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Klaus Allofs: De Bruyne? I’m sure not to be disappointed. And of course, I’m not happy

Wolfsburg is back to Champions League since 2009 and very close to its spring stage — the logical continuation of successful run of the last season. However VfL decided to sell its stars — Kevin de Bryune and Ivan Perisic. Experience of «wolves»’s sporting director Klaus Allofs is exactly the engine of all processes inside the club from Lower Saxony. And his role should be a vital to maintain responding the highest expectations from the VfL, definitely not the poorest club of world.

— Herr Allofs, first question is obvious: is it easy for you to work every day in the atmosphere of a scathing irony and envy that are directed to your club in Germany, read every day in the articles that Wolfsburg spend a lot of money, but still lose to the well-known clubs with established traditions?
— I would say it isn’t very hard. But it’s annoying. Actually these stories have no concern with the players, all this irony has no real base. It’s very German: while in another countries everybody is proud of clubs that win something and sustain their positive image, in our country they criticize them and make scathing stories. These are the rules and the story is endless. Now we have a number of expensive players, in the future we can have more and it will go on. They have written for example, that the FC Ingolstadt 04 defender, that has never been sold «for money», «skunked» all our expensive players, when we tied the game with them. But it was always like that, it is and it will be: the players who are not paid for, the ones that are paid for and other players that are very well-paid for.

I understand that there are lots of clubs who want to compete with us for the place in the Champions League and in European Cups in general. That is why there are a lot of talks, that Wolfsburg spend extortionate money, etc. But the thing that annoys me more is that the people involved in the football process perfectly know, that the reason of our success is certainly not money! But they still repeat the same in season and out of season. And buy the way, all these stories about money are not truth. We spend 30 % of the money that FC Bayern Munich spend. Even Borussia Dortmund spend more than we do. Only a short time ago Schalke 04 were spending more than we do. Well, that’s Ok, it’s a part of a game. We always have to explain something to somebody about us. But it’s impossible to do it constantly. Some day we need to stop and accept it.

After all not everybody has the same opinion as our opponents. People who really like football know for sure, that VfL is simply a good team that plays an attractive football. To those who think that our club has no soul, I can remind about the atmosphere in Berlin, when we were playing the DFB Cup final against Borussia Dortmund.

The neutral spectators were positively surprised with the attitude of our team and fans. They sympathized us. People get to know more and more about us and understand more and more. And talking about the jealousy and envy, you have to work hard to earn envy!

— Maybe it is unfair to slight VfL? The origin of the club is quite logical: the factory workers have a right to have an escape in the form of their own football team?
— Of course it is unfair, but what can we do? After all, there is no chance to change the history. The club, founded more than 100 years ago of course has more time-honored traditions. VfL will never be older then FC Schalke 04 or SV Werder Bremen, there is nothing to discuss. The way we work with the club, the image we create to it is much more important. In the end of the day, all of us are working for money. And no wonder the representatives of the older clubs think that it is they who have to get all the money according to their time-honored traditions.  But in Frankfurt, Munich or Ruhr it is much easier to have a big number of fans, as the population there is about millions of people. And for the city with only 120 000 of citizens, as Wolfsburg, it´s pretty good to have 30 000 spectators on the stadium every two weeks, isn´t it? Of course, it’s obvious that the attitude towards our club is unfair, but you can’t spend every single day on explanations. You won’t be able to explain everything.

— You dedicated a considerable part of your manager’s career to the club of completely different type. SV Werder Bremen that has established traditions competed with FC Bayern when you were working there. Do you feel the difference now?
— There is something in common. When I came to Bremen in 1999 the club was in a quite difficult situation, the same as Wolfsburg in the end of 2012. In both occasions at first the objective was to survive. But the general tasks were the same: to reach the level of the European football. In spite of the mentioned difference, in both cases it was interesting for me.

In Bremen our task was to create a club that would be successful, and not only in Germany, but in Europe too. We managed to do it, but of course there is a difference: VfL and Werder are completely different teams, first of all, if we compare traditions. To leave Werder for Wolfsburg was a professional challenge for me.

— One of the directors of Bayern Munich always emphasizes that with its success his club supports the whole German football and helps to the weak football clubs. Do you agree with him?
— Yes, if Bayern earn money, if the money remains inside our country, if they buy a new player for a substantial amount of money, it’s good for the football economy of Germany. It also concerns to the selling of Kevin de Bruyne by Wolfsburg, and the signing of Julian Draxler from Schalke. This kind of transfers could help also to Werder and Mainz and all other clubs with more modest financial capacities. In this case the transfer of Draxler was important for Schalke because now they can’t invest big sums of money in buying players.    

