Stress under Bayer Cross: Leverkusen and the shadow of doubt

OWithout Rudi Völler, Bayer Leverkusen will be a different football club, is an assumption that has been made many times in recent months. The charismatic managing director left everyday operations and joined the shareholders’ committee, where he now only advises and monitors; Völler will be missing as the face of the club.

However, there is also a secret hope associated with the withdrawal of the club icon: Perhaps without Völler, who needs harmony and whose goals for the season were always formulated with great caution, new energies will emerge. Perhaps the times when Leverkusen failed in the cup competitions due to a tendency to laziness are now coming to an end. Because Völler was ambitious, but he was usually quite satisfied when Leverkusen somehow qualified for the European Cup.

“Preparation was satisfactory”

The difficult to explain defeat in Elversberg in the first round of the DFB Cup has now revised such considerations. As is so often the case when the prospects are dazzling, the Leverkusen team surprised their audience and not least themselves with the sudden emergence of their dark side. Maybe everything had worked out too perfectly up to that 3:4 against the Saarland third division club. “Preparation went well, without incident,” says coach Gerardo Seoane.

There were “no injuries and many healthy players who were able to complete a lot of training sessions.” Above all, however, the sporting management, in contrast to previous years, managed to convince all the important players to stay in Leverkusen. The goal was “to keep the top performers,” says Simon Rolfes, who took over Völler’s position as sporting director. “We didn’t want a big change in the squad. The longer you keep the team together, the more it can grow. Strengthening the core is our goal after the high turnover in recent years.”

“Want to go to the Champions League”

Bayer is playing in the Champions League for the first time since 2019, which makes the club attractive to stars like Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick who are coveted on the transfer market. Florian Wirtz, who still hopes to be able to play again in time for the World Cup after tearing his cruciate ligament, has also extended his contract until mid-2027. And the ambitions are high.

“We want to get back into the Champions League, of course,” says Rolfes, who can even imagine being in third place last year and playing right up until next spring: “The top players in the Bundesliga are close together and the competition is tough. We want to improve and make life really difficult for the other top teams. That’s what we work for every day.”


The new one: Adam Hlozek
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Image: Huebner

The good feeling of the summer break is also fed by the conviction that we have once again found a coach who is capable of particular success. Swiss Gerardo Seoane, who speaks six languages, led the club back to the Champions League despite suffering many injuries last season. A further increase is now being sought.

Seoane reports a “big difference” from last year and says: “When you come new, you have to develop an idea with a team of how you want to play football”. This development step could now be skipped. “It’s always good when there is continuity, the players know what makes the staff tick and we also know the players better,” says Seoane before the first game this Saturday (6:30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky ) in Dortmund. And there is also an interesting newcomer.

Announcement by Hradecky

The Werkself transfer around 20 million euros to Sparta Prague for the Czech Adam Hlozek, who is being courted by several top European clubs. The 20-year-old attacker was probably also persuaded to move to the Rhine because he can play here with his compatriot Schick.

Everything could be so beautiful, but now this shadow of doubt is hanging over the season project again. Lukas Hradecky accused his teammates of spreading “negative energy” after the cup-out, some of his colleagues were “too busy with things other than football games”.

That sounds like unrest in the squad, in any case, Hradecky is looking for fellow campaigners to make Bayer Leverkusen more resilient and greedy for success. This team is still under the urgent suspicion of being able to play very well in the top third of the table in the future, but without the ability for a really big sporting coup.

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