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Who do we think we are?

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TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the search of their identity.

It is the 16th match day of the 08/09 season, and the newly promoted TSG Hoffenheim are taking on Germany’s record champions Bayern Munich. The new kids on the block, Hoffenheim, are sensationally storming towards ”Die Herbstmeisterschaft”, and are now looking to show that their new, exciting way of playing modern football is superior to the old fashioned style of Bayern Munich. Well, that is how this match is build up in the media before kick off. The game is hyped throughout the world as the battle of two competing football philosophys, broadcasted in 54 countries. In the end Bayern manage to pull off a 2-1 victory. Luca Toni grabs the all important winning goal two minutes into extra time in the second half.

Rangnick vs Hopp

Back in 2008 nobody in the pressrooms around Germany knew how best to describe Hoffenheim, and much less how to report about them. The team played some of the finest football a newly promoted team ever played during the Hinrunde, but most football fans loathed Hoffenheim for a number of reasons. First, there was Dietmar Hopp and his money. ”They bought their success”, the fans of opposing teams muttered. Furthermore, a large group of people believed that Hopp was breaking the 50+1 rules in the way he ran/runs Hoffenheim.

Manager Ernst Tanner told 11 Freunde that the team wasn’t always greeted with the warmest welcome when travelling to away matches. ”Back in those days I somtimes to counted the number of middle fingers that the opposing fans showed us when we were arriving at the stadium in our team bus.”

Tanner states that German fans these days have a different reaction when the team is arriving at their away matches. Some fans even give the Hoffenheim team bus a friendly wave when it arrives, Tanner has to admit.

Why this change in attitude? There hasn’t been any change in the reporting about Hopp. One could even say that Rangnick’s exit at Hoffenheim once more put Hopp, and the way he influences the club in a bad light.

Maybe it is the fact that Hoffenheim have constantly been trapped in mid-table after their first season in the Bundesliga? Maybe the average German football fan had a look at the numbers back in Hoffenheim’s 2. Bundesliga days and thought ”18 million euros for new players is just not right for a 2. Bundesliga team”.

Rangnick tried always to convience the public that the young players were the heart and soul of the Hoffenheim team when he gave interviews during the season. But, come the next transfer window Rangnick went running to Hopp and asked for more money for expensive signings. Hoffenheim made losses in the extent of 97 million euros between 2007 and 2010, all covered by Hopp. Most of the giant loss from that period were spent on Rangnick’s transfer signings. 11 Freunde writes in their May issue that Rangnick even wanted to purchase Mario Gomez from Stuttgart for 30 million euros. Because, for Rangnick there could only be an ultimate goal: European glory.

Hopp had in the past always been weak when Rangnick came running to him, asking for more money. But, this trend had an abrupt end in 2010, when Hopp told a German newspaper that ”I won’t let the coach dictate how to spent my money!” Clear, and very undiplomatic words. One could say that this was what seperated Rangnick and Hopp in the end. Hopp wasn’t willing to spend all his money on his favorite football team. It wasn’t the transfer of Luiz Gustavo that ended the relationship between Hoffenheim and Rangnick, but the realization that the two of them had completely different goals for the club.

The future?

Hoffenheim are in the process of deciding what sort of team they want to be. Does ”Die Hoffe” want to challange for European glory? Or, is the club supposed to form young talents, and sell them off to bigger clubs for a profit? Manager Tanner and others at the club say that Hoffenheim wants to be the German version of AJ Auxerre, promoting talent, buying players relatively cheaply. Tanner adds that ”we have to realize that we are a mid-table team, and in some seasons we won’t be below the mid-table even”.

The club has now hired Holger Stanislawski, who has shown the world before that he can turn a low budget squad into a winning side. Gone are the ambitions from the Rangnick era it seems. Hoffenheim have so far spent 700.000 € on players for the next season, and shown a willingness to sell their best players, like Andreas Beck, for a reasonable fee(the Beck transfer fell through because of Juventus coach Conte preferring another right back).

Die Hoffe are finally at a point in their Bundesliga excistence where the club finally has to make a decissions what kind of club it wants to be. All the signs suggest that Hoffenheim now are really putting their faith into their youth concept, and that the days of purchasing expensive players are gone.

11 Freunde #114

Feel free to leave a comment below.


About Niklas

Niklas Wildhagen has been following the Bundesliga for over 20 years and he is the editor in chief of the Bundesliga fanatic.

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