- Rangnick could have signed Vardy for Leipzig in 2014.
- Leipzig won promotion for the first time in their history on a bedrock of youth.
- 48 of their 54 goals have been delivered by players with average age of 22.
Coach Ralf Rangnick rejected the chance to sign the Leicester City and England star two years ago, but the former University of Sussex astrophysics student has had his RB Leipzig team playing some extra-terrestrial football this season regardless.
bundesliga.com looks at what gave the promoted Saxony side wings this term…
A keen eye for a player
Rangnick never doubted Vardy's ability, but the striker's age counted against him. "No, he's 27 - we're not doing it," countered Rangnick in discussions with Vardy's agent in 2014. The philosophy of nurturing players aged 24 and under has served Rangnick well, however. In his five years at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim the coach launched the careers of Demba Ba, Vedad Ibisevic, Luiz Gustavo, Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland, among others. His faith in youth saw him hand Julian Draxler his first season of regular first-team action at FC Schalke 04 in 2011 when the Germany international was only 18, and Joshua Kimmich - now a Bundesliga champion with FC Bayern München - was given his first taste of professional football when Rangnick sanctioned his loan deal to Leipzig from VfB Stuttgart in 2013.
Fast forward to the 2015/16 campaign and 48 of Leipzig's 54 goals this season have been scored or assisted by players with an average age of 22. In Germany Under-21 forward Davie Selke, Leipzig have a 1.92m-tall striker who not only holds the ball up for his team-mates, but has scored a career-best ten league goals. He is ably assisted by Yussuf Poulsen, Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer - all players likely to go to this summer's UEFA EURO 2016 tournament with Denmark, Sweden and Austria respectively - the oldest of whom is Forsberg at 24. Underpinning this embarrassment of attacking riches is Dominik Kaiser - a relative veteran at 27 - the aptly-named captain (his surname translates as 'Emperor') who pulls the strings in central midfield.
A case for the defence
Leipzig's ascension would have been impossible if not for their miserly defence, though. Die Bullen have conceded a league-low 31 goals this season. The youngest player in the squad at 19, Lukas Klostermann has been indomitable at the heart of Rangnick's back line. Marvin Compper - the only outfield player to have already seen his 30th birthday - partners the Germany U-21 man, and for those who think he might be a rare exception to the rule, it is worth remembering Rangnick gave the centre-back his Hoffenheim debut in 2008 when he was still only 22.