Replacing Lucien Favre: Who Next For Borussia?
All good things come to an end. On Sunday evening, Lucien Favre shocked the world – and his club – when he announced to the press that he would be stepping down as head coach of Borussia Mönchengladbach after four and a half years at the club, a time hallmarked by almost constant success and joy for the club and its fans. Saving the club from relegation in 2011, he qualified for the Champions League playoff places (eventually settling for the Europa League that season) in 2012, reaching Europe again in 2014 and finally qualifying for the Champions League proper just a few months ago, at the end of last season.
Football changes quickly, however, and Favre’s Foals have now lost six Bundesliga games on the bounce (as well as their Champions League group stage game against Sevilla, too) and have at times appeared devoid of ideas about how to turn the tide of current results back around. New signings are taking somewhat longer than expected to bed in, the losses of Max Kruse and Christoph Kramer are very evidently being felt, and slowly the euphoria of last season has ebbed away. Fans of Borussia, as well as the club hierarchy and the playing squad are now left with a very different season to the one which they’d imagined just a month ago.
Max Eberl, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Monday – a significantly less happy birthday than he’d imagined, you’d hazard a guess – will now have the tough job of trying to find a new manager for the club who can, hopefully, continue the club’s philosophy of playing attractive football in recent years and thereby keep the club competitive despite a woeful opening two months to 2015/16. In the meantime, U23 coach Andre Schubert (formerly coach of Paderborn and St Pauli) will take the reins at Borussia, but the club have emphasised that he is seen purely as an interim solution while the club search for a new manager – a situation they were not remotely prepared for, due to what they saw as a perfect partnership between the club and Lucien Favre.
Who, then, could be Favre’s proper successor?
Currently at Augsburg but also suffering an indifferent start after two years of euphoria which landed his club in Europe, talented young manager Markus Weinzierl has long been the subject of much speculation whenever a job opening becomes available in German football. Overlooked by Dortmund when they replaced Jürgen Klopp in the spring, and having rejected a contract offer by Schalke after extended talks in the summer, Weinzierl has passed by the last two big jobs in the Bundesliga but, perhaps, if offered the third big Bundesliga job to become open this year, his interest may become peaked.
The footballing perspectives at Borussia-Park are much better than those at Schalke – the squad is packed with talent even if not much is going right at present – while perhaps the reality of an exceedingly tough season ahead at Augsburg has sunk in for Weinzierl too. Whatever the case, Borussia would be foolish not to consider an approach for the only manager to beat Bayern twice in the league since Pep Guardiola took charge there in 2013, and a man who has transformed Augsburg from recently-promoted survival scrappers to upper-mid-table European competitors.
What? A 2. Bundesliga coach? Worse still, a 2. Bundesliga coach who was relegated last season with a relatively established Bundesliga club? Yes, that’s right. Christian Streich’s SC Freiburg weren’t particularly brilliant last season, but the former midfielder has shown a lot to prove his worth as a Bundesliga manager throughout his career in Breisgau, taking the Southern club as high as fifth in 2012/13 with an attractive brand of counter-pressing football which wowed followers of the Bundesliga.
He’s an interesting character to boot, recently going on an eight-minute tangent about the refugee crisis in a pre-match press conference, which has made him a popular figure outside of the game too. One stumbling block, perhaps, would be his loyalty to Freiburg – he’s been at the club in some capacity since 1995 and has stayed with them despite relegation, actually forging a new young exciting team which have impressed in the 2. Bundesliga this season. If Borussia could interest him, he’d certainly be an interesting option, but it might be the wrong time for Streich to leave his beloved Freiburg.
Long term coach of the other Borussia Jürgen Klopp has been out of a job for roughly 4 months now and seems to be enjoying his time off, most recently making a trip to watch his former club Mainz play as a fan. Nonetheless, he’s constantly connected with moves to clubs – even ones still with managers – and the latest has been Mönchengladbach, with club legend Berti Vogts stating that he’d be the perfect choice for the club moving forward.
Thankfully for fans of both Borussias – many of whom who can’t imagine seeing Klopp managing such a long-term rival of his – this looks unlikely as Klopp ruled himself out publicly. There’s not even any indication Mönchengladbach were considering this – there is solid proof that the club didn’t approach Klopp formally or informally prior to his statement – but he has been such an oft-touted replacement for Favre that it seems relevant to pay the rumour lip service. If four months is enough to reinvigorate Klopp and his footballing philosophy, that’s great, but he also wouldn’t exactly present much continuity with the more tactically aware and less pressing-based system of Favre. It’d be the wrong deal for both parties, and one which rightfully won’t happen.
In a similar calibre of manager to Klopp but without the years of playing them in hotly contested derbies, Carlo Ancelotti may see Borussia Mönchengladbach as a good opportunity to get back into football having left Real Madrid last season. Having won much of what there is to win in European club football – with titles in Italy, England and France as well as Champions Leagues with Real Madrid and AC Milan – the final remaining challenge in European football is arguably taking on a club in German football. With a talented squad and the potential for more on the horizon, Borussia are a vastly promising prospect despite the current table situation.
Ancelotti’s place among the great managers of the game can’t be called into question – he is one of just two men to win the European Cup three times as a manager – but success of some degree in Germany would certainly add yet more to that gleaming CV. It’d be a huge coup if Mönchengladbach could interest Ancelotti with a tenure at Borussia-Park.
Verdict: Who knows what’s going to happen? Eberl’s renowned for pulling a few transfers out of left-field, and his appointment of Favre back in 2011 was somewhat of a left-field appointment too given that most were calling for yet another relegation firebrand. The only certain is that the club will need time to figure out its new direction following the unexpected loss of a man central to everything good about the club in recent years. Let’s hope it works out.
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