Sign young promises cheaply, develop them as footballers and sell them at the price of great stars, as has happened with the Norwegian Erling Haaland, is the successful model with which the Salzburg Red Bull has entered 200 million euros in the last five years.

“We have the youngest team in our history. The most important thing is that we always plan 3 or 4 years ahead in our academy to see who the next players could be and be one step ahead,” the club’s sports director explained to Efe Austrian Christoph Freund on the current season.

Since the purchase of the club in 2005 by the soft drink company Red Bull, although technically now only the main sponsor, Salzburg have become the absolute dominators of the Austrian Bundesliga, with 12 league titles and 8 cup titles.

But despite being a regular in the Europa League, and even in the ‘Champions’, his only international success has so far been provided by his promising quarry, which in 2017 raised the youth edition of the Champions League, the Youth League .

With an average age of 23 years and up to 22 foreigners in their ranks, Salzburg’s strategy is clear: find the most promising players on the international scene and increase their market value before launching them to stardom.

The club does not disclose the purchase or sale value or the profit it makes with these operations, and only agrees to explain that it has entered around 200 million euros in transfers in the last five or seven years.

Sadio Mané, today Liverpool, an example of good Salzburg management

Sadio Mané, today Liverpool, an example of good Salzburg management


Senegalese Sadio Mané is a good example. Salzburg paid 4 million euros for him in 2012, and a year later they transferred him for 23 to Southampton in the Premier League, where he has made a career and has gone on to win the Champions League with his current team, Liverpool.

This formula is repeated in other great successes of the club, such as Naby Keïta, signed for 1.5 million in 2014 and sold for almost 30 in 2016; or the superstar Erling Haaland, for whom Red Bull paid 8 million in 2019 and is now priced at 150 at Borussia Dortmund.

Clear commitment to formative football

At first, Freund explains, the philosophy of the club was very different, since players could be seen in the squad in the twilight of their careers, but in 2012 the model changed towards the search for young international talents.

The project acquired another dimension, with a clear commitment to educational football based on two pillars: a network of international scouts and a high-level training center.

“We are only looking for young players between 16 and 19 years old. We receive messages from many agents, but most of us are not interested because they are very old or do not play our style,” says Freund, who says that 98% of all potential footballers.

Those who make the cut have the opportunity to train at the RB Akademie, a high-performance complex on the outskirts of Salzburg dedicated to the club’s lower ranks, from which seven starting Salzburg players have already emerged.

Alliances with Africa, Asia and South America

Beyond the borders of Austria, Salzburg has collaboration agreements in Africa, Asia and South America, where Red Bull has its own training center in Brazil.

“You cannot just go to Africa or Asia, say that you are there to explain how we play football and bring in the best talents. It takes a lot of work behind it,” acknowledges the sports director, whose scouts make a couple of international visits a year.

In the first team there is no place for all these players and for this reason the club has an agreement with FC Liefering, of the Austrian second division, to send their promises.

That philosophy is clear in the message ‘We are the football of tomorrow’ that presides over the main stands of the Red Bull Arena. When it comes to continuing to attract promising players, Salzburg know that their great appeal lies in combining the family atmosphere of a modest club, away from the big spots, with a top-level competitive pace in Europe.

“Here, young people can feel good and have the opportunity to play at a professional level from very early on. It is important for us that they have real options to play if they train well,” sums up the sports director.

From the club they have a clear strategy: to help the correct integration of the players and offer them minutes before making the leap to a great club. In short, to be part of the path and not the end of it.