In our three-part interview with Max Eberl, the Borussia sporting director talks about expectation levels, the new coach Marco Rose and the tricky issue of time. Today we bring you part two…
In an online survey in the Express, two-thirds of users answered the question “What do you expect from Borussia next season?” with “I just want to see a full season of attractive football.” What’s your reaction to that?
Max Eberl: Well, my first question would be, how do you define attractiveness? Do I go home celebrating after a 5-4 loss? If people aren’t satisfied with fifth place, will they be happier waving their flags as we sit in twelfth? If someone said that attractive football beats success, I would struggle to believe that. Success is the most attractive thing. I understand that people want to see us scoring goals and the team tearing up the pitch, but it’s simply a fact that the most stable teams are the ones with the most success.
A quickfire poll on our social-media channels asked what the most frustrating aspects of last season were. Some of the responses were that the team weren’t fighting, they’re too nice and that the football was lacking tempo. Can you understand that?
Max Eberl: We’re a side that likes to try and play football and we’ve had our best success doing that too. Of course, it would have been nice at certain points if we had had one or two players in our squad who could roll their sleeves up even more. It’s not something you can teach a player – it already needs to be inside him. Players like that are few and far between. There were no doubt certain moments where we could have played with more urgency, I agree with the fans there. But lacking tempo isn’t only a question of individual quality, but also the playing style. Over recent years, we’ve been the side with the third-most possession after Dortmund and Bayern. We combined our technical ability with fast counterattacking last season and that worked brilliantly in the first half of the campaign, but teams weren’t allowing us to counter as effectively after the winter break. It’s also hard to increase the tempo of your play when, as we so often were in the Rückrunde, you’re up against eight defenders on the edge of their own box. Quick-thinking could also be considered tempo, and our goal at Schalke comes to mind when we made 62 passes in the build-up.
There are high expectations surrounding the new head coach Marco Rose. How did he arrive on your radar?
Max Eberl: Just like how you have to monitor the transfer market for strikers or goalkeepers, even if you have good players in those positions already, you have to do the same for coaches, because you never know what will happen. Marco Rose’s success in the RB Salzburg youth setup had already caught our eye. We often crossed paths too, and our meetings were always pleasant. We of course continued to monitor his development as Salzburg head coach. We really liked his fundamental approach to football, the way he communicated with his players and how he presented himself in the media. Last autumn, we had our first proper meeting at a Europa League match and had a long and positive conversation. We spoke about varying footballing philosophies without ever really having any ulterior motive.
When did the idea to bring him in take shape?
Max Eberl: At the beginning of the year, we heard through our network that Marco could picture himself changing clubs at the end of the season. Then it was my job as sporting director to consider that option. After long discussions on the phone and some intensive talks in person, I had to make a fundamental decision for our club that we would take a new approach. The fact that Dieter Hecking was the victim and had to make way was incredibly tough for me personally. But on a sporting front, I am convinced that it is the right decision, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it. However, this decision doesn’t mean that we consider a fifth-place finish as anything other than a success. It’s not about a need to improve things, but rather a desire to do them differently. We’re after a different approach – a club needs that now and again.