Champions League: A meteoric rise and the man from Hereford - Leipzig's dream continues

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann (centre) and RB Leipzig's players
Julian Nagelsmann (centre) has helped RB Leipzig qualify for next season's Champions League and guided them to this season's semi-finals

19 May 2009.

As Tinchy Stryder tops the charts and Manchester United celebrate a third Premier League win in a row, a new club is formed in Germany after a buyout of fifth-tier SSV Markranstadt.

Fast forward 11 years and RB Leipzig have - incredibly - reached the last four of the Champions League.

Shorn of main star Timo Werner before the resumption of the competition, Leipzig came up against the experienced and accomplished Atletico Madrid - and deservedly beat them.

Now they face Paris St-Germain - Neymar, Mbappe et al. Can they go all the way?

"I'm perhaps one of the happiest coaches in the world," coach Julian Nagelsmann said in the aftermath of the famous win against Diego Simeone's side.

Like everything surrounding the club, Nagelsmann is young. At just 33 he has already shone with two Bundesliga sides and has long been touted for even bigger things.

"This club develops very fast," he added.

"We reached the Bundesliga and qualified for the Champions League three times. We're still in the Champions League. The progress is faster than usual."

It certainly is. It took just seven years for the club to reach the Bundesliga. Four more to go this far. At the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday, the new boys will be in the unusual position of making PSG - 50 years old on Wednesday - feel like the establishment.

Peter Gulacsi
Gulacsi has gone from facing Northampton in Coca Cola League One to playing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals

The meteoric ascent is shared by individuals at the club too. Two weeks before RB Leipzig's birth, goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi was ending a loan spell rock bottom of League One as he was relegated with Hereford.

It's unlikely he would have envisaged facing a £400m strikeforce in a Champions League semi-final as he fished goals out of his net from the likes of Bas Savage, Lloyd Owusu, Billy Paynter and Paul Hayes at the wrong end of the third tier of English football.

Such was Atleti's poverty of ambition, the Hungarian only actually had to make two saves in Lisbon - but he was a calming presence throughout.

Elsewhere in the team, captain Yussuf Poulsen joined the club in the third tier and Marcel Sabitzer, creator of the opening goal, played with them in the second division. There is history within the ranks, even if that is relative.

What next for Simeone?

Diego Simeone
Will Champions League success elude Diego Simeone at Atletico?

Did this quarter-final defeat by knockout stage debutants feel like "the end" for Atletico Madrid's much-admired coach Diego Simeone?

The Argentine's familiar tactics of getting his team to frustrate and suffocate their opponents for space before nicking a goal worked against Liverpool, but it was ineffective against the German outfit on Thursday.

When they did have possession in attack, forwards Diego Costa and Marcos Llorente struggled to convert that into chances with neither managing an effort on goal.

Should Simeone have started with £113m signing Joao Felix, who looked far livelier, won the penalty and scored from the spot when he came on?

Simeone has managed Atletico since 2011 and led them to two finals and two Europa League successes. But before this defeat his side had only lost a tie in the knockout stages at the hands of a team featuring Cristiano Ronaldo.

Add a La Liga table which shows his 2013-14 champions finished 12 points behind second-placed Barcelona and it has led some to question whether his methods remain as effective at Atletico.

He explained after Thursday's defeat that his side "gave it everything" they had.

He added: "We haven't been able to play the way we wanted. I liked Leipzig's great enthusiasm and freshness.

"There are no excuses. We gave our best and made it to the quarter-finals."

Former England and Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas told BT Sport: "Tonight felt like the end at Atletico Madrid. That mentality has not worked for Simeone in the Champions League. I think there is a place for it, but playing that way teams find ways to break them down."

Champions League winner Rio Ferdinand believes Atletico do not have a "second style of playing".

The ex-Manchester United defender told BT Sport: "You need to play with a plan A and plan B. You need to be adaptable in style of play. I don't think Atletico have got that second style of playing."

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