Home football 25 years of the Magic Triangle: Interview with Giovane Elber, Fredi Bobic and Krassimir Balakov – VFB STUTTGART

25 years of the Magic Triangle: Interview with Giovane Elber, Fredi Bobic and Krassimir Balakov – VFB STUTTGART

by archysport

Every football fan immediately thinks of Diego Armando Maradona († 60) when he hears the “Hand of God”, Franz Beckenbauer (76) when he hears the “Kaiser” – and when he hears the “Magic Triangle” of Giovane Elber (49), Krassimir Balakov (55) and Fredi Bobic (50). In the 1996/97 season, the offensive trio of VfB Stuttgart thrilled the Bundesliga. In the end, they were in 1st, 2nd and 4th place in the scorer list: Bobic, Elber, Balakov. SPORT BILD brought the three “magical ones” back together 25 years later.

SPORT BILD: Let’s start with a special feature: Back then, you played in brightly colored shoes – that didn’t exist in the Bundesliga before. Who had the idea?

Bobic: Adidas approached us back then. Giovane had the idea to play in white. I didn’t find it so crisp, I liked red better because it went better with the whole style. It was crazy, according to the motto: “Hey, cool, can we really get colors?” At first, the shoes weren’t even on sale. I even played in red shoes for the national team.


Giovane Elber (from left), Krassimir Balakov and Fredi Bobic during an interview in Stuttgart

Photo: Thomas Niedermüller

Elber: When I came to training with white shoes for the first time, everyone looked at me like an alien and said: “It can’t be that you want to play with them! Do you want to be a magician now? ”My answer was:“ Men, these are normal shoes – just in a different color. ”At that time everyone was still wearing black. In the first game against Gladbach in white I scored two goals. So I said: I’ll leave them on! From then on, color was in the game for us in the truest sense of the word.

Mr. Balakov, you initially stuck to black shoes, but decided later. Why?

Balakov: I always mixed things up a bit. With the black “Copa Mundial” I simply had the best feeling. In the end, I had to play the passes so that the two guys in the front only had to score the goals.

What did Adidas pay you for it?

Bobic: There was no bonus, just the shoes. We then developed it further together. Suddenly your own signature was embroidered on the tongue of the shoe, the names of the children. It was all manual work!


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The jerseys used to look different too.

Bobic: Yes, they were real tents! The flocks on the jerseys were then printed on with stencils, nowadays you would say: It looks like a fake! A lot of things developed over the years: there was never a number with a name on the jersey before. Today the jerseys are high-tech: wafer-thin, breathable. Back then things got really heavy when it rained.

Elber: That’s why I was always so slow (laughs)!

Mr. Balakov, you are the oldest: were you also the boss at the “Magic Triangle”

Balakov: We got on well and the roles were clearly assigned: the two guys scored goals in the front, I was behind and fed them.

A playmaker from Bulgaria, a striker from Brazil and the other Knipser from Germany with Slovenian-Croatian roots. In which language did you communicate on the pitch?


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Balakov: I spoke to Fredi once in Portuguese and with Giovane in Serbo-Croatian – that is, exactly exchanged! You didn’t point it out to me. When I turned to Giovane, he only said: “There, there!” In Croatian: “Yes, yes!” And Fredi said: “Ta bom”, which means Portuguese for: “Okay, okay.”

Bobic: That was at a home game, at the kick-off. We got fits of laughter on the field! Krassimir has a talent for languages, but he briefly mixed up something.

Who was the inventor of the magic triangle?

Bobic: Dieter Hoeneß brought us in, Rolf Fringer was our trainer. A system for the three of us in this sense was not invented, we all pressed early, had great teammates who did a lot of defensive work. The real inventor was Klaus Schlütter from the BILD newspaper: He wrote the name “the magic triangle” for the first time. When the name was invented it went even better and better, that was really interesting. The whole thing has practically taken on a life of its own.

Elber: It is amazing how often I am still asked about the “magic triangle” in South America.

What experiences do you like to think back on?

Elber: I was seriously injured in 1994. Back then, Fredi and Gerhard Poschner secretly brought me pizza to the hospital. And videotapes.

Bobic: Of course, the VHS tapes were all about football and game analysis (grins)!

What quirks were there?

