The Bundesliga’s Christmas break is coming to an end but there’s been no peace, and precious little goodwill to all men, these last four weeks.
One long-serving coach jumped ship after a player was sold behind his back, while another was given the thinnest vote of confidence. The boss of Germany’s biggest team unleashed the wrath of Franz Beckenbauer. One foreign player didn’t take kindly to losing his captain’s armband and another went on a one-man strike.
It was an very unhappy Christmas at Hoffenheim, a club often held up as one of the best managed clubs in Germany.
Having a billionaire owner always comes in handy of course, but majority club owner Dietmar Hopp has taken a leaf out of Roman Abramovich’s books by ordering his underlings to put the club on a sounder financial footing.
Hence the surprise 15 million euro sale of Luiz Gustavo to Bayern. Three years after signing the versatile Brazilian for 1 million euros, offloading him to the champions made good business sense. But the Pindamonhangaba-born player has been one of the few bright sparks of a desperately disappointing campaign and his sale was a step too far for coach Ralf Rangnick, who brought up the club from the amateur leagues.
Hopp said he had no choice but to sell.
“In 2011 we are going to have a shortfall of around seven million euros despite the income from the sale of Gustavo.” Hopp put the blame on the door of the club’s former director of sport Jan Schindelmeiser. “He negotiated lucrative deals with the players which almost ruined us.”
As if losing Gustavo wasn’t enough, burly Senegalese striker Demba Ba, a long time West Ham target, downed tools, claiming the club had gone back on a promise to sell him.
Hoffenheim general manager Ernst Tanner was furious. “I have told him to expect legal action,” he announced on the club’s website. ”He will be fined and have his contract terminated, but he will not be able to play for any other club.”
Peace, love and understanding is rarely in vogue at Hamburg and the Red Shorts miserable autumn campaign has only added to a prickly mood in Germany’s second city.
Coach Armin Veh must have been fearing the pink slip when he was summoned to President Bernd Hoffmann’s office on New Year’s Eve. Veh lives on to fight another day. But only just.
”I am certain Armin Veh will be serving as manager of our club for the fixture at Schalke. I am not prepared to make any further statement.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement.
But trouble may be brewing for Hoffmann too. Three board members considered to be in the anti-Hoffmann camp were voted on to the club’s powerful Aufsichtsrat management committee. Expect plenty more fireworks in 2011.
The season’s other big letdowns, Bayern, are slowly recovering from their worst ever start to a Bundesliga campaign.
Three wins and 12 goals from their last four matches of 2010 should have set them up for a merry Christmas but coach Louis van Gaal probably won’t be on Beckenbauer’s Christmas card list in 2011 after saying he is ready to drop veteran keeper Hans-Jörg Butt in favour of Thomas Kraft.
”It would have been cleverer to speak before to the responsible persons from Bayern about such an important decision,” slammed the club’s honorary president.
Beckenbauer then referred to criticism from president Uli Hoeness, who questioned the Dutchman’s communications skills. ”That seems to be the case here. It means Van Gaal is taking the risk of pushing through measures without support.”
Pundits who criticized Lukas Podolski for leaving Bayern have been in ”I told you so” mood during Cologne’s slump this season. The club thought they had given the squad a Christmas present by offering Podolski the captain’s armband. But that only disenchanted former captain Youssef Mohamad, who is now considering offers from Dubai and Qatar.
Even an innocent Christmas present, it seems, can leave some players fuming.
Eurosport 2’s Bundesliga coverage is back on Friday 14 January with third-placed Leverkusen hosting Dortmund (20:30). Andreas Evagora and Tony Jeffers will be at the BayArena for what could be Leverkusen’s big chance to make up ground on the runaway leaders. Our coverage continues on Saturday with Wolfsburg v Bayern (15:30) and Schalke v Hamburg (18:30). Sunday’s live action sees Frankfurt v Hannover and Kaiserslautern v Cologne.