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Red Bull Salzburg Gets Its Wings

Christian Bruna/EPA, via Shutterstock

There are teams in this season’s Champions League that have waited longer than Red Bull Salzburg to sit at European soccer’s top table. There are teams with smaller budgets, and teams that have overcome greater obstacles. There is no team, though, that will relish its place among the giants in the Champions League quite so much as the perennial Austrian champions.

Christoph Freund, Salzburg’s sporting director, can laugh about it now, but only because he remembers how “painful” it has been.

For a decade, Salzburg has been trying to reach the Champions League group stages: the competition proper, the phase when it becomes the most exclusive, most glamorous and most lucrative club tournament in the world.