Klaus Allofs’ departure may signal the end of Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga ambitions
Wolfsburg enjoyed some success under Klaus Allofs and even challenged Bayern Munich one season.
But darker days may be ahead for the Volkswagen-owned club as personnel and basic financing look set to become an issue.
With hunched shoulders and the bitter look of regret in his eye, it wasn’t hard to feel a certain sense of sympathy for Wolfbsurg’s director of sport Klaus Allofs as he left the club’s training grounds for the last time on Monday morning.
As the cameras descended and reporters yelled out questions, the 60-year-old forced a wiry smile but his dark, cold eyes did little to hide his true feelings.
“For me personally it’s a sad day,” Allofs admitted with little resistance.
“We came to this decision after intensive talks for the benefit of Wolfsburg.”
Indeed, Allofs’ departure draws to a close a period of Bundesliga history when, Wolfsburg, ever so briefly, were the latest in a long run of “Bayern hunters” – the one team of the many deemed good enough, for a time, to at least give the Bavarians a run for their money.
During a season (2014-15) when Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund were in steep decline, Wolfsburg stepped in and offered a somewhat worthy challenge to Pep Guardiola’s Munich side.
Under head coach Dieter Hecking the Wolves finished second in the Bundesliga and won the German Cup.
Not only that, but they opened the following season with a Super Cup penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern – and went on to make it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Any suggestion that Allofs was primarily to blame for the Wolves’ slump in fortunes that followed that spike in performance fall wide of the mark.
Francisco Javier Garcia, chairman of the club’s supervisory board, tried to contain the issue by labeling Wolfsburg’s current conundrum as a “difficult sporting situation” yet there are more troubling aspects to this club than their position in the Bundesliga.
The first real signs of decline came this past summer when the Bundesliga side took a new approach to buying players.
Rather than signing ready-made stars like Julian Draxler, Naldo or Dante from rivals near the top of the table, the wholly owned Volkswagen subsidiary instead opted to sign younger, cheaper players in Yannick Gerhardt and Josip Brekalo as well as experienced free agents Jakub Blaszczykowski and Daniel Didavi.
Although initially applauded for investing in young players, the sale of Andre Schürrle to Borussia Dortmund, Bas Dost to Sporting Lisbon and Max Kruse to Werder Bremen for considerable fees meant that Wolfsburg actually made a profit in the summer transfer window – a far cry from the free-spending ways that had once taken them as high as second place.
After the departures of Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic during the previous summer, it wasn’t long before the German media suggested that in the wake of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, the carmaking giant could cut its funding to the club by up to 30%.
Suddenly the sales of key players began to look like a financial necessity rather than a sporting blunder from Allofs.
Volkswagen have already withdrawn its team from the World Rally Championship and put plans for a new 40-million euro (US$42.3 million) youth academy for Wolfsburg on hold – following the news that it could be hit by billions in fines in the United States.
With no confirmation or denial of the stories from the club, Allofs was coy when asked about the matter on Sport 1 television: “We will have to see where Volkswagen’s aims lie,” he said.
The most recent and perhaps most damming indicator came in mid-October when a poor start to the season saw coach Hecking sacked and replaced by Valerien Ismael – by no means an experienced Bundesliga coach but instead a youth trainer, who wouldn’t have commanded a high salary.
Assuming Julian Draxler is granted his wish to leave next summer or even sooner, Wolfsburg will surely find themselves with a limited squad, limited coach and a new sporting director – whether that be Horst Heldt, Jens Todt or Matthias Sammer – tasked with making ends meet with ever-shrinking budgets. Assuming they don’t get relegated.
Farewell Allofs and quite possibly a Wolfsburg we may never see again.