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Jan 8, 2012

The post-Italia jobs

Many people are fairly busy on New Year's Eve, so I'm not sure how many of you noticed a small news item that announced SC Bonn had found a new coach for their Under-19 team.

Being unfamiliar with this club is no disgrace. Bonn's biggest claim to fame is probably that they once signed the entire Cuban national team to compete as SC Bonn in the 1999-00 season. (It's true! The plan was nipped in the bud when the regional council suddenly refused to issue the promised visas.)

Bonn have rarely played higher than the fourth division in their post-war history, but the youth teams have often been quite good. The Under-19s were promoted to the western tier of the highest division in 2010. A year later, their coach took over the first team and Bonn needed a replacement. Which led to the news item on the last day of 2011, because the man they signed is none other than Jürgen Kohler.

During his illustrious playing career, Kohler has won more silverware than a man can carry, including the 1990 World Cup, but his working life since hanging up the proverbial boots has been rather unglamorous. He earned his coaching badges more than 11 years ago, but has little to show for this decade. Kohler coached Germany's Under-21 side for eight months, second-division Duisburg for four months and third-division Aalen for three months. Oh, and he was Bayer Leverkusen's director of football for 15 months.

Now, there are a few reasons for his meagre managerial career, such as an irregular heartbeat, which forced him to step down as Aalen's coach, but the thing is that reading the news item on New Year's Eve reminded me how little you hear from many of the men who won the World Cup in Italy. And how difficult those you hear from have found their second life - the one in management - to be.

Sure, there is Rudi Voller. He stepped down as Germany coach after a disastrous Euro 2004 and didn't even last a month managing Roma, but you'd have to say his football career after retirement has been relatively successful, compared to most of his 1990 team-mates. After all, Voller reached the World Cup final with an unfancied side in 2002 and is now undisputed as Leverkusen's director of football.

That, you will remember, is the post Kohler briefly held down, while Voller was managing the national team. Interestingly, Voller is connected to another of his 1990 team-mates through the Bayer post, because he had to go back into coaching for a few weeks on an interim basis in 2005, when Leverkusen fired none other than Klaus Augenthaler, the sweeper of the 1990 World Cup-winning team.

Augenthaler's coaching career has been undistinguished, the biggest achievements being a cup win in Austria and a second-division title with Nurnberg. In the past five years, he's been out of a job apart from a 13-month stint at Unterhaching in the third division. Yet again you'd have to say that his life on the other side of the touchlines has been by and large fruitful in relation to other members of the class of 1990, as Augenthaler at least found work in the Bundesliga for quite a number of years.

Lothar Matthaus, by comparison, is still waiting to be signed by a German club. The only team he's coached here was Borussia Banana. Yes, you've read that right. In 2005, Matthaus starred in a reality television show as the coach of a cast of no-hopers and weirdoes. It goes without saying that it didn't improve his image and helps explain why he has become such a figure of ridicule in his own country. These days, Matthaus's name is more likely to come up on late-night talk shows, where a passing reference to the age of his wives is always good for cheap laughs, than on sports shows.

Strangely, Thomas Hassler - in some regards the opposite of Matthaus - followed in Lothar's footsteps in 2009. Hassler had worked as a minor member of Cologne's coaching staff until his job fell victim to cost-cutting measures. He next surfaced on the jury of a reality television show called Austria's New Footballstar, the winner of which was given a contract at Kapfenberg, an Austrian top-flight club. (Hassler later rejoined Cologne but was sacked again in the summer, when Stale Solbakken brought his own staff with him.)

Like Matthaus, Guido Buchwald and Pierre Littbarski first found employment abroad, both in Japan. In contrast to him, they also later got coaching jobs in Germany - though only briefly. Buchwald lasted just a bit over five months at Aachen's helm; Littbarski took over MSV Duisburg in May 2001, was fired in November 2002 and went back to the other side of the globe for many years. Both are now living in their home country again but keep a low profile, Buchwald on the board of fourth-division Kickers Stuttgart, Littbarski as assistant coach in Wolfsburg.

Olaf Thon, meanwhile, spent many years at Schalke, on the supervisory board and in the marketing department, but the club never offered him the coaching or managing job he craved, so he finally took over a team even more obscure than SC Bonn, namely VfB Hüls in the fifth division. Seventeen months later, he spoke of "irreconcilable differences with some of the older players" and stepped down.

