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Salzburg fans hit out at club owner Red Bull over sales of big-name players

Fans said the departure of Naby Keita to Leipzig had dashed their Champions League qualification hopes.

FC Salzburg fans have accused Red Bull of turning the club into a "laughing stock" because of the sale of key players.

The Austrian club was founded in 2005 when soft drink giant Red Bull bought and re-branded Austria Salzburg, changing the club's colours.

Since then, FC Salzburg have won seven national championships but never qualified for the Champions League group stage.

Over the past two summers they have seen eight players depart for German club RB Leipzig -- who are also owned by Red Bull and won promotion to the Bundesliga last season.

Defender Martin Hinteregger, explaining his move from Salzburg to Augsburg, claimed the loss of players was "destroying" his old club.

In an open letter to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, the fans wrote: "Don't forget your home because you have the opportunity to make changes and turn FC Red Bull Salzburg into what has already been before -- one of the top clubs in Europe.

Their letter said the loss of Naby Keita to Leipzig before this season's Champions League playoffs was one of the reasons the club had again failed to qualify for the group stages of Europe's biggest club competition.

The 2005 rebranding of Austria Salzburg saw disaffected supporters set up breakaway club SV Austria Salzburg.

Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.

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