Steffen Baumgart was still angry two days later – or, to use his own choice of words: pissed off. The coach of 1. FC Cologne found it difficult to digest what his team had delivered in the embarrassing 0:6 (0:4) defeat in Leipzig last Saturday. “If you act like that, you don’t have to act at all,” he said and then verbally dismantled his players – first publicly and then directly at a longer team meeting.
“I’m someone who always stands behind the boys and still does, but at some point it’s time for work,” explained the 51-year-old. He has never seen his team like he did in Leipzig in his two and a half years of work. It wasn’t about the result, but about the attitude, the lack of which could be seen in the fatal body language.
“At some point it’s a matter of ensuring that what is demanded has to be done. If you don’t understand that, you have to explain what the Bundesliga means. This is the highest league, we all work for it, we are proud of it. I expect to see that – but not that we hang our heads five minutes before halftime,” complained Baumgart.
Not very happy right now: Steffen Baumgart, friend of clear words
Source: AFP/RONNY HARTMANN
He is ready to forgive a lot: mistakes of any kind, including general inferiority to a better opponent. But if the mentality is not recognizable, then he is the wrong coach for this team. “I have to say now: until then and no further! “I don’t stand for that, I don’t want to stand for that,” he threatened the professionals in the seventeenth place in the table.
The game in Leipzig was a fatal signal
If they want to continue playing under Baumgart, the players would be well advised to react quickly – if possible on Tuesday, when Cologne will play in the DFB Cup against the strong second division team 1. FC Kaiserslautern (8.45 p.m. / live Sky ). According to the trainer, a “dirty” fight is expected.
Baumgart is, and the fans love him, a coach with clear pronunciation. But his outburst on Monday, as emotional as it seemed, was well timed and calculated. Because he knows that he will inevitably suffer shipwreck with this team, whose playing qualities are manageable, if he does not succeed in permanently activating all secondary virtues. “I have always emphasized that we will have a very difficult year. It will be a relegation battle until the last matchday, and for us every game will be a final,” he explained.
Against this background, Leipzig was a fatal signal. Cologne, who have scored the fewest goals of any Bundesliga club to date (7), resigned themselves to their fate after an acceptable 40 minutes and were defeated within eight minutes before the break when they conceded three goals in quick succession. There was no longer any attempt to correct mistakes made by colleagues. There was no longer any pressure on the opponents and covering duties were neglected. These failures were particularly bitter since there had been a sign of life just a week earlier: Borussia Mönchengladbach had been defeated 3-1 in the Rhine derby – after only one draw and six defeats previously.
But in Leipzig it also became clear how great the deficits are of a team that was weakened again in the summer. After striker Anthony Modeste and midfielder Salih Öczan, who were sold to Dortmund in 2022, two key players, Ellyes Skhiri (Eintracht Frankfurt) and captain Jonas Hector (end of career), once again left the club.
Baumgart formed the team into a brand
The further renovation, necessary due to the financial problems of the traditional club, led to a further loss of substance. Skhiri and Hector “cannot be replaced,” Baumgart warned – but took up the challenge nonetheless.
As in previous years, hopes rest primarily on the coach. The Rostock resident came in 2021, and even then, in the middle of the Corona crisis, the situation was difficult. But Baumgart made the seemingly impossible possible, leading FC to the Conference League in his first season and to eleventh place in the second. He made the team its own brand: The Cologne team was notorious for their fearlessness, playing courageously even against stronger opponents and, above all, never giving up.
The fact that even our own coach now doubts this mentality is worrying. Especially since the general conditions will continue to be such that it is hardly possible to improve substantially. There are no alternatives to the restructuring course that was taken in 2021 – even if a profit of 12.4 million euros was recorded from last season. This is based almost exclusively on special effects, such as the ten million euro transfer fee for Modeste and Öczan as well as around ten million again from the Conference League. The situation remains tense.
Reinforcement in winter? More than uncertain
The chances of increasing the probability of staying in the league through winter reinforcements are not great – especially since it is still not clear whether FC is even allowed to sign players. A transfer ban was imposed by FIFA in March because the Cologne team is said to have incited the then 16-year-old Slovenian Jaka Cuber Potocnik to breach his contract with Olimpia Ljubljana in January 2022. The FC appealed to the international sports court Cas, and negotiations have already taken place. A final verdict is expected to be made later this year.
This uncertainty means that rumors are circulating: Cologne could theoretically sign players without a contract before the verdict. “I think that in the current phase we are not thinking at all about who is coming and who is not coming,” said Baumgart. He knows that he can hardly expect any help from outside in his difficult mission to stay in the league.