Bundesliga: Thomas Hitzlsperger appointed Stuttgart sporting director | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.02.2019
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Bundesliga: Thomas Hitzlsperger appointed Stuttgart sporting director

Former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has taken over as sporting director at VfB Stuttgart, another of his former clubs. The appointment of 'Der Hammer' follows the dismissal of Michael Reschke.

For Hannes Wolf, leading Stuttgart back to the Bundesliga wasn't enough. For Tayfun Korkut, keeping Stuttgart in the Bundesliga wasn't enough.

Now, with Markus Weinzierl having lost ten of his 14 games in charge and the club three points adrift of automatic safety, a third coach in just over a year finds himself on the brink.

The name of former Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol has been touted as a replacement, as has that of Felix Magath, who led the club to a second-placed finish in 2003. Legendary striker and fan favorite Jürgen Klinsmann is also thought to be in the frame.

But Weinzierl is safe for the time being, with the struggling Swabians deciding that perhaps the coach isn't the problem after all and firing sporting director Michael Reschke instead.

"Unfortunately, [Reschke's] work hasn't delivered the desired sporting success and recent results have put our Bundesliga status in danger," said club president Wolfgang Dietrich in a statement. "The supervisory board was no long convinced that the current arrangement could bring about a change in course."

VfB Stuttgart Sportvorstand Michael Reschke (picture-alliance/Promediafoto/M. Deines)

Michael Reschke joined Stuttgart from Bayern Munich in 2017 but has failed to deliver.

Reschke's replacement, former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger, will be a popular choice. The 36-year-old made 125 Bundesliga appearances for Stuttgart between 2005 and 2010 and was part of the Stuttgart team which won the league in 2007. In December 2017, he was elected to the club board with 94.2 percent of the vote before also becoming director of the club's youth academy in February 2018.

Off the pitch, Hitzlsperger is an outspoken campaigner against racism and homophobia and became the first prominent ex-footballer to come out as gay in 2014 – but it's his sporting expertise which Stuttgart need in their current situation.

"I'm approaching this task with joy, energy and full commitment," he said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We are going to do everything to keep VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga."

Thomas Hitzlsperger speaks at a press conference on Tuesday (picture-alliance/Pressefoto Rudel/R. Rudel)

Thomas Hitzlsperger speaks at a press conference on Tuesday

He has a job on his hands. Since taking over in October, coach Weinzierl has tried everything to turn Stuttgart's season around, from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 to 4-1-4-1. Mario Gomez has started alone up front or Daniel Didavi has played in behind, while French World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard has featured all across the back line.

Fortune hasn't been on Stuttgart's side either. They were reduced to ten men after just eight minutes of Weinzierl's second game away at Hoffenheim while Freiburg rescued a point two weeks ago despite Stuttgart coming from behind to lead 2-1 late on.

But Saturday's calamity had nothing to do with fortune as slack marking and clumsy giveaways gifted newly-promoted Düsseldorf a 3-0 win. And it could have been worse for Stuttgart had the usually clinical Dodi Lukebakio not missed several good chances. "Going down!" mocked the Fortuna fans.

"The mood of the team and the coach at full-time was almost as sad as the performance over the previous 90 minutes," wrote local paper Stuttgarter Nachrichten in Düsseldorf. "But when the team lacks the fundamental components of successful football in such an important game as Düsseldorf, how are they going to raise their game for Leipzig on Saturday?"

Ahead of kick-off, the travelling Stuttgart supporters had demanded "fight and commitment for our colors." Hitzlsperger can guarantee them that, but can he help turn Stuttgart's season around before the axe falls on yet another coach?

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