BERLIN (AP) – Mixing with the best in Germany, qualifying for the Europa League and reaching the Champions League - Hertha Berlin’s ambition remains despite Jürgen Klinsmann’s resignation as coach after only nine uninspiring Bundesliga games.
Refuting talk of chaos at the club, Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer, general manager Michael Preetz and new financial backer Lars Windhorst presented their vision for the future at a news conference on Thursday, two days after Klinsmann quit suddenly with a Facebook announcement.
“I believe he regrets the decision,” said Windhorst, who brought Klinsmann to the club after investing 125 million euros ($140 million) into Hertha last year.
He increased his stake to 49.9% for another 99 million euros ($110 million) in November.
“I'm sorry that we couldn’t fix things to keep hold of him, because even in the short time he was here, we noticed the effect on sponsors, advertising and income that his name had, that it could have led to big financial gains for Hertha,” said Windhorst, who is the founder and owner of the Tennor Holding investment company.
“Unfortunately, because of the way he departed, continued work with him on the supervisory board is no longer possible. The way he quit is so unacceptable from the club’s point of view, that targeted and constructive work between him and everyone else cannot go on,” Windhorst added. “Klinsmann lost a lot of his credibility here.”
Hertha had been banking on Klinsmann to lead its ambitious new project under Windhorst. The former Germany and United States coach was hired on Nov. 27 to replace Ante Covic. He was charged with leading the team away from the relegation zone and toward European qualification.
However, Hertha is only six points from the relegation zone after three wins, three draws and three losses under Klinsmann, and didn’t show any signs that it could challenge for anything other than its customary mid-table place.
Klinsmann said he left because he couldn’t work with the German coaching model, where a team manager shares responsibility for player signings and welfare. The 55-year-old German said he wanted full control for every sporting aspect, per the English coaching model, and said he clashed on several occasions with Preetz, whose duties he felt should have been his own.
But Klinsmann, who enjoyed a successful playing career in Germany, France and England, had coached in his home country before during an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich, where he would have had even less freedom. The Bavarian powerhouse fired Klinsmann before the end of the 2008-09 season.
Klinsmann ruffled feathers at Hertha before Tuesday’s dramatic announcement. He demoted goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry upon his appointment, apparently in retaliation for Petry’s criticism of his son Jonathan, who had been a reserve goalkeeper at Hertha from 2007-09.
Klinsmann mislaid paperwork needed for his coaching license, leading to trouble with the German soccer federation, and caused a fuss when he ordered Hertha’s training sessions closed to all media and fans, only for the club to dial back on the decision a day later.
“It was a misunderstanding,” Klinsmann said at the time, explaining that he didn’t want scouts from opposing teams filming his team’s preparations.
Hertha’s president denied that the club was reeling following Klinsmann’s abrupt departure.
“Of course it was a shock for us all, but there were no disruptions in the club,” Gegenbauer said.
Preetz said the targets remain the same.
“Our clear goal is to lead the club forward from where it has become established in the middle of the Bundesliga," the general manager said. "Long term, we have to reach Europe. That’s the task we all committed to. Just we shouldn’t forget that we’re currently in a Bundesliga relegation battle.”
Assistant coach Alexander Nouri will remain in charge for now, starting with a visit to relegation rival Paderborn on Saturday, but Preetz is already looking for a coach for next season. Former Bayern coach and Hertha player Niko Kovac is a candidate.
“Nothing has changed in the plans,” Windhorst said, defending his $250 million investment. “There is absolutely no reason why Hertha can’t soon be among the top clubs in Germany and Europe. It’s not rocket science.”