Germany’s former captain believes he is destined for managerial greatness. No one else agrees. Paul Joyce reports on the coaching career of the German Bryan Robson
Lothar Matthäus is by no means the only former player to harbour delusions of managerial adequacy. Yet after five posts in six years, the coaching career of Germany’s most-capped international has a uniquely self-destructive trajectory. Convinced that he is not getting his fair dues, in terms of respect, money or a position that befits his stature, “Loddar” manages to talk his way out of jobs with the misplaced confidence of a cartoon labrador about to step on a rake.
Only Matthäus would have chosen the day that his club Red Bull Salzburg sealed the 2006-07 Austrian championship to state sniffily that there were “roles that suited him better” than being a mere assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni in a league that he had previously dismissed as “second-rate”. After following this up with public criticism of Trapattoni’s defensive tactics and player acquisitions, Matthäus was fired by Red Bull in June to no one’s surprise but his own.
He had already been axed once in Austria, by Rapid Vienna in May 2002 having coached them to their lowest-ever league position of eighth. On his departure, Rapid goalkeeper Ladislav Maier called Matthäus “the biggest fool ever” and claimed that “everyone, including the cleaning woman, is relieved that he’s gone”.
Loddar’s six-week stint as manager of Brazilian team Atlético Paranaense in 2006 was even more spectacular. Having guided the side to six wins in his first eight matches, Matthäus received a 30-day ban for calling a match official “arrogant”. He promptly flew home and announced his resignation, explaining that he had somehow not realised how far Brazil was from Europe. This was supported by the unpaid mobile phone bills of €2,700 (£1,829) that the club published on their website.
Matthäus is now being linked with the post of Czech national coach, currently held by Karel Brückner. Yet his record as manager of Hungary in 2004-05 was, at best, patchy. Despite nurturing young talent such as Hannover 96’s Szabolcs Huszti and coaching a Hungarian reserve team to a 2-0 away victory over Germany in June 2004, Matthäus was accused of picking squad members unseen and playing them out of position.
More damagingly, Loddar spent his two years in Hungary flirting shamelessly with other jobs, such as those at Hearts, PAOK Salonika and virtually every club in the Bundesliga. Matthäus missed out on the post of German national coach in 2004 due to his lack of experience – only for the job to be given to his arch-enemy Jürgen Klinsmann, who had no managerial experience at all. In fact, the closest he has come to working in Germany was coaching Borussia Banana, a team of clueless amateurs thrown together for a reality TV show. The threat of a fan boycott prevented his appointment as 1. FC Nürnberg’s manager in November 2005, whereas other German club chairmen have flinched at Loddar’s reputation for leaking information to the tabloid press.
Matthäus’s inability to walk past an open microphone has often led to his downfall. In 2002, his vanity was cruelly exposed by a hoax phone call made by a radio station that appeared to offer him the job of Bavarian sports minister. Even when told that his responsibilities would include promoting finger-wrestling, Loddar declared himself honoured to accept the position. His habit of referring to himself in the third person – “A Lothar Matthäus doesn’t speak French” – also sits uneasily with the image of self-ironic modesty that German football has tried to project since the 2006 World Cup. And few have yet forgiven Matthäus for telling a Dutch tourist at the 1993 Oktoberfest that “the Dutch are all arseholes, Adolf probably forgot you”, or for greeting a women’s basketball team with the words: “Hey girls, our black player has the longest appendage.”
So what now for a man who appears even more unemployable domestically than Berti Vogts? In July, Matthäus announced that he would now like to become assistant to new Bayern Munich manager Ottmar Hitzfeld – “Ottmar and me, that would be ideal” – before possibly taking over Hitzfeld’s role himself. Yet Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness has stated that as long as he is at the club, Matthäus won’t even be hired as a groundsman. Loddar took Bayern to court in 2003, seeking an extra €500,000 from his farewell match three years earlier, although he himself still owed charities the €310,000 that he had promised them from the matchday revenue. Matthäus proved as unsuccessful here as with previous litigation against Rapid Vienna and Partizan Belgrade: the judge awarded him a mere €7,500.
From WSC 248 October 2007