1899 Hoffenheim begin the New Year undergoing some big changes. The eighth place Bundesliga club will be under a new manager, as Ralf Rangnick has left the team. Hoffenheim also sold midfielder Luis Gustavo to Bayern Munich.
The sale of Gustavo is apparently the cause for Rangnick quitting the team. The 23 year-old Brazilian was sold to the Bavarian giants without Rangnick’s knowledge, and he showed his disapproval by quitting Dietmar Hopp’s club. Rangnick had stated about a month ago that the sale of Gustavo was “out of the question,” and although Hoffenheim spokesperson Markus Sieger had no comment about Rangnick’s departure on Saturday, German newspaper Bild am Sontag reported that Hoffenheim and Rangnick had reached agreement to part ways. Rangnick and Hopp had formed a brilliant team, taking unknown Hoffenheim to the Bundesliga and keeping them there, playing a swashbuckling, attacking style that drew many admirers.
Rangnick has been with Hoffenheim since 2006, when Hoffenheim toiled in the Regionalliga South. Under his guidance and with Hopp’s financing, Hoffenheim moved up immediately to the 2.Bundesliga for the first time in club history, and after one year in the second tier were promoted to 1. Bundesliga for the 2008-2009 season. Hoffenheim were the Cinderella team of the Bundsliga in their debut season, challenging Bayern Munich for the hinrunde lead before a January training camp injury to leading scorer Vedad Ibisevic slowed Hoffenheim’s whirlwind attack and the club finished in seventh place. Last season Hoffenheim finished eleventh.
Rangnick’s playing career never rose above the amateur level, as he played in Germany and in England while studying for a teaching. He started in club managment in 1983, as he led Viktoria Backnang, and later TSV Lippoldsweiler as a player-coach. He then went on to lead SC Korb, SSV Reutlingen and SSV Ulm 1846 before becoming a coach in the top-tier Bundsliga with VfB Stuttgart in 1999, a team he had played for as an amateur and had previously coached their amateur and youth sides. Rangnick had success coaching at Hannover 96, getting them promoted from 2.Bundesliga, and led Schalke 04 before joining Hopp’s club.
Hopp and Rangnick seemed to form a dynamic partnership in bringing Hoffenheim to the top-level of German soccer. Hopp, a software entrepreneur and former Hoffenheim youth player, was willing to supply the financial resources to move Hoffeneheim up the ladder. As recently as 2000 Hoffenheim competed in the lowest ranks of German soccer. Rangnick, 52, seemed to get the most out of his young, exciting team and was turning them into a force in the Bundesliga, although Hoffenheim have yet to taste European competition. It seems that Hopp, though, has now put a greater emphasis on the team breaking even financially, and the 15 million Euro sale of Gustavo to Bayern Munich looks to be more than Rangnick could bear.
Luis Gustavo to Bayern Munich
It’s not a big shock to followers of the Bundesliga that Brazilian Luis Gustavo Dias was transferred to Bayern Munich. Louis van Gaal has been reportedly shopping for a replacement for 33 year-old Dutch international Mark van Bommel, Bayern’s captain. Gustavo was reported to be the main target of van Gaal’s search after the young central midfielder had established his level of place at Hoffenheim, where he had made 99 club appearances since being loaned to Hoffe in August of 2007. Hopp bought the option on Gustavo’s contract in April, 2008. That contract would have expired at the end of this season.
Gustavo had started all seventeen Bundesliga matches for Hoffenheim this season, scoring two goals and adding three assists. His play had been one of the highlights of Hoffenheim’s season, and he was tipped by Bundesliga Fanatic writer Cris Nyari as Hoff’s best performer in his Hinrunde Wrap Up, Part IV. Gustavo began his professional career with Brazilian lower-division side Corinthians Alagoano (not to be confused with the famous Corinthians Brazilian club), and played on loan to Brazil’s club CRB before heading to Germany.
As part of the transfer deal, Bayern Munich are loaning Hoffenheim the services of 18 year-old Austrian defender/midfielder David Alaba until the end of the season. Alaba has featured in two Bundsliga matches thus far this season for Die Bayern, but has not earned a start.
Although Bayern fans must be happy to see a talent like Gustavo joining their club, Hoffenheim followers might be holding their breath, wondering about the future of their club. No replacement has been mentioned yet for Rangnick. There are rumors that Demba Ba, Hoffenheim’s dynamic Senegalese striker, is being pursued in the January transfer window by English and French clubs.