Bundesliga

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Bayern’s history meets upstart Leipzig in German Cup final

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BERLIN (AP) Their histories, and lists of achievements, couldn’t be more different.

Bayern Munich has won 54 major titles, while Leipzig has none. Bayern has been around for 119 years, Leipzig 10.

Luckily for Leipzig, though, those numbers won’t mean much when the two teams meet in the German Cup final on Saturday.

Bayern won its 29th German league title last Saturday and is bidding for a record-extending 19th German Cup win. But Leipzig will head into the match knowing it’s no pushover.

Leipzig held Bayern to a 0-0 draw in the Bundesliga’s penultimate round – delaying the Bavarian club’s title celebrations by another week – while Bayern needed penalties to get past Leipzig in their only previous German Cup meeting in October 2017.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who won the title with Eintracht Frankfurt against his future club last year, is preparing for his third straight final. Kovac, however, is under pressure after his debut season at Bayern and would boost his case to remain with a win.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, who is really the club’s sporting director, is leading the opposing team on an interim basis this season before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim to take over.

Leipzig’s mere existence is a source of ire for rival fans who object to its fast rise, which was made possible by energy drink manufacturer Red Bull and its co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz. The 75-year-old Austrian billionaire bought a local fifth-tier team, SSV Markranstadt, rebranded it with his company’s name and financed its steady promotion through the lower leagues to the Bundesliga.

Few at the club could have imagined that it would be so successful, so quickly. Leipzig finished second and qualified for the Champions League in its debut Bundesliga season, dropped to sixth because of the added burden of European games in its next, and comfortably finished third after another solid campaign this season.

It would not have been possible without Red Bull, which already had the New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Ghana in its portfolio of soccer clubs.

Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff defended receiving a loan of 134.2 million euros ($150 million) from the energy drink behemoth, saying Friday that it was necessary for the establishment of what has become a highly successful club.

“That we had to take a loan as a start-up company, to invest in bricks and legs, is right,” Mintzlaff told the Frankfurter Rundschau daily newspaper. “But if we were to sell everything that was achieved here, purely theoretically, the club would have made a very, very big plus. There would be big double-digit, maybe even a triple-digit million figure remaining.”

Leipzig’s turnover is 250 million euros ($279 million), compared to Bayern’s 657.4 ($734 million) for 2017-18.

Mintzlaff said the club was among the “most transparent soccer clubs,” in contrast to the likes of Volkswagen-backed Wolfsburg.

“We don’t hide anything. We wouldn’t get a license if we didn’t pay our debts,” Mintzlaff said. “Other clubs that get money from other backers do it, too. Borussia Dortmund is a stock cooperation, Hertha Berlin has got an investor on board, Schalke has (food industry billionaire) Clemens Tonnies.”

Bayern is backed by sportswear giant Adidas, carmaker Audi and financial services company Allianz, with each holding an 8.33% stake in the club, which has further lucrative sponsorship deals with Deutsche Telekom, DHL, Siemens, Goodyear, SAP, Paulaner beer and Qatar Airways. The latter is the subject of protest from some Bayern fans.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Bayern confirms pursuit of Man City’s Sane

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Bayern Munich has admitted interest in Manchester City’s Leroy Sane in a move which almost certainly break the Premier League side’s outgoing transfer record.

Sane, 23, was arguably the most important tactical piece of City’s amazing run to the 2017-18 Premier League title, but was relegated to a lesser role this season.

[ MORE: Everton adds Lossl ]

Barring a swap deal, Sane’s sale number would obliterate the approximately $30 million received by City for Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, 2017) and Alvaro Negredo (Valencia, 2015).

Given that Sane cost City around $47 million from Schalke before earning the PFA Young Player of the Season and two Premier League titles…yeah, this one will be costly. Reports say the starting bid will be over $80 million.

Bayern chairman Uli Hoeness confirmed the club’s interest in Sane, while Robert Lewandowski publicly urged the player to join the Bundesliga champions and German national team coach Joachim Loew called it a good fit for both parties.