«I was persuading De Bruyne even being on holidays»

— With De Bruyne leaving for Manchester City, VfL lost at least 40 percent of its offensive power. Are you happy or disappointed with this significant deal?
— I’m sure not to be disappointed. And of course, I’m not happy. But these are the rules of the game. Of course it would have been great if he had played in our team for a year or two, but in the moment when we bought him from Chelsea we realized that sooner or later a we would get a serious offer from other club, with much bigger financial capacities than Wolfsburg. We had to be ready to it.

— Who was that hero, who got the idea to buy De Bruyne?
— To tell the truth, I had been observing him for a long time, when he was still playing in Belgium in K.R.C. Genk. Our scouts were constantly watching him, and he was outstanding that time. Then de Bruyne decided to leave for Chelsea, but we kept in touch with his agent because we understood that it wouldn’t be easy for such a young player to take a place in the first team at once. So, we loaned him for 1 year for Werder Bremen. I even went to see him to France during my holidays to persuade him to play in Bundesliga. I was sure that our league was good for him and would help him to develop all his strongest qualities. Then he came back to Chelsea but there he had a lack of playing time and there we were.

— Were you surprised to know that Borussia Dortmund were not interested in Ivan Perišić, whom you managed to sell successfully to Inter? ( €16 million — acc.
— There are a lot of players in all the world. But for every player it’s important to find «his» club and «his» coach. That time Borussia Dortmund were very strong and there was a serious competition. And for Ivan it is very important to have a constant confidence. I’m sure that in Borussia they understood that he is a very high-level player, but it was difficult for him to distinguish himself there. Having adapted in our team he started to improve his skills incredibly fast. Ivan is a wonderful example of how important is to predict the development of a player in the particular conditions. If you have money you can buy Messi for example, and you don’t need to have scouts to do it. But to find a footballer who is not really successful at the moment and make him grow into a high-level player is completely different story.

— Herr Allofs, all your life you has been going round in a circle. You have been a great player, but always had to find a common language with the coaches. Then you became not a less successful director but you went on searching for a common language with the coaches. When was it easier to do that?
— It really seems to be my destiny (laughing). Of course, the situations were completely different. If you are a player and particularly a forward, you are quite self-centered. And you don’t think too much about the strategy or coach’s ideas. You think only about scoring. I thought I always had to play, no matter how are my physical conditions. Now everything is different.  I’ve worked for about a year as a coach in Fortuna Düsseldorf, I still have a trainer’s license for Bundesliga. Now I understand all the difficulties and particular features of the coach’s job: now I know that the coach has to control constantly the player’s psychology, create the positive atmosphere in the team to make it succeed. Being a director I prefer to keep the permanent contact with the coach, usually discuss all the problems with him and try to solve them together.  I was really lucky to be able to work for 10 years with the same coach, Thomas Schaaf. It’s a good sign of stability, right? Dieter Hecking has also been working in VfL already for two years and a half (Previously he had never worked in any team for more than two seasons — Sportsdaily). The most important component of the coaches and director’s work is the confidence. I have it with Hecking. And if you have a confidence your job turns out to be pleasant and the most important problems are solved much easier.

— Why did you choose Hecking having an objective to succeed with Wolfsburg? Hecking had never had significant results, though he was always creating good teams. At first you planned to contract Bernd Schuster, right?
— Yes, but the situation was different from the reporter’s version. They wrote that we had already signed the contract with Schister, then cancelled it. It wasn’t like that. We were searching for a coach for a long-term collaboration. The club has a transition period after Felix Magath had left us. I knew Hecking quite well, though not very close. He communicated with Thomas Schaaf, whom I worked with in Werder. Dieter’s contract with  Nürnberg was finished and we decided to meet. We spent about five hours talking about football and life. When we finished the meeting I had a very good feeling that we had found a person who could help us. That’s how we choose Hecking.

— What is his strongest skill?
— It’s difficult to number only one. I think, above all he knows to establish the right relationship with the players. He is also a very good at tactics, he feels perfectly what his team needs and how they need to act against the rival at a certain point. Dieter reacts very fast to all the changes in the game. And last but not least, he makes our players progress.

Schumacher is still Dasaev’s friend

— Was it possible for you to appear in the club earlier, when Felix Magath was working there?
— No, it wasn’t. I came to Wolfsburg because he had left the club. Magath was an example of a classical English manager, who took everything into his hands. He didn’t need me. When they offered me to work in the club, I was asked if I could work there in the same manner as I was working in Werder. I agreed with an easy mind because I had been following Wolfsburg and it was interesting for me to see it´s development especially after they became champions in 2009.

