Almost exactly 20 years ago Jörg Schmadtke started his career as a manager in Aachen. VfL Wolfsburg wants to expand its developer team. But there are questions.
His future is currently open: Wolfsburg manager Jörg Schmadtke. Bongarts / Getty Images
A child in the Bundesliga is rare
Where is Jörg Schmadtke? The question comes up more and more recently, the manager’s public appearances are becoming less frequent. It stands out. The man is a child of the Bundesliga, there is hardly anyone in the industry who does not have an opinion on him, who has always been somewhat different. That once stood out in the bright goalkeeper jersey and with loops between the posts of Fortuna Düsseldorf and SC Freiburg, which now for the most part is only captured by television cameras in the stadium stands. With the cap down. And change the facial expressions.
Recently Schmadtke seemed more satisfied again, his expression darkening in the first weeks of this season. Because he felt very early on that he had brought the wrong coach in Mark van Bommel. The boss fired the Dutchman after just nine league games, although of course he knew what reactions he was causing in public. Schmadtke has since withdrawn even further. Because he is embarrassed by the fact that people with whom he has never exchanged a word claim to create a psychological report on him from a distance. And draw such a picture which shows him as the enemy of every trainer.
When we last renewed our contract, we agreed to sit in the winter.
Frank Witter, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of VfL
Schmadtke will certainly also use inner contemplation to clarify how long he, whose contract ends in the summer, would like to maintain this football circus. This is about the future of the CEO of Wolfsburg, discussions are scheduled. “The last time we extended our contract, we agreed to sit down in the winter,” VfL supervisory board boss Frank Witter said when asked about the kicker. “And that’s how we will do it.” The club want to continue – but what does Schmadtke want?
Inner contemplation: Jörg Schmadtke in the stands with his cap down. imago images / Noah Wedel
The man who brought success back to Wolfsburg. Not as a fan-celebrated man-catcher, but as a clearly structured team developer. Last year it was already clear at the end of October that the manager would be there for another year. “I feel good in Wolfsburg and I have the impression that I haven’t finished here yet,” he said at the time. And now? Has he finished with VfL after almost four years, four coaches and the move from relegation to the Champions League? He must now find this answer.
I feel good in Wolfsburg and I feel like I’m not done here yet.
Jörg Schmadtke in October
He can be happy with what he has accomplished at VfL. From a completely deregistered squad, Schmadtke and sporting director Marcel Schäfer built a powerful sprint team in three years. Tracked by coaches who play a decisive role in the public perception of Schmadtke. Because even from the equally successful moments in Hanover with Mirko Slomka or in Cologne with Peter Stöger, the stories that stuck to many in which there were problems at the interpersonal level. Because Schmadtke doesn’t see his job as being his manager’s buddy and not just offending him. He subordinates everything to success – and with success.
To stay in the picture: At the start, Bruno Labbadia held the wheel of the green and white racing car under Schmadtke for a year and drove the VfL in the Europa League. Only: “Together on vacation,” said the manager, when it became public that the chemistry between the boss and the coach was not good, they would not go. They eventually broke up, unknown Austrian Oliver Glasner took the driver’s seat. But when he wanted a few more horsepower under the hood (“speed and depth”) and announced it loud and clear with the window down, the harmony was there too. “We’re not in Phantasialand here,” Schmadtke typed into his football teacher’s navigation system. Nevertheless, they drove silently together in the premier class across the finish line – and Glasner then continued to Frankfurt on his own.
Van Bommel also “a defeat for me”
Only van Bommel felt the ejection seat. Because Schmadtke acts from a purely sporting point of view, sometimes he cannot hide personal sensibilities, but does not allow himself to be guided by them. Former “aggressive leader” van Bommel didn’t hit the accelerator as hard as the team boss had imagined. The bus therefore had to get out before the cart hit the wall. A personal error in judgment that Schmadtke has not experienced so often in his managerial career, which began 20 years ago on December 1, 2001 with Alemannia Aachen. “It’s a defeat for me too,” he said afterwards, providing one of the few moments he opened the window to his world of emotions. “It’s a sad situation for me, not a good one.”
A compassionate “coach killer”?
So the supposed “coach killer” as a compassionate person? Yes, if you know the Rhineland, which has a dry sense of humor, which reports that behind the hard shell there is a soft core. He just doesn’t like showing it off. Rather, he cultivated the image of the odd, casual man of action that has become loathsome to the hustle and bustle in football. The excesses of this affair put him at a distance. Documented in Wolfsburg with the passage from the bench to the stands, from where he has everything in sight and is no longer sitting in the middle. “It was time for me to take a step in the other direction,” he said. “It has to do with age, with the developments that you go through.”
Dry humor: Jörg Schmadtke. Bongarts / Getty Images
When will day X come for Schäfer?
The 57-year-old is barely visible in front of television cameras. He ceded this domain to sporting director Schäfer, whom he practically trains to be his successor for Day X. This is the project of the VfL Supervisory Board. When exactly is that day? Von Schäfer, who has already extended his contract until 2025, knows he would like to continue working with his manager. In general, it should be clarified: Schäfer, who is close to the team and the coach, would he not lose one of his great strengths if he went from the cabin to the manager’s chair? Or could it all be brought together under one roof?
I’d be crazy if I didn’t include the experience of such a successful manager. I appreciate and seek the exchange.
Lots of questions, the focus is on the future of Schmadtke. Who has a lot in Wolfsburg that is important to him. A calm environment, his family including the first grandchild. His son Nils works as a chief scout for the VfL. And that also seems to match the new coach. Florian Kohfeldt appreciates “that there is someone who does not panic at the first problem”. And: “I would be crazy if I did not incorporate the experience of such a successful manager. I appreciate and seek the exchange.”
For how much longer ? Jörg Schmadtke alone decides.