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Bayer Leverkusen's Swiss coach Gerardo Seoane
Bayer Leverkusen's Swiss coach Gerardo Seoane is big on man-managementImage: imago images/Contrast

Quiet man Gerardo Seoane turning up the volume at Leverkusen

Matt Ford
October 3, 2021

While Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund hog the limelight with their new head coaches, another Bundesliga newcomer has been quietly impressive in the shadows. Under Gerardo Seoane, Bayer Leverkusen are flying.

https://p.dw.com/p/41D1i

Arminia Bielefeld 0-4 Bayer Leverkusen
(Diaby 18', Schick 24' 57', Demirbay pen 90+2')
Schüco-Arena, Bielefeld

Gerardo Seoane is a man of few words – and not just because his German colleagues struggle to understand the Swiss dialect his speaks with his assistant Patrick Schnarwiler.

"They don't like it when we speak like that," the new Bayer Leverkusen head coach joked in a recent interview with watson.de. "And we don't do it a lot because they take the mickey out of us."

Joking aside, Seoane has clearly had no problem communicating his ideas to his players since taking over at the BayArena in the summer.

Sunday's comfortable 4-0 victory away at Arminia Bielefeld made it five wins from the opening seven Bundesliga games, and sees Leverkusen go into the international break level on points with leaders Bayern Munich and one ahead of Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg.

Bielefeld felt justifiably aggrieved when a potential equalizer was ruled out at 0-1, but there could be no argument that Leverkusen didn't ultimately deserve their win, with attacking trio Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick continuing their scintillating form.

Jonathan Tah and Piero Hincapie in action for Bayer Leverkusen against Bielefeld's Robin Hack
Bayer Leverkusen were too strong for Arminia Bielefeld, and are level on points with Bayern MunichImage: Friso Gentsch/dpa/picture alliance

Leverkusen's triumvirate of talent

A creative midfielder, a tricky dribbler and a classic striker respectively, Leverkusen's triumvirate of talent all bring different qualities, but Seoane has them complementing each other perfectly.

Schick caught the world's attention with his stunning long-range effort against Scotland for the Czech Republic at Euro 2020, but Bundesliga watchers have been aware of his goalscoring instincts since he scored ten on loan at RB Leipzig two years ago.

That RB opted not to make that move permanent was their loss but Leverkusen's gain as Schick notched another nine last season and scored twice in Bielefeld on Sunday to take his current tally to four.

Another club who may be regretting letting a player go is Cologne, who allowed a then 16-year-old Wirtz to join neighbors Leverkusen for €200,000 in January 2020. The teenager has since developed into one of German football's hottest talents, and his creative abilities were on show again against Bielefeld.

Diaby's opener – his fourth of the season – came after a counterattack led by Wirtz down the Leverkusen right, while the 18-year-old played an even more integral role in his team's second, first exchanging a neat one-two in the center circle before driving forward and playing a perfectly timed pass for Schick to finish.

"Florian is an absolutely exceptional talent," Seoane told watson.de, saying he'd never coached a more talented player.

"He's proving his ability at the highest level with incredible frequency. Don't forget: he's only 18 and he's the most efficient player in the Bundesliga. Incredible."

Gerardo Seoane: 'soft factors'

The form of Diaby, Schick and Wirtz are helping Seoane compensate for some high-profile recent departures from Leverkusen, including Kai Havertz, Kevin Volland and Leon Bailey.

But the 42-year-old coach, who won three Swiss league titles with Young Boys in Bern, also highlights "soft factors" which he says are key to his man-management.

"An important part of a coach's job is to develop a relationship with each individual, but also with the team as a whole," he said. "And so I ask myself: what can I do to create a symbiosis between team and staff – and how can I do it? The better the relationship, the greater the trust."

Such elements have been more important than ever in the last 18 months. With the backing of pharmaceutical giants Bayer, Leverkusen may not have faced the same financial challenges other football clubs have, but the personal challenges were the same.

"The players were effectively isolated at home and could only train in small groups, getting changed in separate dressing rooms," explained Seoane. "So, the solidarity suffered a bit."

Catastrophe and solidarity in Leverkusen

That solidarity was on show, however, when Leverkusen, a city on the River Rhine between Cologne and Düsseldorf, was also affected by the devastating flooding which hit Germany earlier this year. Then, an unrelated explosion at a local chemical plant killed seven and injured 31 more.

"Everyone was affected somehow. People lost their belongings and property, some even lost their lives," said Seoane.

"But it unleashed a wave of solidarity. Bayer Leverkusen isn't just a football club; it's an institution here. There is a huge corporation behind it and it was impressive to see how financial aid was provided to start the rebuild, and how seriously everyone takes their social responsibility."

Now, after a difficult summer, and in their own quiet way, Gerardo Seoane and Bayer Leverkusen team are giving locals and fans something to smile about with their performances on the pitch.

Matt Ford Kommentarbild
Matt Ford Reporter and editor for DW Sports specializing in European football, fan culture & sports politics.@matt_4d
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