Thon has since been unemployed. Three weeks before Kohler joined Bonn, he let it be known he would consider the coaching job at 1. FC Kaan-Marienborn. That's a sixth-division club. Nothing came of it.

The managerial career of Andreas Brehme was strangely brief, too. He was unexpectedly fired from his first job, at Kaiserslautern, then spent all of nine months on the bench of Unterhaching, in the Second Bundesliga, before stepping down and becoming an assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni at VfB Stuttgart for eight months until the whole staff was given the sack.

It seems that quite a few of the heroes of 1990 had a good look at this situation and decided it was safer to not become a coach but choose the job of the man who usually fires the coach. Yet they quickly learned that a World Cup winner's second life isn't any easier in the boardroom.

The first was Frank Mill, an unused sub in 1990. The trained florist became director of football at Fortuna Dusseldorf in 1996, sacked three coaches, broke the club transfer record not once but twice, was fired after less than two years and then went into the scrap metal business.

Midfielder Uwe Bein was the director of football at Kickers Offenbach - for all of six months. A day before Christmas Eve 2005, the club declared the fact that Bein also ran a football clinic for kids meant he didn't have enough time for Kickers and fired him.

Interestingly, one of his successors was a former team-mate: two and a half years later, Andreas Moller became third-division Offenbach's director of football. He did reasonably well but stepped down following a defeat against Jena in April 2011, saying he was "drawing the personal consequences" of having dropped out of the promotion race.

Thomas Berthold also joined the suit-and-tie brigade. In the summer of 2003, he took over as general manager at Fortuna Düsseldorf but was fired less than two years later under very strange circumstances. (Fortuna spoke of "expenses fraud", saying Berthold turned in a bill of €104 for a dinner that never took place. Berthold then sued the club, claiming Fortuna had said they would find his wife a job as a TV presenter but didn't keep that promise. Don't ask.)

Another World Cup winner who tried to find work in the corridors of power was Stefan Reuter, who became 1860 Munich's managing director in 2006. Three years later, he refused to be demoted to a less important position at the club and was suspended from his office.

Karl-Heinz Rielde, too, once said that he wasn't interested in coaching but rather saw himself in an administrative function. He tried his hand at that in Switzerland, being named director of sports at Grasshopper Club in 2004. But it lasted for only two years. These days, he concentrates on the hotel he owns in Oberstaufen, Bavaria, and on the football training camps for children he is holding there.

That's more than you can say of Bodo Illgner, it would seem. He finished his career at Real Madrid in 2001 and then didn't do much of notice except writing a much-ridiculed novel together with his wife. In 2009, after 13 years in Spain, he and his family moved to the USA, but they were back within 18 months. "I felt drawn back to football," Illgner explained, adding that he's now taking courses to become a director of football in Spain.

Which, apart from a few bench-warmers, leaves Jürgen Klinsmann, whose post-playing career has also been pretty strange. He had all but vanished from view as far as Germans were concerned when he was made the national coach in 2004 as unexpectedly, almost accidentally, as the man he replaced, his 1990 team-mate Voller.

Two years later, after the World Cup on home soil, Klinsmann was pretty much the most popular man in German football. But the public perception has since changed, in part because of his short and disastrous reign at Bayern, in part because Joachim Low's success has put into perspective the role Klinsmann played in the 2004 revolution.

You have to say the verdict on Klinsmann is still out, though all the signs are that he will one day fit in nicely with most of the 1990 winners who've had a few bright spots here and there but have in general become strangely anonymous. Unwanted almost, because they don't even appear as pundits very often.

Brehme covered the 1998 World Cup for Eurosport, while you sometimes see Riedle and Illgner on Sky Germany. But that's nothing compared to the generation that followed these men, people like Matthias Sammer, Stefan Effenberg, Oliver Kahn, Thomas Helmer, Thomas Strunz or Mehmt Scholl, who often appeared on our screens to talk football. Still do, in fact.

Even someone like Steffen Freund is now a regular pundit for Sky, whereas Moller was hired to analyse the 2006 World Cup not by a television station but by the cruise line AIDA. Sure, crossing the Mediterranean Sea while sharing a few anecdotes with vacationing pensioners and participating in a golf tournament (advertised as "Beat Andy Moller") isn't the worst job in the world, but somehow you'd expect people like him to be more active in top-notch football.

After all, these are men who at one point were the best in the world. They should still have something to contribute, even if it's just experience.

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