Foreign coaches have long been mistrusted in the Bundesliga and this week one Ausländer was shown the door while the employers of the only other plying his trade in Germany made it crystal clear that his future was in real doubt.
Steve McClaren, the first Englishman to coach a Bundesliga club, was fired on Monday after an awful run of results that sees Wolfsburg just a point off a relegation play off spot.
The former England manager had a bizarre, but entirely appropriate, end to his six months in charge of Die Wölfe.
Losing 1-0 at Hannover last Saturday, McClaren’s men won a late penalty. A player McClaren never wanted to buy (Diego) grabbed the ball off another recruit that McClaren had serious doubts about signing (Patrick Helmes).
Helmes is the team’s designated penalty taker but Diego insisted he should take the spot kick: the Brazilian struck the crossbar and the 2009 Bundesliga champions lost the match. The miss cost the Brazilian 100 000 euros and McClaren his job.
“It drives me crazy when players don’t listen to the orders I give and overrule my decisions,” said a coach who had clearly ”lost” the dressing room.
When he arrived in Lower Saxony last summer, McClaren did his best to endear himself to the German press, referring to himself as ”The Trainer” and calling his first opponents ”Bayern München.”
Relations were cordial but there were deep doubts about McClaren’s ability to follow up his success in Netherlands.
The day after his appointment Karl-Heinz Korbel, the man who holds the record for the most Bundesliga appearances, was asked what he thought of the Englishman. ”McClaren does not know anything about the German league” was his response.
Wilkommen to Germany.
Enough was enough after defeat at unfashionable Hannover. ”We cannot underestimate our situation in the league,” said Wolfsburg General Manager Dieter Hoeness. ”Being only one point clear of the relegation zone, we are alarmed.”
McClaren started the season targeting a top five finish but was axed after just six months. A payoff of the rest of his 6 million euro contract will help ease the pain.
As Wolfsburg were losing at Hannover, Bayern Munich’s defence was collapsing at Cologne. After leading their relegation-threatened rivals 2-0 at the break, a 3-2 defeat surely ended any title aspirations for coach Louis van Gaal.
Dieter Hoeness’ big brother Uli is van Gaal’s boss at Bayern and sent out a chilling warning to the Dutchman. ”If I see our Champions League qualification in danger, I get very nervous,” he said.
It’s not an empty threat: Jurgen Klinsmann was fired when Bayern risked missing out on a top three spot in 2009.
Bayern laid down the law on foreign coaches after Giovanni Trapattoni’s ill-fated second spell at the club. The Italian’s now legendary press conference, in a broken German that would embarrass McClaren, convinced the club that a high level of German was a must (van Gaal isolated himself in a German monastery to learn the language of Goethe).
Now van Gaal’s job is on the line.
Bayern’s defence simply crumbled against Cologne, a team that had the Bundesliga’s worst attack at the start of play. The defending of Holger Badstuber and Anatoliy Tymoschuk was laughable in any language and van Gaal’s decision to offload midfield enforcer Marc van Bommel to AC Milan already looks like a serious error of judgement. Players don’t seem to know which way to turn. ”We came out like sleeping tablets after the break,” said midfielder Thomas Müller. “We’re destroying our whole season that way.”
More worryingly for van Gaal’s future, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge wrote off his chances of retaining the title.
“It is more than annoying, it is careless. They must be slowly laughing themselves to death in Dortmund.”
So plenty of amusement in Dortmund. For now, football is no laughing matter for the Hoeness brothers.
Can Bayern and Wolfsburg get their season back on track weekend? You can watch both of their matches on Eurosport 2 North and East Europe. Action kicks off on Saturday with Bayern v Hoffenheim (15:30). We’ll show extended highlights of Wolfsburg v Hamburg at 17:30 followed by leaders Dortmund visit to Kaiserslautern LIVE at 18:30. Don’t forget Cologne v Mainz and Bremen v Hannover on Sunday; followed by our full round up of the weekend’s action at 19:30.