Bobic: Krassimir was basically our dad. He always had his own mattress in the hotel so he could sleep well. Giovane and I were the crazy ones: you had to cut the smoke in our room, we’ve had a beer, played cards, or had a club sandwich. We had our fun. Krassimir slept and was rested.

Elber: Krassimir made sure that we don’t go nuts. And maybe played the passes a little more precisely if we weren’t quite up to speed.

Bobic: The good thing back then was: There were no cell phones, no photos, no Instagram.

Balakov: It is much more difficult for young players today and they can hardly move about freely in their free time.

Loew followed Fringer as a trainer. What distinguished him back then?

Balakov: The communication! Every player could always come to Jogi, he had an open ear for everyone.

Elber: It was a great time. With Fringer, with Löw. Sometimes we wanted to make it too beautiful: overhead kicks, hoes, spectacles. We didn’t just want to play for the result, we wanted to do magic.

Bobic: Bayern were only on the result and successful. That’s why you went, Giovane!


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A good point: Mr. Elber, when you switched to FC Bayern in 1997 you broke the “magic triangle”. How did you explain the move to your pals?

Elber: The first thing I did was talk to Fredi. Before that, our women had been in constant conversation because of the change. In the end I had to do it, I had to go to Bayern.

Bobic: I wasn’t mad at Giovane, I congratulated him. I was more likely to be angry with our management: They sought talks with Giovane too late. It was a matter of timing! They could have said to the three of us blindly: We’ll keep you! But VfB just needed money and received twelve million Deutschmarks from Giovane. Bayern understood back then: there is a competitor who can be dangerous for us. They cleverly picked you out, you can’t blame them for that. They have perfected not to let any opponent in the league get too big.

Elber: I can reveal something. Back then – after I had signed up to FC Bayern – I went to Fredi’s home. I said to him: “I can’t do it! I’m staying here. ”He said,“ You have made up your mind, there is no going back! You can do it! ”At the time I wanted to back down. In the end, I did everything right with the move – but the first year was tough.

How so?

Elber: I saw how Krassimir and Fredi continued to have fun at VfB. And our trainer in Munich was Giovanni Trapattoni. After a 1-0 win it was always like: “Giovane, change! Get down! ”Or:“ Basler, get out! Defensive player in. “I was afraid that I might be unhappy there. But I got through. And with Ottmar Hitzfeld, I was also happy.

VfB won the 1997 cup with the “Magic Triangle”. What would have been possible if you had played together longer?

Balakov: We played the most beautiful football in the league. With two or three more experienced players we could have become champions, I’m sure of that. Still, we had three successful years. After that, Fredi and I stayed the magical two. Then at some point I was alone – and didn’t know what to do. I stayed there until 2003!

Did you also have an offer from Munich?

Balakov: After I extended my contract in Stuttgart, FC Bayern asked. After a game between Stuttgart and Bayern we were all seated at the table. I had a clause in the contract: 70 million marks fixed fee! That was unbelievable for the time. I said very quietly to the then President Franz Beckenbauer that I had an exit clause: “Over 70 million”. His wife sat at the table and said: “Mr. Balakov, that’s not a problem! FC Bayern can pay 17 million! ”They didn’t quite understand me (laughs out loud)!

Would you have liked to have gone to Bavaria?

Balakov: I could have imagined it, but the conditions weren’t right. I could have gone to Barcelona too. But: I am satisfied with my career.

Mr Bobic, did Bayern want you too?

Bobic: There was a call once. But for me it was almost childish: I’m a Stuttgart boy! I can’t go to Bayern. So it was done quickly. I was a bit stubborn.

Today you are in charge of Hertha. What job do you like, Mr Balakov?

Balakov: I’m ready for a new challenge. I was a trainer, manager, sports director. Today it is not easy to get in somewhere, to be able to contribute ideas. That takes trust. Everything that goes in the direction of a sports director, manager is interesting to me. I had the chance as a coach in Kaiserslautern in 2012, but there were only eight games left to stay up. Little time to save a club and show myself off. Since then I haven’t had a chance as a coach in Germany, it hurts.

Mr Elber, you are a brand ambassador for FC Bayern. Are you also attracted to the coaching bench?

Elber: No, thank you. I prefer to remain an ambassador and enjoy my life.

Bobic: Director of Legends: There is nothing better for Giovane. Bavarians never need to worry that their legends will get bored while traveling. Because one thing is clear: Giovane is the king of jesters!


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