A second-placed finish, a cup final and the Champions League. 2021 had a lot in store for RB Leipzig. In our year review, we look back at each of the past twelve months!
The winter break was short and we were back in action on 2nd January. Matchday 14 saw the Red Bulls on the road against VfB Stuttgart in the 150th Bundesliga match in the club's history. Leipzig dominated the game with some brilliant link-up play, but VfB keeper Gregor Kobel was proving unbeatable in between the sticks. The deadlock was finally broken in the 67th minute, when Dani Olmo put us 1-0 ahead. With three points and a win to start the new year, Julian Nagelsmann's side overtook Bayer Leverkusen to move into second place - which they kept their own for the remainder of the season!
What a month! The 4-0 win over VfL Bochum in the last 16 of the DFB-Pokal was followed by four consecutive wins in the Bundesliga. The most memorable was the 3-2 thriller against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 23, where the Red Bulls overcame a 2-0 half-time deficit to win in injury time with three goals after the break. A week earlier, Marcel Sabitzer scored from 35 metres out in a 3-0 win over Hertha BSC. This striker later went on to be voted Leipzig's goal of the season.
Meanwhile, the Champions League doesn't look as rosy. RBL welcome one of the world's best sides to the RB Arena: English champions Liverpool. Played in an empty stadium due to restrictions brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, Leipzig were defeated 2-0 in the first leg. A few days earlier, the club announced the permanent signing of one of the league's best full backs in Angeliño, who had been on loan from Manchester City.
There was a milestone for Emil Forsberg on Matchday 25. Our number 10 scored the opening goal in the 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt. The goal was Forsberg's 100th goal involvement in his six years at the club. "It makes me proud and shows that I have given something back to the club," said the Swedish forward after the game.
The Bundesliga’s second and third placed teams faced off in the DFB-Pokal quarter final as RBL took on VfL Wolfsburg. A 2-0 win saw Nagelsmann’s team move through to the semi final.
Meanwhile, plans for the new season were in full swing as the club announced the signing of French central defender Mohamed Simakan from RC Strasbourg who would join in the summer ahead of the new campaign. The signing saw the club continue its approach to consistently build on young, success-hungry talents.
We're going to Berlin! RBL overcame SV Werder Bremen in the DFB-Pokal semi-final. With the scores still 0-0 after 90 minutes, the two sides headed into extra time and Hee-chan Hwang gave us the lead before Leonardo Bittencourt equalised for Werder. With everyone getting ready for a penalty shoot-out, Emil Forsberg, who had just come on as a substitute, popped up in injury time to clinch the winner and send us back to the final for the first time since 2019!
As the season approached its final stretch, RBL announced the contract extensions of Péter Gulàcsi, Amadou Haidara and Emil Forsberg, who each penned long-term deals until 2025. "I have developed extremely as a player and have also matured as a person since coming here," said Haidara. "The club has put its trust in me from the very beginning and has always believed in me and my qualities. My and the team’s journey is not over yet. We still have a lot of ambitions and I want to play my part in continuing to make history with RB Leipzig."
Matchday 32 saw the club confirm qualification for next season’s Champions League, while second place was secured on Matchday 33. RBL had the chance to win the first major trophy in club history as they took on Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final but were defeated 4-1 and were unable to celebrate a cup title with parting coach Julian Nagelsmann, who had announced that he would be joining champions FC Bayern Munich in the summer.
The delayed 2020 European Championship was the first of its kind to take place across multiple countries in Europe. RB Leipzig were represented at the tournament, with Dani Olmo (Spain) and Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark) reaching the semi-finals with their national teams. Yussi scored two goals, while Sweden’s Emil Forsberg found the back of the net four times, becoming the joined-second top scorer in the tournament behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick. Elsewere, Willi Orban, Péter Gulácsi (both Hungary), Marcel Sabitzer, Konrad Laimer (both Austria), Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg (both Germany) were also in action. 19-year-old Josko Gvardiol, who joined the club at the start of the 20/21 season before returning to Dinamo Zagreb on loan, was also a regular during the summer tournament for World Cup runners-up Croatia.
Shortly ahead of the tournament, Willi Orban was voted 2020/21 Player of the Season by the RBL fans. The centre back was a key reason behind the club having the best defence in the league, conceding only 32 goals all season. At the other end, Willi fond the back of the net four times.
RB Leipzig announced the signing of Andre Silva from Eintracht Frankfurt on 2nd July. The Portugal international scored a sensational 28 goals last season and joined on a long-term deal until 2026. "RB Leipzig's attacking style of play fits well to me. I think that I will be able to fit in well here. Their emphasis on having possession means that we can create lots of goalscoring opportunities, and I obviously hope that I will be able to contribute several goals as well," the 26-year-old said during his official unveiling.
A few days later, Silva - along with other new signings Mohamed Simakan, Brian Brobbey and Josko Gvardiol - donned the RBL colours for the first time during training camp in Saalfelden. He made quite the impact, winning a team go-kart race against his new teammates!
After missing the entire second half of the 2020/21 season and the EUROs due to adductor issues, Dominik Szoboszlai returned in time for the start of the new campaign. The Hungary international delivered a stand-out performance in a 4-0 win against VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 4, contributing two goals. Both his goals were from outside the box, demonstrating his impressive shooting technique. The win was made even more special by the fact that for the first time in exactly 300 days, fans were allowed back at the Red Bull Arena. After months of games behind closed doors, 23,100 fans were allowed to attend the game (50% of the stadium's total capacity). "They made as much noise as 45,000. Today was a total goosebumps kind of day," Emil Forsberg said afterwards.
Fans were then treated to a spectacular Champions League match, in our opening group stage game at Manchester City. After a wild 90 minutes, we had to accept a 6-3 defeat. Christopher Nkunku scored a hat-trick, kickstarting a run of great form so far this season.
History was also made during our first-round DFB-Pokal win in Sandhausen, as Sidney Raebiger became the youngest player to make his competitive debut for RBL, aged just 16 years and 112 days. We also added 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba to our ranks, a budding talent from FC Barcelona who had already played together with Lionel Messi.
Head coach Jesse Marsch's side recorded their biggest win since November 2019, as they beat Hertha BSC 6-0 on Matchday 6. The man of the match was undoubtedly Christopher Nkunku, as he scored twice, picked up one assist and won a penalty.
Yussuf Poulsen then reached a special milestone during our Champions League game against Brugge. Poulsen made his 200th competitive appearance for RBL, having joined as a relatively unknown 19-year-old from Lyngby BK in 2013, back when we were still in the 3. Liga. Since then, Yussi has gone on to become our record appearance maker!
Three RBL players are included in the 40-man shortlist for the Golden Boy, an award handed out by Italian magazine Tuttosport to the best player under 21 in Europe. Ilaix Moriba, Josko Gvardiol and Brian Brobbey were all on the list.
A narrow 1-0 win against SV Babelsberg saw us advance to the round of 16 in the DFB-Pokal. Dominik Szoboszlai scored the winning goal, as we came up against former RBL striker Daniel Frahn. In the Bundesliga, RBL went unbeaten in October with wins against promoted sides Bochum (3-0) and Greuther Fürth (4-1). Youngster Hugo Novoa needed just three minutes after coming off the bench against Fürth to not only make his Bundesliga debut, but to also score his maiden top-flight goal!
Our Bulls are able to get revenge for the DFB-Pokal final defeat, as they beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on Matchday 11. Christopher Nkunku opened the scoring after a perfect pass from Josko Gvardiol, as fans are able to witness the new lighting design at the Red Bull Arena in action for the first time. Nkunku was in incredible for once again, as he later set up Yussuf Poulsen for our second goal of the night.
A 5-0 win in the Champions League against Brugge on 24th November wasn't only our biggest ever win in the competition, but also saw us net our 50th UCL goal. Nkunku added two more goals to his total tally of seven in this season's Champions League, taking him to third in the goalscoring charts behind Sebastian Haller (Ajax) and Robert Lewandowski (Bayern). Somewhat curiously, back-up goalkeeper Josep Martínez, who was replacing Péter Gulácsi that night, was clocked at a top speed of 38.7km/h - the fastest of any player during the group stage!
The European journey continues! A 2-1 win in our final Champions League group stage game against Pep Guardiola and Manchester City ensured us a third place finish in Group A and a spot in the Europa League playoffs. Two days later, Domenico Tedesco was presented as our new head coach. "There is a great structure in place here, and a team with a lot of potential. Now, it's about making the most of this potential," the 36-year-old said during his first press conference. Our new head coach then got off to a winning start at the club, celebrating a big 4-1 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach in his first match in charge.