NAlexander Wehrle lived in the Rhineland for nine years, where he worked as managing director of 1. FC Köln. As a Swabian, this is a time of great deprivation, especially in culinary terms, as Wehrle, who was born in Bietigheim-Bissingen, emphasizes. Apart from Berlin, there are usually no adequate pretzels and Maultaschen north of Frankfurt.
When Wehrle returned to VfB Stuttgart at the end of March as successor to Thomas Hitzlsperger as CEO, he was primarily craving for specialties from home. “I have a lot of catching up to do there,” says the 47-year-old. That’s why he now often eats Maultaschen in all variations in the club restaurant.
The stakes are high
On the last day of the game, VfB meets Cologne in their home arena this Saturday (3.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky). Of all things. While the Rhinelanders are allowed to play internationally in the coming season, it is up to Stuttgart to remain in the Bundesliga. For Wehrle, this is a special game after eventful years at FC.
But he doesn’t get sentimental, there’s too much at stake for that. “The only thing that matters to me is that we get three points,” he says. If his team wins and Hertha BSC lose in Dortmund, Stuttgart would move up to 15th place and secure another season in the Bundesliga.
“A felt grab bag”
Wehrle is confident that this constellation will come true. Above all, the 2-2 win at champions FC Bayern increased the players’ self-confidence. “The momentum is on our side,” he says. But one problem that has so far reliably accompanied the Stuttgart team is the lack of exploitation of chances. The VfB players have been very squandering with their chances to score, sometimes they almost grotesquely missed the goal, also in the game in Munich.
It is therefore not surprising that striker Sasa Kalajdzic said afterwards “that we feel like a lucky bag”. Nobody knows what to expect at VfB before the game, even the players are often a mystery. After they seemed to have come to terms with the relegation against the second division third party, it is now possible to stay in the class directly. “If anyone can create something like this, it’s us,” claims Kalajdzic.
Wehrle, on the other hand, classifies everything less dramatically, the players often played very decent football, he says, “but the results were missing”. He does not want to pass on insider knowledge about Cologne.
Head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and his analysis team have collected enough knowledge and data and examined the opponent extensively: “They don’t need any hints from me.”
Matarazzo’s relegation future open
The CEO does not want to talk about a possible relegation of VfB, but of course he has dealt with the scenario. Stuttgart has applied for the license for both the first and second divisions.
In the event of relegation, they want to return to the Bundesliga immediately. Whether with Matarazzo and sports director Sven Mislintat is still open. An assessment of the overall situation takes place after the season, says Wehrle.
It would be easier for the club to get continuity and more peace in squad planning if it stayed in the Bundesliga. However, VfB is dependent on transfer income, so Kalajdzic and left-back Borna Sosa are likely to leave VfB in the summer. “If players want to take the next step, we have to accept that,” says Wehrle.
As CEO, it is important to him that he strategically positions VfB in the coming years in such a way that the club becomes attractive again for economically strong companies.
In addition to reliability and sporting success, this is achieved above all by not only appointing young players from our own youth to the squad of the professional team, but also developing them in such a way that, ideally, they become regular players there.
“That has to become one of our characteristics again,” says Wehrle. The potential is there. The B-Juniors recently lost to FC Schalke in the final of the German championship, and the A-Juniors are in the final of the cup against Dortmund.
Wehrle himself was once so talented as a young winger for TV Möglingen that he could have switched to VfB after a trial session. But his parents had other plans, the boy studied after high school and community service and then started in 2003 – to the delight of the parents – as a graduate administrative scientist at VfB as an advisor to the then president Erwin Staudt.
Wehrle experienced the 1992 championship as a fan. On Saturday against 1. FC Köln, the team will wear a special jersey that is very similar to the one from the 1991/92 championship season. The campaign was planned long in advance, but they are a bit superstitious at VfB. The team wore special jerseys four times this season and won four times with them.