— Do Volkswagen, the title sponsor of your club, want team to play emotional and active football?
— No, they don’t. Let’s come back to the beginning of our conversation when we were talking about the image. It wasn’t enough for us to change the peoples’ perception of Wolfsburg to be nice guys, who want everybody to like them and not to get yellow and red cards. We had to be successful. And if the victory is gained in bright and emotional games, even better. And neither me nor Dieter Hecking are not against it. The attacking style of play is common for the whole Bundesliga and our sponsor prefer VfL to win with passion. But if we are attacking loosers, I don’t think our sponsor will like it.

— In the Felix Magath era there was a pair of Italian defenders. Now there are more Brazilians, you have the complete Brazilian triangle in the defense: Dante, Naldo, Luiz Gustavo. Aren’t you afraid to lose the balance in the game?
— We choose these players not because they are Brazilians. And by the way, Naldo is already German. I’ve brought him to Werder long ago (laughing). And we choose Dante exactly because we wanted to improve the balance in the game. That time we were conceding too much goals. It’s not such a big problem if you score a lot. And if you don’t? That is why we have Dante, Luiz Gustavo and Guilavogui, who have different skills. It helps us to create a balanced system in defense. You know, Vieirinha is basically not a defender, Ricardo Rodriguez is basically not a defender, but he is maybe a bit closer to this position. So, we are searching for balance, searching.

— It is considered that to find the balance the Bundesliga clubs search for new players in Asia. There are no Japaneese or Korean players in VfL now. The last one, Makoto Hasebe, has left the club not so long ago…
— In general we were satisfied with Hasebe, he is also a very nice person. But Makoto wasn’t a key player. Koo Ja-cheol is also a great footballer, but also not a key player. Both of them are heroes in their countries and when they stop playing regularly, they want to change something and change the club easily. For us it was an opportunity to make a transfer and in the end both sides were satisfied. We were even thinking about a Chineese player, but he didn’t speak neither English nor German at all. It would be extremely difficult for him to get accustomed. Talking about the general level of the game, there is not a huge difference between China and Europe, but quite a big one. In general, there is no matter for us where the player is from. We don’t search especially for Asian or Brazilian players, we look for good footballers. Personally I prefer to have a lot of good German ones. VfL Wolfsburg players play for German national team. It is important for our fans and sponsors. Max Kruse is already in the Bundesteam, Maximilian Arnold can also be a permanent member of it in the future.

— By the way, you played together with Viktor Skripnik in SV Werder Bremen. How do you think, can he be the second Thomas Schaaf for Bremen?
— That time I didn’t think Viktor would be a coach. But now looking back to his achievements the Werder’s youth teams, I can suppose that he can really be the second Thomas Schaaf. But he must be successful to achieve it. To survive in Bundesliga would be success for Werder this season. But next summer the club will be expected to appear in the Europa League and after that in Champions League. But it will be hard to do it because the number of teams that compete for this opportunities is clearly defined and it is difficult to interfere in this competition 

— How would you describe Skripnik-player?
— He was very calm and 100 % professional. It was easy to work with him. Viktor was always thinking about the team’s interests.

— Long time ago you played against the Soviet Spartak and FC Köln even lost 0:1 in Tbilisi.
— Really? I don’t remember any game where my team lost (laughing). We won the second leg in Cologne, right? When was it, don’t you remember? 1984? Oh, so long ago…. No, I already don’t remember!

— But you are sure to know that the USSR national team goalkeeper Rinat Dasaev was a good friend of his german colleague Toni Schumacher
— Oh, yes, I know about it! By the way Toni (the actual vice-president of FC Köln — Sportsdaily) has recently visited Wolfsburg, we spent the whole evening talking. Why he and Dasaev were frinds? Well, I don’t know how are the things now, but that time the goalkeepers were always friends among themselves. Maybe it’s a kind of professional feature…

— By the way, why are you rarely mentioned in Schumacher´s sensational book Anpfiff where Toni «sheds the light» on all the German football? Your surname mainly appears there only in connection with the German national team’s goals. It seems to define you positively, but nevertheless…
— Actually I have no idea. I haven’t read the book. When it was edited I was the captain of FC Köln where Toni played. And the team was not happy when he wrote this book. That moment it was difficult to say that were friends. Now there are problems between us, we had a great time in Köln, Schumacher was a great goalkeeper. And a nice guy. But that time, and Tony knows it better than I do, that time he has done stupid things.

Text: Ivan Zhidkov

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