The close season has witnessed personality clashes at the national federation and at major Bundelisga clubs
By Nick Bidwell
With Germany emerging victorious at the European Under-21 championships in Sweden, Woodstock-like love, peace and harmony ought to have been the prevailing mood at the DFB. A shame no one told federation technical director Matthias Sammer, whose bid for a larger sphere of influence within the organisation has ruffled feathers and potentially could cause damage at a time when the senior side are still involved in World Cup 2010 qualification.
Sammer. the brilliant former Nationalmannschaft skipper and libero, currently oversees all German schoolboy and youth squads. But satisfied he clearly is not and in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he made a typically assertive appeal to bring the Under 21s under his control as well. “My motivation is to make for a better flow from the junior to adult teams,” he declared. “I’m striving for a future where they are no longer separate.“
No need to read between the lines here. Showing the same single-mindedness which characterised his playing career, Sammer was setting out his manifesto for greater personal power. It’s common knowledge that he believes his remit should encompass every age group and that if he had his way, senior Team Manager Oliver Bierhoff would be out of a job.
Such blatant empire-building left DFB chief Theo Zwanziger no choice but to intervene. And in strong terms. He informed Sammer his role was “to serve” and emphasised that the final word in all full international matters belonged to Bundestrainer Joachim Low. “Sammer has done an enormous amount for our youth development and I have the highest regard for him,“ said Zwanziger. “However, we must have everybody pulling together.“
Sammer beat a tactical retreat, claiming his words had been wrongly interpreted. However the DFB’s San Andreas Fault remains. On the one hand, the highly-ambitious Sammer. On the other, Low and Bierhoff, who were never in favour of Sammer’s appointment three years ago and intend to keep him at arm’s length. It could all end in tears.
Personality clashes seem the order of the day in the Bundesliga too. Hertha Berlin’s long-serving general manager Dieter Honess grew tired of feuding with club president Werner Gegenbauer – who used to be his best friend – and quit, while at Hamburg sports director and head of player recruitment Dietmar Beiersdorfer did likewise, frustrated by what he saw as the interfering ways of chairman Bernd Hoffmann.
This divorce was extensively flagged. Hoffmann told anyone willing to listen that the scouting department was “a machine to gobble up money” and had come to regard Beiersdorfer as a loose cannon, too prone to make up club policy as he went along. Increasingly marginalised, the latter knew which way the wind was blowing when Hoffmann deemed his presence unnecessary at meetings to discuss the summer comings and goings. “This is no longer my Hamburg,“ sighed Beiersdorfer, the ex-club centre-back who had been in the job for a half-dozen years.
A nightmare close season for Hamburg. First, charismatic coach Martin Jol ups and leaves for Ajax after a promising first season in charge. Then the popular Biersdorfer goes. The fans are up in arms and are wondering if their beloved HSV (Hamburg Sport Verein or Sports Club) should be rechristened Hoffmann Sport Verein.
True to uncompromising form, recently-installed Schalke boss Felix Magath, had no time for sensibilities on showing up in Gelsenkirchen, promptly dumping the caretaker coaching team – Mike Buskens, Youri Mulder and Oliver Reck – which so splendidly filled in when Dutchman Fred Rutten was shown the door last spring. Many had assumed Buskens would return to his old role with the reserve team and Schalke president Clemens Tonnies promised Mulder and Reck that they would be kept on in some capacity. Yet Magath had other ideas and just two days before the start of pre-season training, all three were sent packing.
If Magath, the architect of two championships with Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg’s sensational Bundesliga title last season, turns Schalke into ‘Meister’, nobody will remember the fate of their ex-interim coaches. Should he stumble, though, there might be a few ghosts to haunt him.