Hertha Berlin's PR crises involving Jürgen Klinsmann and then Salomon Kalou already feel like a long time ago. Bruno Labbadia is inspiring a renaissance that has helped the clubs' off-field problems fade away.
With the hundreds of millions of euros that Lars Windhorst has invested in Hertha Berlin comes expectations. The signings of Kryzsztof Piatek and the incoming Lucas Tousart are a sign that Hertha are building the foundations of a project that is not short on ambition. And ambitious owners usually handpick ambitious coaches.
Bruno Labbadia is not the man that immediately comes to mind, but afterJürgen Klinsmann lasted 10 weeks before an acrimonious departure and Salomon Kalou's infamous Facebook Live video, the 54-year-old has brought some much-needed calm to the capital. Upon his appointment, sporting director Michael Preetz described Labbadia as a coach who "knows the Bundesliga inside out and has shown that he can stabilize teams."
This is Labbada's eighth crack at a Bundesliga job, and although he has developed a reputation as a firefighter, his Hertha side have been playing with the freedom and belief that was lacking under any of his three predecessors in this most tumultuous of seasons. Labbadia's approach has not been the prosaic style that one might associate with a team looking to get back to basics, and the credit for that goes to the head coach.
Hertha will add to the €27 million signing of Kryzsztof Piatek this summer with Lucas Tousart from Lyon.
His unbeaten start includes a victory in the Berlin derby, and was followed up on Saturday with a gritty but effective performance against fellow strugglers Augsburg.
Four games since the restart, and Hertha have 10 points, have scored 11 goals, and have conceded just two. Top six and a Europa League spot suddenly doesn't look so outlandish.
Smells like team spirit
Their left-back Maximilian Mittelstädt put the spike in form down to the improved team spirit under Labbadia, something that was clearly lacking before his arrival.
"We are all fighting for one another. Our best attribute at the moment is that we are covering up for each other's mistakes," the Berliner said.
Hertha want to establish themselves as Berlin's big city club and have turned to the "firefighter" as a short-term fix. While it‘s only a start, Hertha would do well to stick with Labbadia, who is proving an unlikely hero in Berlin, and deserves to be the man at the wheel of Project Hertha.