Jorg Schmadtke not out to make friends with coaches but CV shows Liverpool have an expert
Liverpool fans may be surprised to hear Jorg Schamdtke will be the club’s new sporting director, particularly given he retired in January.
But his decision to reverse that and return with Liverpool looks to be a formality, with the 59-year-old German heading to Merseyside to put pen to paper on a short-term deal.
It’s been a turbulent period at management level for the Reds, with the master of much of their transfer brilliance, Michael Edwards, making way for Julian Ward, who is now leaving after a single season as sporting director.
It can’t be much fun replacing a man who secured Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker, and also brought in an era-defining £137million for Philippe Coutinho, but that will be the task for Schmadtke.
Klopp described the former goalkeeper as a ‘very successful and smart guy’ and it’s easy to see why with a CV of restoration jobs.
Beginning his career by taking Alemannia Aachen – a second division team – to the final of the DFB Pokal and with it the UEFA Cup in 2004, there was no surprise that Hannover 96 wanted him to provide a similar turnaround, which he managed to do.
Germany’s ‘crisis club’ were taken from the relegation zone to the Europa League, a feat Shmadtke has since repeated with Cologne, but starting from the second tier.
A tie against Arsenal at the Emirates was the peak of success for the new generation of fans of the Rheinland giants, who let their sporting director know how they felt when he departed for what they believed to be the riches of Volkswagen money at Wolfsburg.
His first match back at the fierce RheinEnergieSTADION earned chants of “Schmadtke, you scammer, take three million and leave,” but they were quickly proved wrong.
He went even further with Wolfsburg, going from the relegation zone to the Champions League, but the task will be very different at Liverpool as Schmadtke reverses his decision to retire in January.
Particularly with a manager in Klopp who’s been at Anfield since 2015, a far longer leash than Schmadtke normally gives his head coaches.
“My job is more than making friends with coaches,” Schmadtke once said. “My job is to be successful.”
That was very much the case at his last and most successful job with Wolfsburg, where the team even looked like title challengers on occasion.
Much of that was due to the hiring of Oliver Glasner from LASK in Austria, with the Tottenham-linked boss going on to win the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt.
However, when disagreements came over transfer activity, Glasner was dismissed, which Schmadtke will argue wasn’t his fault, as the Austrian is making similar complaints in his current job in Frankfurt.
When asked about the fallout, Schmadtke replied: “The discussion that I discuss with coaches or am not on friendly terms with me after 20 years as a manager is getting on my nerves.
“I also find that disrespectful towards me.
“It is not a logical equation when there is harmony between management and coach and then there is success. Conversely, disharmony does not mean no success.”
Under his next appointment, Mark van Bommel, there was neither disharmony or success, though, with the Dutch former midfielder’s attritional football only lasting three months at the Volkswagen Arena.
Instead he turned to a Julian Nagelsmann of sorts with the up and coming young Florian Kohfeldt, but that almost resulted in relegation.
And when there was an attempt to deflect the blame heading into the current campaign, pundits and former players weren’t happy.
“I am sure that the crisis is not due to the coach,” said experienced Bundesliga manager Peter Neururer.
“It’s pretty clear what went wrong. It has to be how the team is put together and by whom.”
Former Liverpool defender Markus Babbel agreed, saying: “He blames his mistake on the coach [Van Bommel] and I don’t think that’s okay.
“If you get Mark van Bommel, you know what kind of football you’re going to get. Then you get Kohfeldt, who is a mix of Glasner and van Bommel. The team no longer knows what you actually want.
“What bothers me about it is that it is always said that Florian is not to blame, but the predecessor. But you got him. You got a coach who stood for a completely different type of football.”
Those problems won’t be so pronounced at Liverpool, where Schmadtke certainly won’t have the power to fire Klopp, in fact the opposite might be true.
Instead his last job may give some clues, with Schmadtke grooming his assistant Marcel Schafer to replace him at Wolfsburg, and the side are now back challenging for Europe.
Head of recruitment Dave Fallows was linked with the post Schmadtke is now taking, and with a short term contract to be signed, it may be the perfect solution to set the Reds up for a bright future.