This week saw a club genuinely sad to see them part ways with their manager; unlike the underhanded end to Ranieri’s reign at Leicester. Roger Schmidt leaving Leverkusen led to a heartfelt statement from the board who clearly appreciate the success he brought them. Not only has he established the side in the Champions League but he has also nurtured various young talent through the ranks, from Julian Brandt to most recently Kai Havertz. These players will undoubtedly benefit the club both on the pitch and financially when they are inevitably allowed to move on. For many, Schmidt’s time can continue to be viewed as a success irrespective of Leverkusen’s inconsistency this season.
The Bundesliga season has been one of the most compelling in recent years, with teams like Hoffenheim showing that a side who narrowly avoided facing St Pauli in the second tier, can compete at the top of the premier division the following season. Although the unpredictable nature of this season’s fixtures has brought excitement to fans, it has been detrimental for clubs with European aspirations and their managers. Wolfsburg and Gladbach, not alone in their search for consistency this season, both saw managerial changes mid-season. In the case of Borussia Monchengladbach moving from Andre Schubert to Dieter Hecking has rekindled their season both domestically and continentally. Hecking’s honeymoon success no doubt lessened the surprise of Schmidt being shown the door, albeit following Leverkusen’s hammering away at the Signal Iduna.
So, where does this leave Leverkusen?
Following Roger Schmidt’s departure, the club promptly appointed former Hannover boss Tayfun Korkut on a short-term deal until season end. With Leverkusen lying in 10th, yet only 5 points from European football and a Champions League tie around the corner, there is certainly lots still to play for. Admittedly, the hopes of reaching the last eight of the Champions League are razor thin, but European football is a realistic aim and remains vital for Bayer’s progression. The fact that Korkut has been given a short-term deal implies that, barring a miraculous end to the season, a new manager will be installed come June.
Who are potential permanent candidates for the Leverkusen role?
Candidates currently in managerial roles include Julian Nagelsmann, Niko Kovac and Lucian Favre. All have Bundesliga experience and would provide a potential solution to the defensive fragility so often seen under Schmidt. However, without continental qualification, it may be difficult for Leverkusen to tempt these managers from potential European challenges at their current sides.
A different approach to take would be to appoint a ‘bigger name’. This would further Leverkusen’s desire to improve their global reach, which has impacted their signings, the club tour destinations and their marketing strategy in recent years. Names such as Frank De Boer or Roberto Mancini may be optimistic but would certainly inspire the international draw of a club attempting to grow both on and off the field.
Whoever is given the reigns in summer will face various challenges. Importantly, it will be a struggle to retain current stars without European football; Chicharito, Julian Brandt and Brend Leno are but a few who could be tempted by a move. It will have to be a strong appointment by Rudi Voller and co to ensure that the youthful base to the Leverkusen side sticks together. Otherwise, any potential manager will face a rebuilding job both on the pitch and off it. A crucial eleven Bundesliga matches remain for Leverkusen to save their season and their summer.