A lack of wealth and a host of other restrictions haven't prevented Mainz becoming an established Bundesliga side. After the club secured its eleventh top flight season, DW’s Felix Tamsut argues others should take note.
Eine Fahrstuhlmannschaft. While it literally means an elevator team, this German term is used to describe a club that often goes up and down between Germany's tiers, without being able to cement their place in one league. Some of the those who fit the bill best include Nuremberg (up eight times, down eight times), Arminia Bielefeld (seven and seven) and VfL Bochum (six and six).
Mainz seemed to have all the hallmarks of a side who would become just such a team after securing their second promotion to the Bundesliga in the 2008-9 season: They've been one of the clubs with the lowest budget in the league from day one, and they still are. They come from a rather small town, in a region that has a footballing powerhouse in Eintracht Frankfurt. Their best players and coaches are constantly sold to bigger, richer clubs.
However, Mainz are still here, still punching above their weight. With four matches to go, FSV's 3-1 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf on Saturday means that the club has secured its eleventh season on the bounce in the German top flight.
Mainz's achievement should serve as a lesson for fellow low-budget teams, and indeed, those that are struggling on the pitch. Looking at the Bundesliga's current bottom eight clubs, only two have not parted ways with their coach yet: Fellow overachievers Freiburg have stuck with local favorite Christian Streich since 2012, making him the Bundesliga's longest-serving boss. The second man on that list, Pal Dardai, is still Hertha Berlin's coach for now but will be replaced at the end of the season.
And then there's Mainz, a side that keeps on believing in promoting coaches and players from within, and very rarely gets it wrong. Sandro Schwarz is just the most recent example of a coach that was promoted to head the club's first team. His predecessors include Thomas Tuchel and Martin Schmidt while Jürgen Klopp received his first coaching chance at Mainz.
Smart recruitment, effective youth setup
On the player front, Mainz's scouting department has consistently proved its worth. The club has been successful in targeting young, unproven players yet to make their first-team breakthrough. In the current Mainz team, the likes of Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Jean-Philippe Mateta are the best examples. Both youngsters are touted to achieve great things, with Mainz already rejecting a host of big-money offers for the former, whose brace on Saturday contained the quickest goal scored in the Bundesliga this season.
At the same time, the club's youth system continues to provide talents that fit the tactical ethos. Andre Schürrle tops the list of players that came up the ranks at Mainz while Schalke's Suat Serdar is another player to make his first-team debut for the club. Current goalkeeper Florian Müller continues to impress in the Bundesliga, despite his young age of 21, and follows in the footsteps of Loris Karius, who moved to Liverpool in 2016.
Indeed, there's hardly a summer that goes by without Mainz selling one of its top players for big money. Abdou Diallo's estimated €28 million move to Borussia Dortmund is just the most recent example, in a list that also includes Younes Malli, Jhon Cordoba and Leicester's Premier League-winning attacker Shinji Okazaki, all sold for substantial fees.
Watch and learn
Despite being touted as relegation candidates in almost every season since their most recent promotion to the Bundesliga, Mainz keep on overachieving. Their success just goes to show that stability, patience and a good understanding of the size of your club can lead to results. At the same time, well-supported clubs such as Stuttgart, Cologne and Hamburg have paid their price for their poor management.
Mainz manage to avoid the Fahrstuhlmannschaft title that so many allegedly bigger, significantly richer Bundesliga sides saddle themselves with. Several other clubs could do worse than watching and learning