Die pictures could not be heartier. The home vacation photos published in the Viennese “Kronen Zeitung” show Martin Hinteregger happily lined up with his family together with the cute dog Chewbacca. They immortalize him in front of an oil painting that honors him in the jersey of the Austrian national team, and they capture the moment when children in his home village of Sirnitz present him with a European cup they have made themselves.
But the text has it all. In the interview, the 29-year-old central defender of Frankfurt Eintracht revealed in his blunt way what had only been made public in encrypted form up to now: “A lot has broken up this year. I was told in late autumn and between the quarter-finals against Barcelona that I should leave in the summer,” the Carinthian is quoted as saying.
With these statements, Hinteregger rekindled a source of fire that seemed to have been extinguished. Because in the week of the Europa League triumph, Eintracht said that after a clarified conversation with his coach and compatriot Oliver Glasner, the Frankfurt crowd favorite would fulfill the contract that runs until 2024. “I’m surprised at the club’s about-face, that I should stay,” said the defender in an interview, confirming that that’s fine with him: “I certainly don’t want to miss out on the Champions League with these fans!”
But does Eintracht really want that now? Or does she return better to her original assessment of the Hinteregger cause, which consisted of separating from the defense chief? It is easy to describe the situation, but difficult to make a conclusive assessment. Hinteregger is an exceptionally good defender by Eintracht standards, who is also one of the faces of the team and one of the identification figures of the club and its fans.
But the “Hinti”, as he is affectionately called and as he now sometimes calls himself, is not a perfect football professional like Makoto Hasebe, for example. He comes home from vacation clearly overweight, uses the days off to fly helicopters against agreements, and publicly flirts with his love of beer.
20 years ago, nobody in the Bundesliga gets upset about the protagonists enjoying their attitude towards life, as long as they perform well on Saturdays. With the professionalization of the industry – in the meantime attention is paid to activating the last percentage points of the capacity – that has changed.
Hinteregger has repeatedly emphasized that he is an old-school professional, that today’s pressure bothers him and that he thinks the football business is the dirtiest of all. In his autobiography he describes how he sometimes suffers from depression and how he sometimes has to break out of the pressures of profit in order to withstand them permanently. Eintracht is aware of Hinteregger’s basic emotional situation and has offered him support.
In autumn, doubts arose for the first time as to whether the good would triumph in the battle between Hinteregger’s little angel and little devil. The Austrian considers himself in a performance gap. But in the quarter-finals against Barcelona and in the semi-final first leg against West Ham, “Hinti” was back to normal. Hinteregger’s assessment turned again and remained so until the final, which he experienced as team manager after suffering a hamstring injury in the second leg against West Ham.
How Hinteregger celebrated the triumph made clear the ambivalence of his person. One of the highlights of the party was how he paid homage to his goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and popularized the saying “New on the bench”. How he boasted about his beer consumption during the motorcade and how he repeatedly dipped his gold plaque for the Europa League victory in a beer glass late at night and licked it off every time were among the low points.
The fact that Hinteregger snubbed his superiors on his home leave, who had always denied having asked him to change clubs, will not have been appreciated either. Hinteregger and Eintracht – it’s blazing again.