While Union kept the cost structure lean through low transfer expenses, many loan players or free transfers, was hit by the pandemic but kept it at the lower Bundesliga level for many days, FC got into a negative spiral from which there was quickly no escape.
In terms of sport, things went downhill, the pandemic cost every cent saved and punished the arrogant short-term planners in the Cologne management floor, who suddenly had to pay the many millions in salaries that they had distributed to every halfway talented footballer, assuming they were actually back in Europe play along and the money will keep flowing.
Steffen Baumgart: “We can take that as a role model”
The turning point only came with Steffen Baumgart – and suddenly 1. FC Köln and Union Berlin were at eye level again, at least in terms of sport.
Only on the last two matchdays of the past season did the Irons pull away and secure participation in the Europa League, while FC – like Union a year earlier – reached the play-offs of the Conference League.
No wonder that Steffen Baumgart took his hat off to the Köpenickers after the 34th matchday. “If we could manage a season like Union’s for a second time, we’d all say happy,” the FC coach said, expressing what many people in and around Geißbockheim think. “We can take that as a role model.”
Selling top performers doesn’t have to be a problem
In the 2021/22 season, Union not only manages to master the triple burden of the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Europe. The Berliners even improved again in the table.
And that despite the fact that they lost a key player in Robert Andrich last summer and also sold top attacker Max Kruse and defense chief Marvin Friedrich in winter.
Coach Urs Fischer’s team easily absorbed the departures and once again benefited from the clever transfer policy, which not only created an income surplus, but also cut old habits and opened doors for further development of the squad.
Changes in the squad can be an opportunity
1. FC Köln will also take this into account in the future, starting this summer. Because one thing is clear: FC WILL, like Union, have to let top performers go in order to be financially viable. Baumgart will not see these changes in the squad as a setback, but as an opportunity and will push to find the right players.
They should be able to grow into these gaps. All with the aim of being able to do similarly well next season. Not only well similar to FC this season, but well similar to Union.