Kehl and Co.: The leaders of the league are getting younger


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Simon Rolfes takes over the position of sporting director in Leverkusen from Rudi Völler on Friday. There is also a generational change at the top of other clubs.

Simon Rolfes will not take over Rudi Völler’s official title as head of sport on Friday. But even with the label of sports director, the ex-national player is already the new strong man at Bayer Leverkusen. And just the most recent example of the spreading change of generations in the management of the Bundesliga.

The 40-year-old, who wore the Bayer shirt for ten years, has full confidence at the Werkself. “Something will change in the daily routine. But Rudi prepared the change with foresight,” said club boss Fernando Carro. The former midfielder is also relaxed about his task: “The biggest change will be in the media perception.”

Sebastian Kehl has to follow in similar footsteps in Dortmund. The 42-year-old has taken over the duties as BVB manager from Michael Zorc, who worked for the Black and Yellows as a player and sports director for 44 (!) years. Born in Dortmund, he retired voluntarily at the age of almost 60: “I have the feeling that it’s going to be good. I’m totally at peace with myself.”

Jörg Schmadtke is one who has already reached the home straight. The sports director of VfL Wolfsburg, a year younger than Zorc, has contractually fixed the end of his career on February 1, 2023. His likely successor is Marcel Schäfer. “It could be that he takes over the fortunes of the club because that would make sense,” said the former Bundesliga goalkeeper.

Schäfer already has a measurable influence in Wolfsburg

However, the competent supervisory board of Lower Saxony has not yet made a decision on this personnel matter. Officially, the application of the ex-professional and current sports director is not even available to the committee. Schäfer: “It will be discussed in due course.”

The fact is: Schäfer, who has hitherto come across as an ordinary seaman in public, already has a measurable influence on the course of events in northern Germany. The 38-year-old was able to convince Schmadtke to part with coach Florian Kohfeldt immediately after the end of the season.

Hasan Salihamidzic, who ended his professional career at VfL Wolfsburg, later found out at FC Bayern that the installation of a novice manager can be accompanied by upheavals. First sports director, then sports director at the German record champions, the native Bosnian was not only blamed for the free transfers of David Alaba and Niclas Süle.

Mané transfer as a liberation for Salihamidzic

The commitment of exceptional striker Sadio Mané seemed like a very personal liberation. “It was a very good experience to have brought a world star to Munich,” said Salihamidzic at the presentation of the Senegalese. In the eyes of the public, “Brazzo” – in English: little brother – only grew up as a top manager through this transfer.

Far more silently than under the magnifying glass on Säbener Strasse, there are also signs of a rejuvenation cure at the rather quiet Bundesliga location Bremen. Clemens Fritz, currently head of professional football and scouting at SV Werder, could replace Frank Baumann, sports director at the Hanseatic League, in the medium term.

Werder’s honorary captain announced he would be taking a break from professional football when he was 50 at the latest. The Franconian will be 47 years old in October.


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