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Culture

Greeks Won't Prevent "Rehakles" Returning to Germany

The Greek Football Federation declared on Thursday that it would not stop Otto Rehhagel from returning to Germany to take the job of national coach -- if he wants to.

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Germany hopes Otto Rehhagel will return and bring his magic touch

One of the main obstacles between Otto Rehhagel and the job many other international coaches are avoiding like the plague was removed on Thursday when the Greek Football Federation announced that it would not force the country's Euro 2004-winning coach to honor his contract, thus paving the way for "Rehakles" to take the reigns of the German team -- if he chooses to.

Greek football president Vassilis Gagatsis was quoted as saying that, although Rehhagel's contract does not expire until after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, King Otto -- just one of the terms of endearment he's known by in Greece -- could relinquish his Greek throne under certain circumstances.

"In case the coach cites personal reasons and wants to disrupt his cooperation with us, we can't keep him willy-nilly," Gagatsis was quoted on the website of radio station Flash. "In such a case we must discuss it with him and see what can be done. I can't rule out anything," he said.

Rehhagel steered the Greek team to victory in the European championships in Portugal, even though the Greeks were considered rank outsiders at the start of the tournament. He is now the main man in the frame for Rudi Völler's old job after the Germany coach resigned in the wake of his own team's dismal elimination from the contest's first round.

Rehhagel, the one-time coach of Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Kaiserslautern, may soon be the only man in consideration after a series of high profile trainers turned down the job.

Top coaches go cold on German job

Ottmar Hitzfeld

Ottmar Hitzfeld wants a break after leaving Bayern Munich

Another former Bayern Munich coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, was odds-on to take over. But just as the German Football Association (DFB) was ready to appoint him as successor, he declared himself unwilling to take on the responsibility. The offer then went out to former candidate Christoph Daum who said "thanks, but no thanks," preferring to stay in Turkey. Then it was revealed that Franz Beckenbauer, president of Bayern Munich and a heavyweight at the DFB, had sounded out Arsenal's French mastermind Arsene Wenger about taking the job and was also met with an answer in the negative.

"I have a contract at Arsenal until 2005 which I will fulfill. The club will not release me because our season starts in four weeks. I will decide in October what I will do afterwards. I am not available right now," Wenger told German soccer magazine Kicker.

With Denmark's Morten Olsen, Guus Hiddink of the Netherlands and Germans Lothar Matthäus and Volker Finke making up a reserve squad of people who might actually be interested in the job, it seems that Otto Rehhagel is the last remaining top-drawer choice on offer.

World Cup choice for King Otto

Euro 2004 Greichenland Finalsieger Europameister 2004

Will Otto want to challenge for the World Cup with his European Champions?

But even though the Greeks have made it plain they will not stand in his way, there is the question of whether Otto the Great will want to return to his native country to lead it into the 2006 World Cup -- or take his newly crowned Greek champions to Germany in two years' time and try his luck on his home soil.

The 65-year-old German arrived in Greece in 2001 and extended his contract for another two years shortly before this year's European Championships. Gagatsis recently reiterated his confidence that Rehhagel will stay in Greece. "From countless conversations I have had with him, I conclude that he wants to stay on the Greek bench and offer his services for another two years," he said.

Faces from past hold the key

However, recent reports suggest that Rehhagel has already met with Franz Beckenbauer for the first round of discussions which could lead to his installation as Germany coach.

But former World Cup-winning player Beckenbauer, who is also a DFB vice-president and chief of the World Cup organizing committee, fired Rehaggel from Munich for incompetence eight years ago, and Otto may have reservations about being reunited with the mostly Bavarian hierarchy at the DFB.

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