The year was a tricky one for Sane, who was statistically more productive in fewer minutes. He still managed 16 goals and 18 assists in 47 appearances for City, playing 55 percent of PL minutes. Sane had 14 goals and 19 assists in about 500 more minutes the previous season.

Sane also got grief from Loew and his national teammates for body language amongst other things.

A sale of Sane would give City’s finances a different look. Liverpool’s sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona helped offset the Reds’ big buys in terms of Financial Fair Play.

Dortmund continue shopping spree, sign Julian Brandt

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That Christian Pulisic money is going far and wide for Borussia Dortmund.

Hot off the heels of signing Thorgan Hazard for $38 million on Wednesday and adding German defender Nico Schulz for $30 million, Dortmund have signed Julian Brandt for $30 million.

Not bad business after getting $73 million for Pulisic…

Brandt, 23, was linked with a move to the Premier League to Tottenham Hotspur and others in recent months but the Bayer Leverkusen winger will remain in the Bundesliga. His combination of speed out wide and cutting inside to finish off moves has seen him become a regular for the German national team.

After finishing second in the Bundesliga this season, Dortmund are wasting no time in stealing a march on Bayern Munich who fought back from a nine-point deficit to win the title on the final day of the season.

Bayern’s offseason plans have seen them add defender Lucas Hernandez for a club record $85 million, while his French national team teammate Benjamin Pavard, who can also play at center back and full back, will also arrive for $38 million.

That said, Dortmund’s early moves this offseason are impressive and may even install Lucien Favre’s men as the preseason favorites to win the German title.

Borussia Dortmund sign Hazard*

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Hazard has signed for Borussia Dortmund from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Thorgan Hazard, of course.

He is the second Hazard brother to make a move this summer after Kylian, 23, moved from Chelsea to Cercle Brugge, and with Eden Hazard linked with a move from Chelsea to Real Madrid in the coming weeks, it could be a hat trick of switches for the Hazard family.

As for Thorgan, 26, his fine form out wide for Monchengladbach in 2018-19 has seen Dortmund snap him up for a fee reported to be $38 million on a five-year contract, as he looks like being a direct replacement for Christian Pulisic who has officially arrived at Chelsea after the end of the 2018-19 Bundesliga season.

Here’s what Thorgan had to say about his arrival at the Westfalenstadion.

Hazard scored 12 goals in 29 appearances across all competitions and has become a regular in the Belgium national team setup alongside his brother, the captain. In his five seasons at Monchengladbach he’s scored 45 goals in 176 games in all competitions and the former Chelsea loanee has certainly carved out a very good career for himself since he made a permanent move from Chelsea to ‘Gladbach in 2015.

Entering the prime of his career, Dortmund will be a great spot for him to develop further and play a leading role in their push to win the Bundesliga next season and make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.

Off the back of signing Hoffenheim defender Nico Schulz, Dortmund aren’t messing around this summer as they spent almost $30 million to bring in the German defender.

With most of that Pulisic money already spent, Lucien Favre will be able to kick his team on to the next level next season and push Bayern Munich all the way.

Borussia Dortmund signs Nico Schulz from Hoffenheim

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund signed Germany defender Nico Schulz from Bundesliga rival Hoffenheim on Tuesday.

Dortmund, which finished runner-up in the league, said the 26-year-old Schulz signed a deal through June 2024.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

“We will benefit greatly from his physicality, his tempo and his extreme dynamism,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said. “A player like him with his fighting spirit and his desire to be successful would help any team.”

Schulz, who will be familiar to Dortmund coach Lucien Favre from their time together at Borussia Moenchengladbach, scored one goal and set up six more for Hoffenheim last season.

Kicker magazine reported that Dortmund was paying 27 million euros ($30 million) for the player, making Schulz Dortmund’s second most expensive signing after Andre Schuerrle.

Schulz has scored two goals in six appearances for Germany.

Dortmund was also reportedly on the verge of signing 19-year-old Spanish right back Mateu Morey on a free transfer from Barcelona, while Belgium international Thorgan Hazard was expected to join from Gladbach and Germany midfielder Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen remained a target.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports