Hoffenheim ended the tenure of head coach Ralf Rangnick on Saturday, a move which brought to a close the reign of the man who presided over one of the most amazing rises in the history of German football.
Appointed as Coach in 2006, Hoffenheim were then playing in the regional third tier of the German football pyramid. The club had made the leap up from the fifth tier thanks to the financial backing of computer software tycoon Dietmar Hopp. Rangnick, who had coaching experience in the Bundesliga with clubs such as Stuttgart and Schalke 04, was identified as the man to fuse together a squad of players as Hoffenheim made a concerted push for the top. His first season in charge saw Hoffenheim finish second in Regionalliga Sud, earning promotion to Bundesliga 2.
Previously part-time, the side turned fully professional for the 2007/08 campaign, and despite a slow start finished second to reach the top flight. Heavy investment in players followed and thanks to the performances of striker Vedad Ibiševic ended as the ‘Herbstmeister’ (Autumn-Champion, the league leaders at the winter break). His injury saw the team fall away to finish seventh.
Despite the sides’ unprecedented rise through the leagues, Rangnick was criticised by Hopp the following season as Hoffenheim struggled to 11th place. The decision was made to terminate the 52-year-old’s contract by mutual consent following a sequence of just one win in six games, including four consecutive draws which has seen Hoffenehim drop from fifth to eighth place in the Bundesliga table.
Rangnick has been replaced by his assistant Marco Pezzaiuoli, who has been given a contract until June 2014. He joined the club in July and has experience as a youth coach, guiding the German national team to the European U-17 championship in 2009.
He has already acted in the transfer market by signing Austrian U-21 international David Alaba on loan until the end of the season. The midfielder arrives from Bayern Munich as part of a deal which sees Luiz Gustavo move in the opposite direction on a permanent basis. Hoffenheim face Werder Bremen on the resumption of the Bundesliga season in two weeks’ time.
Other transfer news centres on the imminent departure of Edin Dzeko from Wolfsburg to Manchester City. A fee of £27m is reported to have been agreed for the Bosnian international, with personal terms to be discussed over the next couple of days. The move would see funds given to Steve McClaren, and allow him to overhaul a squad of players who were openly criticised by General Manager Dieter Hoeness before Christmas. Hoeness told reporters when backing the beleaguered English Coach: “There