New Hertha coach Babbel must decide who to sell and who to keep | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.05.2010
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New Hertha coach Babbel must decide who to sell and who to keep

Hertha Berlin's disastrous season ended with the capital club going down. Markus Babbel has been charged with getting the team back up. But he'll also have to mind the balance sheet, meaning some hard choices.

Depressed Hertha players

Friedrich (m.) won't be hanging his head in Berlin any more

As the trauma that was Hertha Berlin in 2009-10 wound down, the team garnered some unusual praise.

Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes said they were the best team ever to be relegated, while Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, whose side handed Hertha their final defeat off the season, said that two of Hertha's players were good enough to play for the mighty Bavarians.

Van Gaal neglected to say which ones, but his remark highlights the dilemma Berlin's management now faces.

Already in debt to the tune of 33 million euros, ($42.2 million) Hertha reportedly need to reduce their personnel costs from 30 to 13 million euros. That means selling off players, but the club has to try to retain enough talent to have a chance of returning to the top flight and the big bucks that division one brings.

On Monday, Markus Babbel - an ex-Bayern star and former Stuttgart coach - was given a one-year contract. The message is clear: Hertha are gunning for immediate promotion.

But where will he and Hertha be forced to cash in? And what players will be on other clubs' shopping lists? Here's a back-to-front list.

The back five

Jaroslav Drobny

Drobny has been a rock for Hertha for two seasons

It's an open secret that captain and German national defender Arne Friedrich will be moving elsewhere, with Friedrich himself saying at the weekend that he'd played his last match for Berlin.

Wolfsburg, which is headed by former Hertha commercial manager Dieter Hoeness, is thought to be prepared to offer two million euros for Arne Friedrich. Hertha would welcome and instantly accept such an offer since when Friedrich's salary is taken into account, they would save five million euros.

Another less welcome loss is almost certainly going to be goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny. Hertha tried unsuccessfully to get the Czech to extend his expiring contract, and he can leave free of charge.

Surprisingly, no one has yet grabbed Drobny, who was among the top in his position for the past two seasons. Still there's little chance that a keeper with aspirations of becoming the Czech Republic's No. 1 is going to go down to the second division.

Hertha will save his salary and try to find a cheaper replacement.

The midfield

Berlin's Gojko Kacar celebrates

Kacar is Berlin's most valuable asset

One of two jewels in Hertha's midfield is Gojko Kacar. The 23-year-old Serbian enjoyed a fine season in 2008-9 and is rated at around 8.5 million euros. A host of big European clubs including Manchester United have reportedly had an eye on him in the past.

The dilemma for Hertha is that Kacar's salary is relatively low and if he could be persuaded to give his all in the second division, he's the sort of player who could help Berlin get promoted. On the other had, he had knee trouble this year so Hertha might be wise to get big money for him straight away.

Another Hertha midfielder who could be of use to other teams is Raffael. The Brazilian is a technically gifted playmaker who scored seven goals this season and is valued at 5.5 million.

Berlin will no doubt try to keep Raffael, their offensive leader, but he too brings with him a dilemma. The main reason his value isn't higher is the sense that, for all his skill, he's too small for the absolute top level. That's a weakness that could make him less effective in division two, where the play is more physical and the refereeing generally more lenient than in the German top flight.

Neither Kacar nor Raffael has given an indication one way or the other of whether they'd be willing to stay in Berlin in division two and accept the salary cut that would entail.

Hertha is likely to sell one in a bid to keep the other, but if the money were right, both could be sent packing to a generous new home.

The strikers

Berlin's Adrian Ramos

Ramos didn't do badly at all for his first season in Germany

Hertha have lots of forwards they would like to sell, but only one anyone is likely to want to buy: Adrian Ramos.

The Colombian scored 10 goals this past season, despite only joining Hertha late last summer and getting very little service worth the name. That would suggest his estimated transfer worth of 3.5 million is an under-valuation.

Arguing against a sale, from Hertha's perspective, is the fact they only own 80 percent of his transfer rights and will need a big, strong forward for the coming campaign in division two.

But rumors have swirled that Ramos wants no part of life in lower-division German football, which could force Hertha's hand.

So no one will be surprised if Ramos, or any of the other few stand-outs from Hertha's disastrous season, sign on with new employers in the coming weeks.

And that would make new coach Markus Babbel's task all the tougher.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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