x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Allofs takes a new direction with Wolfsburg

The former Werder Bremen sports director has accepted on a new challenge with strugglers Wolfsburg, writes Ian Hawkey.

Klaus Allofs, centre, poses with Javier Garcia Sanchez, left, the chairman of the supervisory board of Wolfsburg, and Stephan Gruehsam, the vice chairman, after he made the move from Werder Bremen.
Klaus Allofs, centre, poses with Javier Garcia Sanchez, left, the chairman of the supervisory board of Wolfsburg, and Stephan Gruehsam, the vice chairman, after he made the move from Werder Bremen.

Who is the most important individual at a football club? The reliable centre-forward, whose ratio of more than a goal every two games ratio keeps supporters' dreams alive well into the spring and whose popularity means his replica jersey sells well in the club shop?

Or is it the coach, regularly coaxing out of his squad unexpectedly bold, brave performances? Or the chairman or president, committed, generous or just plain rich. Or the heroic goalkeeper? The captain? Or the dedicated and sharp-eyed head of the fertile youth academy?

In the Bundesliga over the past week, the question has been asked because of the shock transfer of Klaus Allofs, the long-serving sports director and chairman of the management board at Werder Bremen, to Wolfsburg, who travel to Hoffenheim today seeking the points that would take them clear of the relegation zone.

Wolfsburg, the German champions only three years ago, are said to have agreed a compensation package of almost €5 million (Dh23.4m) with Bremen for Allofs's services, and to have doubled his salary.

In Germany, the figure of the general manager has a higher profile, perhaps, than in other European leagues.

Uli Hoeness, like Allofs a former national team striker, has been the conspicuous corporate face of Bayern Munich far more firmly than any of Bayern's many coaches over the last decade. His brother, Dieter, also a forceful international centre-forward, until recently held the role at Wolfsburg.

No individual can have a majority shareholding position at a Bundesliga club, explaining why German football has not been a subject yet of the type of takeover that has transformed clubs such Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

In turn, that helps explain why sports directors or general managers command attention and, evidently, the eye of headhunters.

This is not a land where oligarchs set the transfer agenda. There is also a culture in Germany, perhaps more than elsewhere, where former players aspire to executive, corporate positions, and are ready to acquire the economic know-how to master them.

Allofs, 55, had been shaping the fortunes of Bremen since 1999. He ended his playing days there, after a successful and varied career as a clever, sharp goalscorer who had won 56 caps for West Germany and starred in the European Championship victory of 1980.

He worked briefly as a coach, with Fortuna Dusseldorf, but found strategy and planning were his real strengths. The story of Bremen's popularity, achievement and growth over the past decade has Allofs at its heart.

It is also a story of loyalty. Thomas Schaaf, the Bundesliga's longest-serving coach, has been in the Bremen job since 1999 and, allied with Allofs, generally built teams who have played a brand of football appreciated by neutrals.

Bremen won a league and cup double in 2004, reached a Uefa Cup final in 2009 and have participated in the Champions League six times in the half-dozen years of the Allofs-Schaaf tandem. That constitutes a provincial club punching above its weight.

Under Allofs, Bremen have also done some excellent business, spotting and nurturing talent, bringing significant transfer fees into Werder: they developed Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose; picked up South Americans such as Claudio Pizarro and Diego, the Brazilian who thrived in Bremen and who is now at Wolfsburg, via Juventus and Atletico Madrid.

Allofs has not been hired by Wolfsburg to coax the best out of the sometimes wayward Diego, but he has gone there to correct problems which a footballer like Diego, at least for a period, seemed to epitomise.

Since they won the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg have spent more than €150m on recruiting new players. Their reward? Two eighth-place finishes and, in 2010/11 a nervous, final position of 15th in the 18-team top flight. Allofs has made a big jump. Wolfsburg are an unusual club, one of the rare so-called "Works Teams" of the Bundesliga, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, whose car manufacturing headquarters dominate the city. VW's heavy investment in players over recent years has not made the 2009 champions especially liked elsewhere. Coaches have tended not to last very long there, either.

Allofs has been criticised, too, for climbing into the VW bus.

"That he was negotiating behind the back of his club Werder Bremen is unacceptable," said the General-Anzeiger newspaper. Evidently, sports directors are judged by different standards to those frequently adopted by players and coaches.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

 

Fixtures

Today

Dortmund v Fuerth 6.30pm

M'gladbach v Stuttgart 6.30pm

Eintracht Frankfurt v Augsburg 6.30pm

Hamburg v Mainz 6.30pm

Hannover v Freiburg 6.30pm

Nuremberg v Bayern Munich 6:30pm

Hoffenheim v Wolfsburg 6.30pm

Werder Bremen V Dusseldorf 6.30pm

Leverkusen v Schalke 9.30pm

Tomorrow

Werder Bremen v Dusseldorf 6.30pm

Hoffenheim v Wolfsburg 8.30pm

Bundesliga table

Team P W D L GD P

Bayern 11 10 0 1 28 30

Schalke 11 7 2 2 10 23

Frankfurt 11 6 2 3 5 20

Dortmund 11 5 4 2 11 19

Leverkusen 11 5 3 3 2 18

Hannover 11 5 2 4 6 17

Mainz 11 5 2 4 2 17

M'gladbach 11 4 4 3 -4 16

Bremen 11 4 2 5 1 14

Hamburg 11 4 2 5 -3 14

Freiburg 11 3 4 4 1 13

Stuttgart 11 3 4 4 -7 13

Hoffenheim 11 3 3 5 -6 12

Dusseldorf 11 2 5 4 -6 11

Nurnberg 11 3 2 6 -8 11

Wolfsburg 11 3 2 6 -9 11

Fuerth 11 1 4 6 -11 7

FC Augsburg 11 1 3 7 -12 6