Former Liverpool favourite Sami Hyypia sees move into management greeted with optimism
When Robin Dutt’s rollercoaster tenure of Bayer Leverkusen eventually came to its premature conclusion, it was fitting that it should do so following a dispiriting 2-0 home defeat to his former club. It carried with it the implication that Dutt, who had worked such wonders at Freiburg, was in some way unprepared for the more elevated heights of the Bundesliga elite.
For the men who terminated his contract, this was, in the words of chairman Wolfgang Holzhäuser “the most difficult of these kind of decisions that we have had to make in our time here.” Dutt had been the man. The central figure in a watertight plan to push Leverkusen forward in both the Bundesliga and in Europe.
In the Bundesliga, though, even ideal candidates are never guaranteed more than a few months’ grace. Dutt, the sixth Bundesliga manager to be fired this season (and seventh if you count Markus Babbel), had not, by any stretch of the imagination, had a catastrophic season. His team, despite a poor run of form, were fighting for a Europa League place, and had beaten Valencia to the Champions League knockout stage. And yet he betrayed no sense of indignation at his dismissal. In his expressions and words there was only a sense of fatigue and resignation – a miserable acceptance that it was always going to end like this.
It was a reaction which his interim replacement, Sami Hyypiä, would do well to remember as he embarks upon his coaching career. The former Liverpool defender, who has taken over the vacant reigns at Leverkusen along with Under 19 coach Sascha Lewandowski, has seen his arrival greeted with a marked sense of optimism. With only one year’s worth of managerial experience, since he finished his career at Leverkusen last season, Hyypiä is perhaps a risk. But if Leverkusen need anything right now, it is a change in atmosphere. And a fresh, and indeed familiar face, could be just what the doctor ordered.
It certainly appears to have been the case with Michael Ballack, who, since Hyypiä’s appointment, has wasted no time in expressing how delighted he is that the new coach is someone with whom he has a mutual understanding. No wonder, given that he looks set to return first team football, but with the amount of headlines Ballack has made over the season, keeping him quiet might well be a wise move from the interim coach.
Certainly, though, a young and relatively inexperienced man in the caretaker position is not a novel idea for the Bundesliga’s big clubs. When FC Bayern sacked Louis van Gaal last spring, it was his number two Andries Jonker who subsequently guided them back to form and the third Champions League spot, and was granted the job of coaching the reserves the following summer. Indeed, with Director of Sport Rudi Völler insisting that Hyypiä has “one hundred per cent backing”, it seems that being a temporary coach is actually more desirable than a long term contract in the Bundesliga.
Hyypiä is charged with ensuring that Leverkusen are playing in Europe next season, a goal which the likes of Hannover, Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg are determined to deny. But whatever happens, the Finn should take as much as possible from the rare experience of having complete backing from a Bundesliga board.
If he wants any proof of how difficult managership can be in Germany, he need only ask his former Liverpool team mate Markus Babbel. After gaining automatic promotion with Hertha BSC, Babbel left after the politics of the European managerial system caught up with him. He is now at Hoffenheim, having taken over from the brutally dismissed Holger Stanislawski, and is, like his predecessor, rooted firmly in mid table. His successor at Berlin, Michael Skibbe, lasted barely a month, while the capital club plunged itself into a relegation fight which has now seen five managers lose their jobs.
It is, in short, complete mayhem. The so-called managerial merry-go-round which just keeps turning. Whether it is the fact that the system of having a Director of Sport or Team Manager leaves the Head Coach in a more vulnerable position, or whether it is simply the modern trend to sack a manager after a single poor run of form, one thing is for sure: Ottmar Hitzfeld’s old maxim that “Being Bayern manager is great, so long as you’re first”, might as well apply to just about any Bundesliga team. As he sets off on his coaching career, Sami Hyypiä cuts a confident figure, but he should be careful where he treads.Tagged in: Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga, football
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