Schäfer analyzes DFB debacle: "Hansi Flick didn't want to hurt anyone"

German football is on the ground after another early World Cup in Qatar.

Schäfer analyzes DFB debacle: "Hansi Flick didn't want to hurt anyone"

German football is on the ground after another early World Cup in Qatar. again. Everything is being questioned, 80 million national coaches are discussing whether Hansi Flick is still the right person for his job. Trainer legend Winfried Schäfer also sees the problems elsewhere. In an interview he talks about Flick's mistakes and fatal decisions at the DFB.

Mr. Schäfer, Germany fails for the second time in a row in a World Cup preliminary round. The question that was passionately discussed in the days that followed is: Is national coach Hansi Flick still the right man? Please clarify!

Schäfer: You have to approach and look at things differently. A national team is only as good as the domestic league. Look back at the beginning of the 2000s, we had a chaotic league and no national team. The league has pulled itself together and launched reforms. Between 2010 and 2014, Jogi (Editor's note: Löw, ex-national coach) then had an outstanding team with key players from FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. And as I said in our first interview after the Japan game: We don't have any top German players in key positions in defense or up front in our top teams. But now to Flick, he made mistakes too...

Come on then, what went wrong?

He didn't have a clear personnel plan. How many times did he change the team before and during the tournament? Normally you have to have nine players in your head at all times and then you can swap from time to time. But don't change the framework. He should never have put Joshua Kimmich to the right. He's our best six and didn't do much against Costa Rica in his new position. Just like İlkay Gündoğan in midfield and Thomas Müller up front. But I also say: It's always easy to talk after the game.

How do you explain these rotations? Müller in particular has been a much-discussed topic so far due to his performances in the tournament...

Hansi didn't want to hurt anyone. He's the kind of guy that sets him apart. And he was also very successful at FC Bayern with his way of communicating well and putting his shoulders around your arm mentality. He was too considerate in this tournament, it's too risky in three games. Sometimes you have to give a damn about the good mood and say to a miller: Watch out, you're out today because we need the jug. You know that he can't play the role of center forward. That must then also be clear. Just like Kimmich, he has to play on the six because he's the best man for it.

Even if the quality is high in midfield and there is a gap in quality in the back right?

Yes, here we are at the core problem of German football. We have to solve our problems ourselves, through education and not through constant new constellations. And that's where the arc closes to the strength of the national team in relation to the strength of the league. When I see Hasan Salihamidžić celebrating having signed Sadio Mané. That's wonderful for Bayern and I'm happy for them. But something is wrong, the players follow the call of money and Bayern have money. What Bayern has achieved economically is undisputed, but that is not helpful for German football. Rather, he should be celebrated when he has brought out two great talents from his own offspring. It suffers from that. Even at BVB, everyone is amazed at Jude Bellingham, rightly so, but players like that don't help German football!

But can you blame BVB? The player comes for little money and changes for a lot...

No, if that's the claim, I can understand that and it's good for BVB. But it must be much more attractive for a club to develop players from their own youth, which is also financially more attractive. As Karlsruher SC, that's the only way we survived in the 1990s. He came rushing to Uli Hoeneß every six months with the ICE, left money and took a player with him to FC Bayern. And we, as coaches, decided for ourselves what we needed. Nobody would have listened when a chief trainer called: We don't need any more nines. When you recognized the talent in one of the guys back then, no matter what position, you said to your youth coach: I want to have him up there with me next year.

When did soccer Germany leave this path and how do you find the way back?

It was a gradual process and many factors play a role. The clubs and the DFB have to sit down and analyze what went wrong and how to counteract it. I remember 2014, we had just become world champions and I coached Thailand at a game of a star-studded traditional team. England's legendary defender Rio Ferdinand was there, among others, and he told me what was later in the newspaper and brought him a verbal beating at home: We Englishmen have to base our training on Germany, what a great team they've built. And today you see the result, with a Bellingham or a Jamal Musiala, who was also trained in England (editor's note: Manchester City). We have to reorient ourselves.

But how and where?

I'm taking an Oliver Bierhoff to task for whom it's not clear what his job is. He has to send his coaches to England or France and let them see how methodically work is done there. The greatest talents have come from both countries for years. Also for the Bundesliga. And then we mustn't flood the league with players like that, like we did in the early 2000s, when the clubs relied on cheap imported players from Eastern Europe. And Bierhoff urgently needs to do one more thing, he has to put himself in front of the team much more, keep the pressure away, like with the "One Love" bandage.

The political message is good, but the communication was terrible. You haven't convinced anyone, quite the opposite. In the Middle East, Germany is now seen as a country that has offended Qatar's hospitality. Whether that is true or not may be an open question, but that is the perception. Nobody was convinced of the cause and nobody was interested in the message. Nothing has been gained, nothing will change. The DFB must work on communication and sit down with the other associations in order to speak directly and, above all, transparently with FIFA. The players have to be left out for now.

What is the current status of the future of German football? Everything always sounds so rosy...

I do not think so. Where are the top talents? They would all have gone along if they existed. Apart from Jamal Musiala. What about Youssoufa Moukoko or Armel Bella-Kotchap? If you take her with you and you are convinced, then you let her play. Especially for Niklas Süle, he didn't convince me, he made too many tactical mistakes. Then you use a World Cup like 2010 to build a new team. One that opponents are afraid of again.

That sounds kind of fatal!

Yes, look at the opponents. Costa Rica pressed against us at times and scored goals. Opponents are no longer afraid. That was different in 2014. France did without Olivier Giroud in the World Cup quarter-finals against us and aligned themselves too cautiously to German tactics! And when he came on later, the game almost ended for France. We lost credit and have to slowly get it back.

Then the question again: how can this be done?

Perhaps the model would be a "Group of Excellence" as known from countries with weaker leagues. We shouldn't feel too bad about that, because German football is really not doing well. The best players are regularly brought together, train for a week and then are sent home. You could do something like that with the DFB academy, the young players have to be gallant to get into this group, they have to fight for it. Apart from tactics and technique, it's also about attitude and spirit. Bastian Schweinsteiger summed it up. Hansi Flick could guide this, train and educate according to his ideas. I see his talent more in the youth work anyway.

The debacle is now being processed, as was the case in 2018 after the shock of Russia. What is happening?

Yes, the DFB has announced that it will analyze tournament performance and the overall situation. That's right, but who's coming together? What questions are asked? As with ethical issues, the main thing here is to bring the right people together and be transparent. Personal details must be questioned. Read the comment of the "Bild" colleague Alfred Draxler. Alfred has probably made a few enemies with this, but he's right. We need to bring together a group where we have professionals who also have practical experience. Oliver Kahn, for example, who is a child of a good talent factory. On the one hand, he noticed how we at KSC worked successfully with minimal resources and knows exactly what it is like at the top of the world football game and, above all, how to integrate smart, forward-looking people from outside. Matthias Sammer would also be someone who should definitely be involved and why not Schweinsteiger?

Tobias Nordmann spoke to Winnie Schäfer