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1. FC Köln: Criticism of leadership – “We walked in there with our eyes open”

1. FC Cologne ex-manager Heldt

Criticism of Cologne’s leadership – “We walked into this situation with our eyes open”

As of: 12:21 p.m. | Reading time: 5 minutes

They have to straighten things out somehow at 1. FC Köln for now: sports director Christian Keller (left), managing director Philipp Türoff and president Werner Wolf

Source: picture alliance/dpa/Roberto Pfeil

Horst Heldt doesn’t like the separation of 1. FC Köln from Steffen Baumgart at all. As managing director, he once brought the football coach to Cologne. Heldt blames others for the crash.

Horst Heldt regrets the departure of coach Steffen Baumgart from 1. FC Köln. The Bundesliga club “missed out on shaping an era with Steffen,” said FC’s former sports director on broadcaster Sky. “A unique opportunity to go through thick and thin together. One thing is the sentences and the other is how you actually live it. “It’s also part of it that you might go to the second division with the coach,” said 54-year-old Heldt. He played a key role in Baumgart’s signing two and a half years ago.

“Steffen has woken up the club, he has achieved incredible things,” said Heldt, praising the coach who came from SC Paderborn for the 2021/2022 season, with whom the relegation-threatened Cologne team had declared their cooperation ended at the end of the year on Thursday. However, Heldt did not work with the 51-year-old Baumgart, who had a contract with FC until 2025, in Cologne. The club had already separated from the managing director at the end of May 2021 – Baumgart only started working as FC coach shortly afterwards.

Instead of Baumgart, Heldt blamed the Rhinelander management team for the critical situation of the second-to-last team in the table. “You walked into this situation with your eyes open,” criticized Heldt. “But that also has a bit to do with the club’s philosophy. There is operational responsibility for managing directors, but of course they are also given instructions. They have guidelines.”

The four serious problem areas of 1. FC Köln

It all starts with a club philosophy, explained Heldt, “how you want to act. If that has the consequence that the team becomes weaker and weaker and you are no longer competitive, then you have to ask yourself: Are we still on the right track?”

The answer is quite easy to find at 1. FC Köln at the moment, it is: No. There are four problem areas: no coach, no new players, no points and no money. Especially since things got tough for the club shortly after the confirmed separation from Baumgart. The International Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) also announced on Thursday that the transfer ban contested by the Rhinelanders will remain in place for two transfer periods. WELT outlines the four points of the FC malaise.

The trainer: Which coach is right for 1. FC Köln? Baumgart seemed to be the ideal choice: shirtless, football crazy, successful – an original and, thanks to his flat cap, a cult figure who enlivened the club and its entire surroundings. Regardless of the continued unbroken sympathy for the 51-year-old former striker, his time in Cologne ends on December 31st because the results were not right. Nevertheless, he leaves big shoes for his successor. Who will that be? The long shadow of the football teacher Baumgart, who is still popular with FC fans, makes it even more difficult for his successor to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga for the seventh time. Sports director Christian Keller described the requirements profile. Accordingly, the new coach’s playing philosophy should be similar to that of the old coach.

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Nobody commented on names that had already been traded, such as Thomas Reis, Heiko Herrlich or football pensioner Friedhelm Funkel. Keller also left it open whether it would be an internal or external solution. However, the sports director rejected allegations that he was only starting the search now: “Of course we have a shadow squad for coaches. But it is our basic belief not to start looking for potential successors behind the backs of employees.” Keller is not worried that no coach will take on the delicate mission: “In professional football, the saying applies to many players: The king is dead. long live the king. We were offered trainers like a dime a dozen.”

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Unlike Baumgart, Keller, who has also come under criticism, will remain in office for the time being. President Werner Wolf expressed his confidence in him: “We sit together every two weeks. There you can get an idea of ​​how the management works. And this picture is definitely positive.”

The sporting situation: A look at the table is alarming for 1. FC Köln. Only ten points from 16 games mean 17th place – five years after promotion, the second division is once again threatened. Cologne were last relegated from the Bundesliga in 2018. At that time, FC, as bottom of the table, only managed 22 points from 34 games. At the time, the result was even more devastating with only three points after 16 match days. There is also hope that 1. FSV Mainz 05, in 16th place, only has ten points and there are only six points up to 13th place.

The transfer ban: Nobody in the Rhineland region thought that the signing of a youth player could have a say in the fate of the professional team. Because the club brought the then 16-year-old Slovenian Jaka Cuber Potocnik to Cologne in 2022 in violation of the rules, according to his former club Olimpija Ljubljana and ultimately FIFA, the world association has imposed a transfer ban on the Bundesliga club for two transfer periods. The International Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed the penalty. This means: There are no new personnel in the fight to stay in the class. But selling is possible, and things could even get worse. Baumgart recently denounced a possible transfer of regular player Dejan Ljubicic.

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Finances: 1. FC Cologne is chronically cash-strapped. The word “restructuring case” was coined in 2022. At the most recent general meeting it was reported that the liabilities had been reduced from around 66 to 50.5 million euros thanks to the Conference League and the sale of players such as Anthony Modeste and Salih Öczan. However, the club is far from off the hook. “We must consistently continue on this path to financial recovery. We’re on the right track, but we’re not done yet,” explained managing director Philipp Türoff. It is not known whether the club will also have to pay Baumgart a sum of X as a so-called golden handshake because his contract was actually dated until 2025, but it would put additional strain on the financial situation.

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