Matthias Sammer decided not to swap his job as sporting director at the DFB for a similar one with Bundesliga club Hamburg. But that doesn’t mean he's happy where he is.
Sammer turned down the chance to be HSV's new sporting director
As Matthias Sammer puts to bed speculation that he’ll take on a new job as sporting director at SV Hamburg, more than a few questions have arisen over why the former German international and Borussia Dortmund coach made it look like he was leaving his comfortable job at the German soccer federation (DFB) for the rough-and-tumble of the Bundesliga.
Sammer, the last coach to bring the Bundesliga title to Dortmund back in 2002, has been working as technical director at the DFB since 2006 in a role that has seen him re-vamp Germany's youth set-up and implement the latest developments in sports science into the DFB's training theories.
The former Dynamo Dresden, Stuttgart and Inter Milan enforcer, a player who won the Champions League with Dortmund and a European Championship with Germany as well, also played a large part in creating and implementing a tactical system which all of Germany's national sides could apply.
Culture of success
Sammer's glory days as a player and coach came at BVB
Sammer's no-nonsense approach to play and his focus on winning at any cost may not have sat too comfortably with the more progressive personalities within the DFB. But his "old school" values brought results. Since Sammer took over, Germany's youth sides have been on a roll.
Germany's Under-17s came third in the 2007 World Cup with current Bayern Munich star Toni Kroos named Player of the Tournament, and then won the 2009 European Championships. Similarly, Germany's Under-21s won their European Championships in the same year.
"If you look at the German National team, the DFB have been able to try out different players and fit them into the style of soccer that they want to play," Mark Farrant, the Hamburg correspondent for the Offside.com, told Deutsche Welle. "As a result, Germany has had one of the best and most consistent teams over the past five years."
Farrent says the hope of many in Hamburg was that Sammer would do likewise at HSV.
He would've worked "with [coach] Armin Veh to develop a system, a 'HSV style' of play, and then make sure they get the right players to suit that system."
German soccer analyst and author David Hein said he thought Sammer’s skill set and contacts meant he’d have been particularly well-prepared to lead Hamburg forward in a way similar to this year's Dortmund side.
"Snatching up the young German talent - who Sammer knows well - and building the club that way, with a couple of moderately paid South Americans," he said.
Despite implementing a style of play and training methods which have benefitted Germany's young teams and brought them silverware, Sammer has often been regarded as a dinosaur in the DFB set-up.
Bierhoff and Sammer have clashed on and off the pitch
His gruff, lunch-pail image sticks out like a sore thumb amid the crowd of more outwardly polished figures that have been in charge during his tenure, such as ex-national coach Jürgen Klinsmann, his successor Joachim Löw and the national team's general manager Oliver Bierhoff.
In the days of frenzied speculation that Sammer would defect from the DFB, it was suggested in a number of media reports that it was the lingering friction generated between the blunt Eastern German and the slick Southerners which would eventually push Sammer back into club soccer.
His dislike of Bierhoff especially has been an open secret for years. They apparently didn’t get on when they were teammates in the German national team, and haven’t warmed to each other since.
When the contract dispute between Löw, Bierhoff and the DFB surfaced ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Sammer was rumored to be waiting in the wings to take control of Die Mannschaft should the impasse lead to the removal of the incumbent coaching team. It didn’t come to that, and the rousing success of the young Germany team at the tournament now means the top job is Löw's for as long as he wants it.
In the end, the prospect of becoming Nationaltrainer one day may have swayed Sammer to stay.
"By going to Hamburg, Sammer would almost certainly have burnt his bridges with the DFB," British Forces Broadcast Service (BFBS) soccer analyst Paul Chapman told Deutsche Welle.
"He's never got the power he really wanted to have a bigger say in the running of the international set up. That was simply because Joachim Löw has enjoyed non-stop success since taking over in 2006."
But Should Löw’s luck ever change, expect Sammer to be among the first to throw his hat in the ring.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann