Leipzig to strengthen ahead of European debut

BERLIN • RB Leipzig's director of sport Ralf Rangnick says new signings are set to follow after the Bundesliga football club secured direct qualification for next season's Champions League on Saturday.

Leipzig capped a superb first Bundesliga campaign as strikers Timo Werner and Davie Selke scored twice in their 4-1 thrashing of Hertha Berlin.

Leipzig, founded by energy drinks giants Red Bull in 2009, only reached Germany's top flight this season after four promotions in seven years.

They are second only to champions Bayern Munich in the table and are certain to finish in the top three, which means a direct path into the Champions League group stage.

With Red Bull's billions behind them, Rangnick says they are set to open the cheque book to recruit for their Champions League debut.

"When we play in the Champions League, we'll have to strengthen the squad," said the 58-year-old before kick-off in Berlin. "The whole thing of course will have to take into account the requirements of financial fair play. Whether three or four new additions will be enough, I do not know, perhaps we'll need five or six and we need more quality across the board."

Leipzig have won 20 of their 32 games in Germany's top tier.

They are the first club since Kaiserslautern in 1998 to qualify directly for the Champions League immediately after promotion to the Bundesliga.

"No one could have anticipated that we would have played a season like that and had so many points," added Rangnick. "At the start of the season, we just talked about being worry-free (from relegation) from the first match."

Coach Ralph Hasenhuettl was emotional at the final whistle at the Olympic Stadium.

"I am simply proud, there is no better place to celebrate direct qualification in front of so many fans. That was sensational," said the 49-year-old after around 10,000 Leipzig fans made the one-hour trip to Berlin.

With 19 league goals to his credit, Leipzig's Werner is the highest-scoring German striker in the Bundesliga this season. He is the fourth-highest overall behind Bayern's Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Cologne's Anthony Modeste.

"Today the joy of reaching the Champions League dominates all else," said the 21-year-old. "We have earned this over the year and have achieved something great. This was our little Cup final, next year we will be among the best teams in Europe."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2017, with the headline 'Leipzig to strengthen ahead of European debut'. Print Edition | Subscribe