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Not Making the Grade

DW staff (nda)November 9, 2007

German soccer clubs no longer have a chance to compete at the top European level, said Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. It is a view echoed by many big names in the German game.

Lyon players Kader Keita, right, and Fabio Santos challenge for the ball with Ludovic Magnin of VFB Stuttgart
Bundesliga champions Stuttgart were eliminated from Europe with no pointsImage: AP

Rummenigge's comments follow a week of German clubs in European competition, with not one of the six clubs in action able to score a victory.

He said the Bundesliga could no longer compete financially with the top leagues in Spain, England or Italy.

"We have to be clear that we no longer have a chance internationally," he told the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten on Friday, Nov. 9. "There isn't a manager or coach in the world who can compensate for this competitive disadvantage."

In the Champions League, Bundesliga champions VfL Stuttgart are now out of contention after four successive defeats. Stuttgart will not even have the consolation of dropping into the UEFA Cup as third-placed finishers in their group.

Lazio's Tommaso Rocchi, right, is tackled by Werder Bremen's Per Mertesacker
Werder Bremen's campaign ended with defeat to LazioImage: AP

Meanwhile Werder Bremen, who were beaten 2-1 by Lazio on Tuesday, are bottom of their group and Schalke 04, who drew 0-0 at home to Chelsea, are third in their group.

In UEFA Cup group matches Thursday, Bayern Munich were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Bolton Wanderers, while Nuremberg were beaten 2-0 at home by Everton and Bayer Leverkusen went down 2-1 at Spartak Moscow. The other German side in Europe, SV Hamburg, were without a game.

Rummenigge criticizes Bayern's UEFA display

Rummenigge also publicly criticized Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's tactics after the draw with Bolton, who sit just one place off the bottom of the English Premier League.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, CEO of Bayern Munich
Rummenigge says German teams are no longer competitiveImage: AP

The Bayern official lashed out at Hitzfeld for replacing key players such as Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger for the final half hour with Bayern leading 2-1, which allowed Bolton to grab a late equalizer.

"I'm really annoyed," Rummenigge had told journalists after the draw. "It would have been very easy to win this one and advance. The spectators have a right to see the best team play. Football is not mathematics. You can't calculate everything."

Hitzfeld said he did not want to directly comment on Rummenigge's remarks, but explained that he had wanted to rest Ribery and Schweinsteiger ahead of the Bundesliga match at VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.

"I hope I know the basic math of soccer, and I try to apply that," said Hitzfeld, who studied mathematics at university. "I believe that I found the right mixture so that we can win in Stuttgart,"

Hitzfeld also said, he wanted to rotate some of the players to prevent injuries.

"It was a reasonable decision," he added. "We need to get back on track at Stuttgart after two league draws."

Hitzfeld added that he was not worried about Rummenigge's attack.

"I'm used to stormy weather," he said. "You shouldn't let yourself be influenced by such petty issues."

Funding adding to lack of German competition

Schalke's Zlatan Bajramovic tackles Chelsea's Michael Essien
Schalke matched moneybags Chelsea in the score onlyImage: AP

Rummenigge's tirade against Bundesliga teams continued with a complaint that the German representatives in the Champions League were "not sufficiently competitive" against their rivals from other major European leagues who were earning vastly more from television broadcast sales.

The 52-year-old former international called for a new distribution of TV earnings in the Bundesliga, saying a team like VfB Stuttgart had to be treated differently from clubs such as Energie Cottbus or VfL Bochum.

"Either we decide on individual marketing, or the key to distribution has to be aligned to the status and merit of the respective clubs," he said.

Finance was now the key in international soccer, enabling top clubs to invest in quality players.

"The Bundesliga is buying only quantity on the transfer market. One can see the result of this in the Champions League," Rummenigge added.

Soccer statesmen weigh in on Bundesliga malaise

Rummenigge is not alone in his concern over the comparative quality of the Bundesliga. Germany national team coach Joachim Löw said earlier in the week that he was also alarmed at the poor showing of the three Champions League representatives who have managed a total of just seven points from 12 matches.

German national team coach Joachim Löw
Jogi Löw fears young players will lack international experienceImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"That's an extremely disappointing international performance," Löw told German sport news agency SID. "There's no way we can be happy about that. It is no help for players like Mario Gomez and Thomas Hitzlsperger or young talents like Serdar Tasci and Sami Khedira if they don't get international exposure."

The voices of concern also included former West Germany coach and captain Franz Beckenbauer as well as ex-captains Lothar Matthäus and Oliver Kahn.

"The results are alarming," Matthäus told Premiere TV. "You need heart, passion, engagement and an identification with your club in soccer. You don't see that at some of these clubs."

Kahn said: "The Bundesliga might look like a top product from the outside, with lovely packaging, but this great wrapping isn't worth a thing. We've got to show that we've got the goods on the inside too."

In UEFA's five-year ratings, the Bundesliga is sixth behind the leagues in Spain, England, Italy, France and Romania.