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Strategy working for Mainz

Under the guidance of head coach Martin Schmidt, Mainz, who beat Hannover 1-0 on Saturday, are on a roll. DW's Ross Dunbar argues that Mainz have developed into one of the Bundesliga's model football clubs.

It doesn't matter how many times you whisper it to yourself because it just doesn't compute: Mainz are three points off a Champions League position. As Leicester City rampage towards a possible Premier League title in England, Germany has its own fair share of surprise packages to shake things up.

Mainz's success is no fluke - and it certainly isn't a one-off. The Carnival Club is in the Bundesliga on merit, a great example of football's meritocratic system. There's been no oligarch or Sheikh to push Mainz up the table; it's all been down to hard work, drive and a pretty damn good strategy.

Sporting director Christian Heidel, who is expected to move to Schalke in the summer, has been the chief architect of building this club. Heidel has delivered a new training center, a reputation for one of the best football academies in Germany, as well as, a shiny new stadium that holds 34,000 - helping to grow the revenue streams.

The late Wolfgang Frank, who had two spells as coach at the club (1995-97, 1998-2000) is credited with having played a key role into bringing a unique football style to Mainz - before Jürgen Klopp and his charming charisma brought a new impetus to keep the longtime second-division outfit playing Bundesliga football for four seasons.

Thomas Tuchel's impressive stint took the club to unprecedented heights - ninth, fifth and seventh-placed finishes along with qualification for the UEFA Europa League. Current head coach Martin Schmidt clearly has a tough act to follow.

The 48-year-old Swiss national replaced Kasper Hjulmand in February 2015 and has picked up 15 wins from 35 matches in all competitions. Schmidt, who was promoted to the first team after a successful spell with the reserves, has reinforced the team's stability while at the same time introducing a smart, possession-based style of play.

1. Bundesliga 1. FSV Mainz 05 - 1899 Hoffenheim

Muto and Malli are key to Mainz's superb season

The combination of Yunus Malli and Yoshinori Muto has been particularly fruitful, with the pair producing 15 of Mainz's 25 league goals this season. The fact Muto has been integrated himself so well into the club reflects superbly on the club's management and head coach Schmidt.

The 22-year-old Japanese forward was signed as a long-term project, but was thrust into the spotlight when last season's top scorer, Shinji Okazaki, signed for Leicester. With seven goals this season, Muto has done a good job of stepping into his compatriot's boots. However a knee injury sustained at Hannover on Saturday could see him left out for several weeks, making it more difficult for him to equal Okazaki's last-season total of 12.

Malli, meanwhile, was on the verge of a move to Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window - but wound up staying put. A clever player with great technique on his left-foot, the Kassel-born Turkish international has been nurtured in Mainz following his move from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2011. Perhaps Champions League or Europa League football might convince Malli to remain at the Coface Arena even longer.

There are no superstars or prima donnas at Mainz. For years, the changing rooms were just cabins outside of the Bruchwegstadion, the club's former home. Heidel, a shrewd manager with a business background, is getting a lot of the credit for the success of this project.

The club is continuing to ride a wave of success. European football would be another venture into the unknown and put the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate on the map once more. As nearby Eintracht Frankfurt struggle for stability, Mainz are clearly the undisputed kings of football in the region.