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Why Hoffenheim director of football Alexander Rosen is an Arsenal target

Arsenal have been linked with a move for Hoffenheim director of football Alexander Rosen this summer. But why? Here are five things you should know about the former Bundesliga player.

I've heard about Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann, but who is Rosen?

Rosen, who only turned 38 last month, has worked at Hoffenheim for nearly eight years and is under contract until 2018. He first led the club's academy and, amid a relegation fight, was soon promoted to his current position as director of football.

He was one of those who helped to bring in Nagelsmann as the club's head coach but his main success has been in the transfer market. Under his guidance, the club stopped making significant losses and have become a profitable operation. He brokered Roberto Firmino's €41 million deal with Liverpool, and he has been responsible for bringing in the likes of midfielder Kerem Demirbay and attacker Sandro Wagner. Such players have helped the club up to third place this season.

What did he do before he joined Hoffenheim?

A Germany under-21 midfielder during his career, he played in a few Bundesliga games for Eintracht Frankfurt from 1998-2002 and ratted around the Regionalliga Sudwest for a few more years. Then, aged 27, he left Germany in 2006 to join Follo FK in Norway.

In an interview before he set out on his rather unusual career path, he attacked those pros plying their trade in Bundesliga.

"Many have lost touch with reality and regard themselves as the centre of the universe," he said. "If somebody is simple, it's not a problem. But with many footballers the problem is that stupidity is paired with arrogance and hubris, a fatal combination."

Rosen worked as an assistant to Follo's manager in the morning, and trained with the team in the afternoon. Within three months, he was fluent in Norwegian and realised that he was much more keen to work on his players' mental skills than their physical ones.

Returning to Germany with Stuttgarter Kickers and Hoffenheim II, he finished his sports economic degree and, after hanging up his boots in 2010, became the head of Hoffenheim's academy.

Alexander Rosen
Rosen is highly valued in Germany but could be tempted to move on.

Learning your trade in Norway and working in Bundesliga does not automatically qualify you for the job at the Emirates, though. Why would Arsenal want him?

Like Nagelsmann, Rosen is a product of Hoffenheim's excellent academy which not only focuses on the development of players but also on the development of managers, physiotherapists and backroom staff. One of his first jobs at the club was to bring in a second training group for those players no longer wanted, but stillunder contract.

"We had 40 players, it was without an alternative," Rosen said in late 2013. "We did not expect to receive a warm round of applause from everyone for it."

But the club slowly began operating as profitable operation. "I don't have a real role model as a director but if I had to name someone it would be Uli Hoeness," Rosen said. "He's turned FC Bayern Munich into one of the best clubs in the world with good and responsible management."

Indeed, Rosen knows what life is like in a club academy, and he's done deals with the big clubs already. So far mostly on the selling end, but he has already shown he can handle a steep learning curve.

So why should he leave Hoffenheim? They'll be playing Champions League next season (at least in the playoffs) and it looks likely that Arsenal won't be.

Hoffenheim have a natural ceiling. Their infrastructure, the way the club is set up and the way the club have positioned themselves will not ensure Champions League, or even European, football every year. They are an academy club; they bank on their work there and want to create a superstructure which allows them to lose their best assets and bring in someone new.

With defender Niklas Sule and captain Sebastian Rudy off to Bayern Munich this summer, and Nagelsmann's future -- at least beyond 2019 -- subject to constant rumours, Rosen might also see himself working elsewhere.

There will be structural changes at the club this summer and former DFB sporting director, and assistant to Joachim Low, Hansi Flick, could return to Hoffenheim in a new position.

"They have become more than employer for me after nearly eight years," Rosen told Bild, but added: "I feel my work is rated here by many people. But a new deal right now does play the lead role, but only the run-in of the season."

It might only be an outside chance that he leaves, but he could be a young and smart choice for the Gunners.

Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.


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