Preparations for the new Bundesliga season have been hit by sackings and uncertainty
In normal circumstances, newly-promoted clubs are havens of harmony, still high on euphoria. Shame no one sent the script to Bundesliga new boys Stuttgart or Hannover.
Rather than calmly completing their preparations for the new season, both outfits have descended into conflict and chaos, Stuttgart firing director of sport Jan Schindelmeiser and Hannover president Martin Kind sparking the fury of supporters with a radical shake-up of the club’s ownership structure.
Only a few months ago, as Stuttgart celebrated the second division title, Schindelmeiser was riding high indeed, especially praised for his inspired decision early last season to recruit relatively unknown Dortmund youth team coach Hannes Wolf. But how quickly it has all turned to dust.
According to inside information, a power broker collision course was on the cards for quite some time. Schindelmeiser feeling that others were interfering in his domain; the board accusing him of high-handedness, an unwillingness to collaborate and a certain lack of ambition.
While club president Wolfgang Dietrich has a bold four-year masterplan to make Stuttgart the third-biggest force in the country behind Bayern Munich and Dortmund, Schmindelmeiser thought it wiser not to get too carried away, to build slowly but surely.
A further bone of contention was Schindelmeiser’s transfer market activity this summer. The decision to allow popular Romanian attacking midfielder Alexandru Maxim to leave for Mainz left many Stuttgart supporters perplexed and clearly the signing of Bayern defender Holger Badstuber – who for the past five years has suffered injury upon injury – has to be a major risk.
To replace Schindelmeiser, the Stuttgarter have opted for one of the best-known headhunters in the domestic top-flight – the former Leverkusen and Bayern technical director Michael Reschke.
Expect the fur to fly now that Hannover’s supervisory board have agreed to sell 51 per cent of their shares in the club to president and long-term investor Martin Kind, who now intends to apply for an exemption from German football’s famous ’50+1′ rule, the statute which stipulates that a minimum 51 per cent of a pro outfit’s voting rights belong to club members.
Traditionalists to a man, fans in Deutschland see the rule as democracy in action, as a barrier against corporate takeovers or fly-by-night owners. However, Kind – who made his fortune with a chain of hearing aid shops – always has been deaf to the concept, arguing that it discourages outside investment and puts German clubs at a disadvantage internationally.
A Hannover supporter group ‘Pro Verein 1896’ are threatening legal action and insist that prior to taking full control, Kind gains the approval of the club membership.
If Kind does succeed, it could well signal the end for ’50+1′. In Bayer Leverkusen, the VW-backed Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim (bankrolled by software entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp), three clubs already boast an exemption, while RB Leipzig are only technically in compliance.
Kind’s baby will not have an easy birth. The battle lines are drawn.
What We Learned This Week
1. Bayern conquer their summer jitters
Rendered decidedly edgy by a string of losses in pre-season warm-up games, Bayern Munich settled their nerves with victory over Dortmund in the German Super Cup, holding their hosts to a 2-2 draw in regulation play before prevailing 5-4 on penalties. ” The team showed good character, they kept bouncing back, ” said new Bayern director of sport Hasan Salihamidzic. ” In the last few days we’ve talked a lot about what we have to do. We’re Bayern and just can’t record so many defeats. ” A former Bosnian international midfielder, Salihamidzic played for Bayern from 1998 to 2007, winning six Bundesliga titles and the 2001 Champions League. True grit in his pro days, ‘Brazzo’ will lead from the front.
2. A gift-bearing Greek
Leverkusen are believed to have made a 15 million euro offer for young Olympiakos defender Panagiotis Retsos. The 18-year-old Greek, arguably the most promising Hellenic talent of the moment, can play in any number of positions: central defender, left-back or midfield holder. He also has been linked with Borussia Monchengladbach, Lyon and a host of Premier League sides. One possible snag: Olympiakos’ presence in the Champions League play-off round.