quickly recalled their new signing and Sabitzer has established his reputation as a quality performer over the past six seasons.
Following a productive Euros with Austria, the 27-year-old moved to Bayern Munich this summer for a fee of €16million.
This was the legacy Rangnick left at Red Bull’s clubs, the ability the buy low, sell high, and prosper from the burgeoning talent in between.
RW: Timo Werner
Forget his troubles at Chelsea, Werner was a fearsome prospect in the Bundesliga and Rangnick was squarely responsible for his development.
Werner joined Leipzig from Stuttgart for €10million in 2016, with Rangnick saying at the time: “He’s a very ambitious player, who’s always looking to improve and can pose any opponent problems with his pace.”
And the striker repaid his faith, scoring 95 goals in 159 appearances for Leipzig before Chelsea paid €50million for his services in 2020.
“There are two things that make him perfect,” Rangnick told i last year. “He is one of the fastest strikers in Europe and he has an incredible goal ratio, at every level… and you pick the right pass, it is almost impossible to stop him.”
Timo Werner in the 2019/20 season for Leipzig…
– 36 games
– 27 goals
– 12 assists
Put him in front of goal and he is absolutely lethal! 😎👏 pic.twitter.com/SbgqVfgNhM
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) May 7, 2020
AM: Roberto Firmino
We’ll ignore the fact Rangnick resigned as Hoffenheim manager the day after signing Firmino in 2011, due to the sale of Luis Gustavo to Bayern Munich, and give him full credit for giving the striker his first opportunity in European football.
After four-and-a-half seasons, and 47 goals in 151 games at Hoffenheim, Liverpool paid a fee close to £29million in 2015 and went on to win both the Premier League and the Champions League with the Brazil international leading the line.
LW: Sadio Mane
Rangnick paid just £3.6m for Mane when signing the then 20-year-old for Salzburg from French club Metz seven years ago.
After an eye-catching spell in Austria, the Senegal international moved to the Premier League with Southampton before ending as one of the continent’s most feared forwards at Liverpool.
“[Jurgen] Klopp doesn’t have to thank me,” Rangnick said in 2019. “It’s definitely no coincidence he has four former players of mine [Firmino, Naby Keita, Mane and Joel Matip] because it shows that he is, in fact, looking for the same kind of players, with the same assets, with the same mentality as we do.”
CF: Erling Haaland
Haaland left his native Norway for just £7.2m in 2019 when joining Salzburg from Molde. He’s done alright since.
TWENTY goals in the Champions League already for Erling Haaland! 🔥
He's now the quickest player in #UCL history to hit the 20-goal mark – beating Harry Kane who did it in 24 appearances!
Haaland has taken just 14 games… 🤯 pic.twitter.com/c2ahn9lMlZ
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) March 9, 2021