SPORT BILD: Mr. Baumgart, you lead Cologne in your first season in the European Cup and are the face of the club. Is this your big break as a coach?
Steffen Baumgart (50): In life I’ve often heard what I can’t do – and what others can do better. It was like that when I was a footballer. But: It’s not necessarily a disadvantage if you’re underestimated (laughs). It is often said: As a coach, I could only come through emotions – only be loud. When I hear that, I always think: How cheeky is that actually? A lot of people think I could just be loud. This superficial in our society sometimes annoys me. People on the outside often don’t judge your actual work, just reflecting how they see you. Sure, I’ll be seen more here in Cologne now. Why? Because we played football successfully.
In Cologne you are the celebrated savior. How does that feel?
I am aware that the drop we have just taken is very high. Especially in a city like Cologne. That is why it is clear to us that what went well this year will not be enough next year. It’s all evolving, so there WILL be things we need to change.
You can’t bring in new players every season without renewing yourself. Maybe my languages need to be different, maybe they need to be quieter. They may need to be held by others. During my time in Paderborn (from 2017 to 2021; ed.), players like Uwe Hünemeier took over that. You have to constantly question everything.
Also the way of playing?
Yes. Not all direction, but details. That’s why we look, for example, at good training exercises on the Internet that we don’t know about yet, and then decide what we can adopt.
How long do you want to keep the job?
As long as possible. I would like to be financially secure at some point, and that also applies to my family. That’s my goal, I can say that clearly. As a coach in the Bundesliga, I now have the opportunity to do so for the first time.
Rumor about Mané
Klopp dig at Bayern
Source: UEFA 2022
You were a professional soccer player for 15 years…
Yes, but not nearly as much money was made back then as it is today. After my return from China (2002; ed.) I even registered as unemployed for a few days. I had my low point after my time as a coach at 1. FC Magdeburg.
She works there in the 2009/10 season.
I should get a new contract in Magdeburg. Nothing came of it, I was immediately without a coaching job. The financial reserves were quickly used up. I’m still glad that I met Hans-Peter Finkbeiner back then. Otherwise my coaching job would not have gone well in the long run.
Hans-Peter Finkbeiner is the owner of the Camp David fashion label. How much did he help you?
He supports me electrically. He had paid my soccer coach back then, I couldn’t have afforded it myself. The costs are around 20,000 euros. I was at the bottom then.
You could have taken out a loan from the bank.
No, I wouldn’t have. At first I was no longer creditworthy. My wife earned the money for our family. I had previously tried to gain a foothold in other professions. In business, for example, it doesn’t work. What I can do is soccer. that’s why I’m so glad that Hans-Peter Finkbeiner helped me.
Is he more than a friend to you?
In any case. I’m also glad that I was able to give him everything back later. If I hadn’t had him, we wouldn’t be sitting here for the interview. Then I might have ended up becoming a bus driver or truck driver.
Emotional Terzic performance
Reif laughs at the official BVB video
Is the experience of getting to know the dark side of life what drives you the most?
At least I want to prove to people that I can do something. I’ve also said to my boys in the dressing room that I’m someone who has also experienced other times. And that they must be clear that they have the privilege of being a professional footballer. But it’s also a short-lived privilege. Earning a lot of money is one thing. Being able to deal with it and knowing that your career could be over tomorrow is another thing.
How do you make that clear to your players?
As a player, you have to be aware that as a footballer you are something special for many – but tomorrow no one will know you anymore. People who celebrate you today won’t be there tomorrow. That’s the way it is, you have to be able to deal with it. I learned a lot from the situation. Very important: We mastered all this together as a family. My wife has always been there for me, as I have for her. This gives us a lot of strength.
Footballers often live in an illusory world. What did you think of the fact that some Bayern players flew to Ibiza by private jet after winning the title early during the season?
Let her drive! My boys also have time off. And whether they were in Mallorca or in Buxtehude is up to them – and okay with me.
Hertha coach Felix Magath had denounced Bayern’s attitude in the final sprint. Wasn’t he right?
I have great respect for Felix Magath. I don’t have to stand up and say: He’s still right. Hertha BSC has spent a lot of money in the last two years (from investor Windhorst; ed.) and played in the relegation team like we did last year – but Felix Magath has nothing to do with that. I don’t think it’s good to look at others who have become German champions with two games to go, instead of looking at themselves.
Nevertheless, the trip to Ibiza was unusual at the time of the season.
Why? Bayern did something extraordinary by winning the title, so for me it’s perfectly legitimate when they celebrate – especially since the next game wasn’t until days later. I also said to my players after the last derby win against Gladbach: If you want to celebrate, then celebrate. We had won the second derby in a row. Who knows if that will be autumn again next season.
Bayern became champions for the tenth time in a row. Isn’t the Bundesliga losing its attractiveness due to the lack of excitement in the title fight?
I don’t have the feeling that the Bundesliga is becoming less attractive – unless we tell ourselves it is. I much prefer to watch the Bundesliga than any other league, for me it’s the ultimate next to the English league. Even if there’s no Ronaldo jumping around here, we have a lot of great players.
Nevertheless, stars like Erling Haaland are drawn abroad to Manchester City.
Players like Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen; ed.) will follow. Or you have to further develop a Justin Diehl, who plays in our youth team. We have a lot of very good footballers, but you have to discover them and encourage them. Like Kai Havertz, who came to Leroy Sané when he left Schalke 04 for Manchester City a few years ago.
Havertz will move to Chelsea in 2020 for up to 100 million euros.
I think it’s important that the boys get the chance to go abroad. Antonio Rüdiger, for example, who now plays at Chelsea and goes to Real Madrid. I am sure that he will never develop in Germany the way he would have abroad. Because he was able to make a lot of very important experiences there. Today he is one of the best central defenders there is. These developments also benefit the national team.
Cup accident in Italy
Don’t let Zlatan see that!
You work for a traditional club, which also includes Frankfurt, which won the Europa League. Are these clubs the big winners of the season?
Tradition does not equal success. You have to work for it. I have the feeling that these clubs in particular have learned a lot, not letting themselves be guided by emotions – but working with calm, objectivity and clarity. Bremen is a good example: A year ago, Frank Baumann (Werder manager; ed. Red.) should be chased from the court, now everyone is very happy that they have him. If you stay with yourself, then such successes – as Eintracht has now – can be celebrated. There is a continuous development.
And how do you see clubs like RB Leipzig, VfL Wolfsburg or Bayer Leverkusen with works behind them?
Let me put it this way: You have completely different requirements. If we have an economic loss, then we have a loss. For the other clubs, this is deducted from the profit of the group. Nevertheless, I think these clubs have a right to be in the Bundesliga because they do a good job. Also: What about Dortmund? Borussia is a stock corporation, but no one is discussing that.
She once said that there are only three bigger clubs than FC in Germany. In addition to Bayern and Schalke, this includes BVB.
That referred to the number of members. But I don’t necessarily see Dortmund as bigger than us at 1. FC Köln. Okay, they’ve been more successful in the past. But that has to do with the financial means that they have worked for themselves. Such successes are also possible in Cologne. But you have to work for it. When Jürgen Klopp went to BVB in 2008, Dortmund was 13th in the table. and became German champion three years later. Or: Domenico Tedesco leads Schalke to vice-championship in 2018. Also why shouldn’t it work? You have to have a vision, believe in it and work hard for it.