Simon Rolfes: The end of the quiet captain | Bundesliga | DW | 18.05.2015
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Simon Rolfes: The end of the quiet captain

All eyes were on the relegation battle on the penultimate Bundesliga matchday, but in Leverkusen an almost forgotten player was beginning his farewell tour with the fans.

"Memories are born in departure" read the sign held by Leverkusen's fans after the club's 2-0 win against Hoffenheim in their final home game of the season. Perhaps it was in that moment Simon Rolfes realised that it was all over. If it hadn't been clear when the club captain trotted off with just over 13 minutes to go, it certainly was when he and Stefan Reinartz (who is also due to leave the club) took to the stands to lead the post-game "Humba" song.

The quiet captain looked out of place with the megaphone, amongst the fans who appreciated him the most. He's used to being on the pitch and paying back the supporters with leadership, steadfastness and the occasional screamer.

There was no such sight on Saturday, but Rolfes did put in one of his infamously understated performances. The hosts profited from superior efficiency in front of goal against a Hoffenheim team capable of more than they delivered. Rolfes kept Leverkusen's midfield ticking over, picked up a yellow card and looked easily fit enough to play another year. The midfielder was integral, but not noticeable.

Simon Rolfes heads a ball

Just getting the job done: Rolfes loves to work hard in midfield

In fact, Rolfes spent most of his career unnoticed. He did well at Werder Bremen but left for second division side Aachen where he enjoyed an unlikely UEFA Cup run. A move to Leverkusen came in 2005/06 and once he became a core part of the defensive midfield, he never looked back.

An untimely injury hindered Rolfes from making Germany's 2010 World Cup squad. And with that, and the momentum the Germany squad was beginning to develop, the midfielder was left out of Joachim Löw's thinking. The game was changing and at 29, Rolfes was at the wrong end of his career to catch up.

Now 33, Rolfes will almost certainly head into playing a leadership role at a Bundesliga club one day. He's got some business acumen about him and his first port of call looks set to be working as an agent.

I can imagine him returning to Leverkusen one day though. Perhaps unnoticed by himself, but by those in the stadium (of which I was one on the weekend), Leverkusen have some work to do with their marketing and branding. The quality of their football is not in doubt - Roger Schmidt has created a versatile side who are keen to finally move from consistent top-four candidates to winners - but regular European football is different and the club don't quite look ready for the big stage.

Perhaps it's time for the quiet captain to become the quiet director.