Rangnick: Not taking Vardy to RB Leipzig before he joined Leicester was a mistake

RB Leipzig’s sporting director Ralf Rangnick has told FourFourTwo that he now regrets turning down the opportunity to take Jamie Vardy to Germany in 2012.

Under the 58-year-old’s stewardship, the Red Bull-backed side have rocketed up the divisions in double-quick time, finishing second in the Bundesliga last season to secure automatic Champions League qualification for the first time.

A key factor in the club’s success has been their emphasis on youth, with Timo Werner (21), Naby Keita (22) and Bernardo (22) among the strong performers.

It was this policy that prevented Rangnick from pursuing hotshot Fleetwood Town forward Vardy, who finished the 2011/12 season as the Conference’s leading scorer.

The then-25-year-old joined Leicester that summer instead and, four seasons later, fired the Foxes to Premier League glory before scoring for England at Euro 2016.

And Rangnick admits that while Leipzig’s strategy has served them well so far, turning down the chance to take Vardy to the German fourth tier was a faux pas.

At some point, every manager in the world has said no to someone who later on turned out to be a top player. This player was Jamie Vardy, and he ended up joining Leicester

Speaking exclusively in the July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo, he says: “We were trying to sign Joe Gomez from Charlton and his agent told me it was a shame I wasn’t interested in older players, because he had got this player who would be perfect for Leipzig.

"At some point, every manager in the world has said no to someone who later on turned out to be a top player. This player was Jamie Vardy, and in that transfer window he ended up joining Leicester City.

Portraits: Michael Bader

“We don’t bring in players older than 24. We have the youngest team in the Bundesliga. If you weigh up experience against youth – being able to sprint, being willing to invest a lot of energy – we are proving that experience is overrated.”

One British talent was eventually lured to the Red Bull Arena, with a club-record £13 million spent on Nottingham Forest’s Oliver Burke in 2016. Rangnick reveals that he knew he wanted to sign the 20-year-old wideman, who made 25 outings in his first Bundesliga campaign, within five minutes of watching the Scot in action.

It’s difficult to convince players to leave the island. We saw videos of his previous four games with Nottingham Forest and after five minutes I said, ‘Yes, he has a lot of assets we need.’

“When I was young, people spoke of ‘splendid isolation’ in England, and in a way it’s still true today,” Rangnick says. “It’s very difficult to convince players to leave the island.

"Oliver is the first player that we managed to convince. We saw videos of his previous four games with Forest and after five minutes I said, ‘Yes, he has a lot of assets we need’. He’s fast as lightning, good on the ball with a good finish and he can win aerial duels.”

Read the full interview with Ralf Rangnick in July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo, which is guest-edited by Barcelona star Lionel Messi and features the new boss discussing a selection of his career highlights. Also this month, we look back at the La Masia academy team that he played in – featuring Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique – and profile the other members of the 500-goal club, which Leo joined during the week that he edited the magazine. Plus, we talk Inter, Champions League glory and ’that’ World Cup goal against England with Javier Zanetti, visit Argentina on its 'weekend of derbies', discuss Liverpool, La Decima and riding motorbikes with Xabi Alonso, and learn what Brexit will mean for football. Order it now, and then subscribe!