Werder Bremen: What Could Have Been and How They Get Back There

In the early to late 00‘s and recently up until this summer Werder Bremen was a hot bed for top Bundesliga talent. Miroslav Klose, Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, Claudio Pizarro, Marco Marin and to a lesser extent players like Naldo and Hugo Almeida led Bremen to varied amounts of success in the past decade. Winning a Bundesliga title, two DFB-Pokal cups, and a 2009 runner up performance in the UEFA Cup/Europa League along with countless amounts of other runner up honors back home in the league and the Pokal. Bremen enjoyed a run of being one of the Bundesliga’s class teams, never finishing lower than third from their title winning 2003-04 season until the 2008-09 campaign where they finished tenth. They also have averaged more than 35, 000 fans at Weserstadion every year since that magical title year and are the most successful club in Northern Germany.

So why has Werder Bremen fallen off as of late and has sold so many players? The Bundesliga’s class of the 2000‘s now has a 13th place finish in 2010-11, as well as a ninth place finish to their name in 2011-12 and currently sit in twelfth place this year after losing to Bayern 6-1 at the Allianz Saturday. A team that just recently boasted some of Germany’s best national team talent and electric import strikers now sits in mid table obscurity and needs a miracle finish to the season to even backdoor themselves into European competition via the Europa League.

Finances have been the main blow as is the norm with most franchise struggles, after posting a loss in 2011-12 Bremen sold Marin and the aging Pizarro were sold to Chelsea and Bayern respectively, Andrew Smith’s article here on Kevin De Bruyne recently touched on this. Werder has went from posting record profits to losing revenue to the point that they will be posting losses they have never encountered. In fact Werder won’t eclipse 100 million in revenues for the first time since 2006-07 after three years in the Forbes list of financially sound clubs at as high as #16 with $24 million in profits in the 2010.

It was too be expected that Werder was going to sell star players they no longer could afford or entice to stay like Özil and Marin, especially after their recent bout with poor finances. However the players that Bremen has brought in to replace their transfers/aging stars is glaring when you look at why Bremen has declined as a club over the past three years.
If you need to sell players and save money, you need to start improving your scouting and negotiating skills or you sink down the table, it is that simple.

When you are paying 5.5 million for a player like Eljero Elia who handed in a transfer request at Juventus, you need to question the value of the players you are bringing in with the money you brought in to replace the world class talent that once wore the green and white. No disrespect to a player like Elia, but it would leave a sour taste in any supporters mouth in any league to sell a German National like Per Mertesacker for rough $11 million then spend half of it on a player that was on his way out for a club that wasn’t putting him in the Starting XI, that is bad transfer market strategy.

But the finances do hinge on winning, which is what makes the poor spending and annual firesales a lose-lose situation for the North German club. Even Klaus Allofs, chairman of the management board said it himself at the end of last year when discussing Werder’s losses in 2011-12. “The negative result leads back essentially to the missing money from the UEFA Champions League. Our traditionally high capital adequacy, however, makes it possible for us to balance out the deficit from the past financial year with our own means.”

Missing the CL has resulted in less sponsorship money with the loss of their TargoBank deal losing 35% revenue was, as well as less money at the gate, but how do you win without the talent you once had? Managers can only do so much with the talent they have and with the strength at the top end of the Bundesliga with clubs like Leverkusen and Schalke showing that they will be threatening for Champions League spots for the forseeable future, (More so Leverkusen who are always solid, but Huntelaar’s contract extension shows promise for Schalke despite recent turmoil) Bremen has their work cut out for them if they are going to get that all important European football windfall. A team like Schalke can serve as an example for Bremen as they have lost Manuel Neuer leave and have stayed in the Champions League after a let down of 2010-11 where they finished 14th. However this is not going to happen with the current squad Bremen has and with their current transfer record, it does not look like they will be finding the diamond in the rough prospects on the cheap that they sorely need anytime soon.

Transfers Kevin De Bruyne from Chelsea and Nils Petersen from Bayern have helped Werder get some wins this season, but once again show the downfall of the club. Players like KDB and Petersen don’t come from big clubs like Bayern or Chelsea on the cheap, but Bremen needs to find those young players before they reach the big clubs if they are going to improve. It is a dangerous line once you start selling players and not immediately bringing money into the club via transfers. Two of Werder’s top three scorers in Petersen and De Bruyne will likely not play for them in 2013-14, that is unacceptable. Czech left back Theodor Selassie was a solid buy this season at 1.8 million Euro’s after a solid Euro 2012 showing with his national team, but he isn’t on the level of Naldo or Mertesacker and is already 25 years old. Werder’s sales of Ozil, Mertesacker and Marin have went for naught if their lineup does not get infused with at least adequate replacements you run the risk of seeing your club declining into a position they will never be able to get themselves out of. (unless an oil tycoon really loves Northern Germany)

Werder is not an Arsenal type of club. They did not and will never have the depth to sell players to prevent running at a slight loss like what is done in North London, nor do they have the type of sponsorship or massive attendances that Bundesliga powerhouses Dortmund and Bayern have, putting them on the brink of losing their proud status of hosting world class talent that will contend for German titles year in and year out and replacing it with midtable talent and midtable results.

Will Werder Bremen decline to the point where it will be a massive task to recover? It is early today, but with so many former players still thriving on Champions League teams it is a reminder that at one point this club was the class of the Bundesliga themselves. Only time will tell if they get back there, but what is going on now is just not working.

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