Max Eberl is no longer sports director of Borussia Monchengladbach. His move and the way he announced his retirement deserve a lot of respect. The 48-year-old leaves a big gap that now has to be filled by those who apparently did not recognize Eberl’s suffering. A comment.
On Thursday evening, the German soccer world received news with a bang: Max Eberl (48) is quitting as sports director of Borussia Monchengladbach with immediate effect. On Friday, at the club’s extraordinarily scheduled and highly emotional press conference, the confirmation was made.
But the basis for discussion changed radically from Thursday to Friday. Had one in the hours before still heartily speculated that Eberl could change to another club, which is why he was even "betrayed" on social media was reproached, one remained speechless on Friday from 14 o’clock first of all.
A manager in the tough Bundesliga business, who has been juggling millions for years and has made a big name for himself throughout Europe, says with bitter tears: "I want to get out of here!" It didn’t just seem like a cry for help. It was one.
Gladbach manager Eberl takes a bold approach
Before talking about everything else, you have to give Eberl a lot of respect: In a world where even budding soccer players are told as children not to show weakness; in a world where strength, size, breadth are the definitive attributes for success, he has the strength and the size to come out in front of the public and say that he no longer feels able to do so.
If Eberl had said nothing at all and the club had announced the split in a press release on Thursday, everything would have taken its usual course. Eberl should have taken criticism for leaving in this sporting predicament.
One would have listed his mistakes and at some point the topic would have been through. Because Eberl has worked so successfully for over a decade, he would then have been the talk of the media everywhere. Even at FC Bayern.
But Eberl did not want that. He went this way quite deliberately. He wanted to communicate that he has been suffering for a long time, that it must end now, that it can no longer be endured a day longer. You can’t speculate when it comes to someone’s health, but Eberl didn’t give the impression that he was going to take some time off and come back soon. But he didn’t care about that either. It is an end of a road that Eberl at the press conference "my life" called. That is allowed to have an effect.
Eberl wanted to quit as early as October
Eberl had the good grace to also answer the question about his successor at the press conference. But that is no longer his theme. The answers now have to come from those who have made themselves comfortable in VfL’s second tier in recent years. Even the press conference at Borussia Park was emblematic. Despite great emotions and many tears, it was Eberl who was able to make the clearest statements.
Of course, President Rolf Konigs, Executive Committee member Rainer Bonhof and CFO Stephan Schippers have suffered just as much because an eternal companion takes the exit. But because it was such a long road, maybe they could have helped him much earlier and not just at the point where you have to worry about Eberl.
As early as October, Eberl made it clear internally that he no longer wanted to go along with the deal. Although Eberl defends his comrades-in-arms by saying: "The club couldn’t notice how I was doing. I continued to do my job as normal. I didn’t let anyone notice how I was doing."
The time out after the contract extension: Signs not recognized
But it’s also clear that Eberl didn’t approach the presidium because he no longer wanted the job in Gladbach, but because he no longer felt able to do so. This is a difference that must be recognized and should make the many attempts to convince Eberl to stay unnecessary.
The time out of one month after the contract extension in the winter of 2020 is also, from the new perspective of today, an indication that the role as a lone wolf did not pass Eberl by without a trace and he took this unusual path.
The Gladbach bosses obviously didn’t recognize the clear signs and, as Bonhof admitted at the press conference, hoped for Eberl’s staying power at least until the end of the season. A fallacy.
The question is: with what consequences? Gladbach is nowhere near as bad as it was when Eberl took over, although there was resistance in the club and Stefan Effenberg used his lobby to take the strong role. Eberl won the power struggle, turned a relegation-threatened Bundesliga club with a below-average squad into a Champions League club. Gladbach emerged victorious as the last few years show.
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But today the club has to make important decisions again. He must install a new sports director, he must determine the team image for the future. But more importantly, a structure has to be created that offers a perspective. President Konigs (80), executive committee members Hans Meyer (79) and Rainer Bonhof (70) will not all have innovative answers for shaping the future of VfL Borussia Monchengladbach. But until that time comes, until all these questions are clarified, the time for coziness is over.