Saturday's 5-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund means Wolfsburg won't be in Europe next season. Now the Volkswagen-sponsored club must convince their key talent to stick around beyond this summer.
On Saturday afternoon, Wolfsburg were thoroughly beaten 5-1 by Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion. The result means the Wolves won't be playing in Europe next season and if Dieter Hecking's side fail to pick up points against Hamburg or Stuttgart they could still be relegated from the Bundesliga if results went against them in the last two matchdays of the season.
Any hopes that Thomas Tuchel's team would be licking their wounds after the news of Mats Hummels' desire to leave the club were put to rest as Dortmund made short work of Hecking's side.
"In the remaining two games, we must look to finish out the season with some positive results," Hecking said after the defeat. Positivity in general has been hard to come by this season in Wolfsburg. Untimely injuries and headlines about Max Kruse have rocked an already creaking ship and not even Andre Schürrle's goal - further evidence that the World Cup winner is finding form - was of much consolation.
Wolfsburg fans have seen their side go from challenging Real Madrid in the Champions League to stumbling down the Bundesliga table. Wolfsburg haven't won a game since that special European night against the Spanish giants.
In the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg haven't won since March 5, a stretch of seven games that has seen the Wolves collect a measly two points. Defeats to Hoffenheim and Augsburg, and a draw they rescued against Darmstadt thanks to a Schürrle injury-time equalizer have left some serious question marks about both Hecking's tactics and Wolfsburg's inability to recover from Kevin de Bruyne's departure last summer.
A far cry from 2015
The Volkswagen-sponsored club will almost certainly avoid the drop, but a summer of upheaval is surely in store for sporting director Klaus Allofs and Hecking. Wolfsburg may be playing like a mid-table side but they have the squad and wage budget of a team that should be Champions League regulars. Some key players may get itchy feet during the offseason when the realization that they will have no European football next season finally dawns on them.
"Even with the Champions League it will remain very difficult to compete with English teams," Allofs told DW in February, when asked about key players being tempted by the allure of the Premier League this summer. "It's very tough to compete with these teams because they're paying much more money than we can," he added.
A number of Wolfsburg's key talents may look even more appealing to England's richer sides, knowing the more ambitious members of the squad will feel the need to play in continental competition. The likes of Ricardo Rodriguez, Maxi Arnold, Luiz Gustavo, Schürrle and even Julian Draxler - who only joined the club at the start of the season - will now surely think twice about ignoring offers this summer. After all, the promise of regular Champions League football was part of the reason most of the aforementioned players joined the club.
At the end of the game in Dortmund, reporters and accompanying cameramen were hunting down Hummels to get the defender to add further comment to the story of the day. In the coming weeks and months though, the newspaper column inches and television bulletins may slowly turn their attention to the Volkswagen Arena as Wolfsburg face life outside the limelight.