Despite haphazard league form, Wolfsburg have their eyes on Champions League glory against Gent. But Klaus Allofs doesn't believe that the prize money will stop the EPL's domination of the transfer market.
Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs believes Champions League progress may help the German club persuade their best players to stay, yet the prize money itself won't be enough to help them compete with English Premier League sides.
The Wolves, league champions in 2009, recently sold star player Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City for 75 million euros ($83 million) last summer as well as Timm Klose to Norwich for 12 million euros in January and will be fighting off a number of English teams for other key players this summer.
Although Allofs is optimistic about Wolfsburg holding on to the likes of Ricardo Rodriguez and Luiz Gustavo, he is realistic about the current financial landscape in European football.
“It's very tough to compete with these teams because they're paying much more money than we can,” he told DW.com. "Money out of the Champions League can help but it's not making the difference. Even with the Champions League it will remain very difficult to compete with English teams.”
When asked if a top-four finish in this season's Bundesliga and the promise of European football was required to keep his players from moving, Allofs said: "They're all under contract. So it's not as if we sold Kevin de Bruyne so this year we have to sell another one.
"Of course, it's very important for attracting players and it would be better for our players to play in the Champions League," he continued. "This is a part of the game - especially now with the money from England - there is a lot of speculation but we want to build and create a good team that is able to compete not with Bayern Munich but Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and the rest.”
'We expect to win'
Wolfsburg travel to Belgium this week to take on Gent in the last 16 of the Champions League, knowing that a win in the first leg would put them in a strong position to qualify for the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time.
Despite a poor run of form that has seen Dieter Hecking's side pick up just two wins from their last nine games in all competitions, Allofs is aware that his side are strong favourites for the tie.
He said: “The way we have been playing in the past few weeks suggests there's no reason to be favorites but it's a little bit the same for Gent - they've also now lost some games. As a German club who came second in the Bundesliga and are holders of the German Cup, when you're playing against a team from Belgium you're always favorite in my point of view. But it's very close.”
Although the Wolves have stumbled through their domestic campaigns - currently sitting eighth in the Bundesliga and knocked out of the German Cup by Bayern Munich in the second round - they have saved their best performances for Europe's premier club competition.
Few expected Hecking's side to do well when they were drawn in a tough group with CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United. Yet the Wolves won each of their home games, including a dramatic 3-2 win over the Premier League giants to secure qualification to the last 16 for the first time.
Looking back on the first-place finish in Group B, Allofs confirms that he put no specific expectations on the squad but noted: “We wanted to show that we are a team which can compete with the best teams in Europe.
“After the group phase draw we thought that it was a tough group but we could do it. For us, Manchester United were the big favorites but we are at least on the same level as the teams from Moscow and Eindhoven. Reaching the quarterfinals would be a very important sign for the club and the Bundesliga as well. If Wolfsburg and Bayern can be in the quarterfinals then it really would be great.”
Indeed, the idea of a collective effort from German teams to keep the Bundesliga's strong standing in Europe is evident from speaking to the Wolfsburg chief. Whether through genuine patriotism or the existential threat from England, Spain and Italy is not clear, but seems to drive Allofs in his quest to ensure the club proudly flies the light green and white flag firstly for their fans and then for their own league.
“First of all we think about Wolfsburg,” admitted Allofs, when asked if Wolfsburg feel any pressure to pick up coefficient points on the Bundesliga's behalf.
“Of course we want to be at the status where three qualify automatically but we also want to show internationally that the Bundesliga is a really high quality league. For that it's very important to be present in the Champions League quarterfinals, semtfinals or perhaps even winning the title."