Germany has a ton of great goalkeepers but they don't always travel well. Former national keeper Timo Hildebrand may be on his way out at Valencia. The question now: Where's he going next?
Hildebrand faces an uphill climb to revive his once promising career
Valencia thought they had landed a major coup in July 2007, when they signed Timo Hildebrand, who was coming off a spirited World Cup campaign as a substitute in the German national team and a league title with Stuttgart as the teams number 1.
But just 18 months later, the Spanish newspaper Marca has reported that Valencia's bosses are so eager to get rid of Hildebrand that they would consider letting him go on a free transfer during the winter break.
The reason is mounting tension between the 29-year-old keeper and Valencia coach Unai Emry.
"The goalkeeper is no longer satisfied with his role at Valencia, and the coaching staff is unhappy with the German's attitude in training," reported the Internet edition of the Spanish newspaper Las Provincias.
If Hildebrand is history in Spain, he'll likely head back to Germany. And be asking fimself, What went wrong?
From Bundesliga to bench
Hildebrand and Loew are no longer making ads together
Hildebrand is a victim of a bad Valencia season and a coaching change.
The German gradually fought his way in Valencia's starting line-up last season, but the club spent a good portion of its time fighting relegation. They eventually finished tenth -- an unacceptable result for a team whose fans expected them to qualify for the Champions League.
Valaencia and Hildebrand did win the King's Cup, but that wasn't enough to save then-coach Ronald Koeman's job. Nor was it sufficient to convince German national coach Joachim Loew to include Hildebrand in his Euro 2008 squad.
In the off-season, Emry insisted the club bring in Brazilian keeper Renan, who became the team's new number 1. Valencia currently tops the Spanish first division.
Meanwhile, Hildebrand wasn't even nominated for Valencia's most recent cup match -- an affront to a keeper once tipped to be in line for the top job in the German national side.
Which way will he go?
Could Hildebrand replace former national teammate Lehmann at Stuttgart?
Hildebrand's dream-turned-nightmare stint in Spain has probably made him less attractive to clubs around Europe, but he is positively remembered in Germany. So he could be headed home.
The big question is where. Three names keep cropping up on the rumor mill -- Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Stuttgart.
Dortmund was linked with Hildebrand at the start of the season amidst concerns about keeper Roman Weidenfeller's fitness. But bringing the former in now would create potentially divisive competition.
Hoffenheim would no doubt have been eager to sign up Hildebrand in July, just as the keeper probably wouldn't object to joining the surprise club of the season now. But would Hoffenheim, which was on top of the table after 9 rounds, really want to shake up its successful formula?
Finally, Stuttgart would make sense since Hildebrand has already had success there, and current keeper Jens Lehmann is rapidly approaching his 40s.
But while it might be an option for next season, it's hard to see Stuttgart replacing the high-profile Lehmann in February.
And Hildebrand is, no doubt, anxious to get a game as soon as possible and start recovering from what's proven a fairly disastrous foreign adventure.