Mixed in between the DFB Pokal headlines and hoopla over the past two days was the news that Borussia Mönchengladbach will not renew striker Mike Hanke’s contract. Signalling the end of Hanke’s days at the club and an awkward final few months for the striker who will now be demoted to hoping for the odd appearance here and there to audition for new clubs as the season winds down.
The news should come as no surprise to those around the Bundesliga and those who follow Gladbach as Hanke has scored just twice in the Bundesliga this season and has never really stuck on with the side that finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season. Hanke has went from starting 29 games last season to being used more in a depth role in 2012-13 and hasn’t fared all to well in the transition. However that hasn’t stopped Hanke from being gutted in the press as he did not shy away from letting his thoughts be known about the whole situation.
“I am very disappointed. I wanted to extend my contract, and was made an offer which was surprisingly withdrawn, I was totally shocked. This is a day of mourning for me and I am deeply saddened by the way management has dealt with me.” said Hanke
It is rather clear that Hanke is gutted with the way things have went for him since he has left Hannover 96, struggling to score and struggling to fit into Gladbach’s plans and now future he clearly feels betrayed that he has been essentially given his walking papers by the club publicly with eleven games left in the Bundesliga season. Whether the leak to the media is the work of Mönchengladbach or Hanke himself is another story, but it is now up in the open that Hanke is a free agent for the rest of the Bundesliga willingly, or unwillingly and these next few months will determine Hanke’s next career move for better or for worse.
So what went wrong? How has Hanke went from a player who played 29 Bundesliga games from start last season featured so little in Gladbach’s plans this season to being completely exiled? What has caused this sudden change in Borussia’s plans and does this have to do more with Gladbach looking to the future or a decline in form from Hanke? Or does it strictly have to do with Lucien Favre opting to go in more of a youth direction during this transition period in a post Reus/Dante Gladbach? This story is a compelling one.
In 2011-12 Hanke played 29 aforementioned starts for Gladbach. He also game on as a sub two times and played five matches in the DFB Pokal for a grand total of 36 appearances in his first full season with the club from Hannover. For his efforts Hanke had himself a solid season by his career standards. Potting eight goals and adding two assists to his name as Gladbach finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League playoff spot with a rejuvenated squad after being nearly relegated the year prior.
But this year has been a different story, with Gladbach losing to Dynamo Kiev and missing out on cashing in on their fourth place finish without Dante and Reus leading to more growing pains as Favre looks to restore his club without two of the Bundesliga’s emerging top talents. Sitting in tenth and looking on the outside of European play with eleven games left, Favre has seen the writing on the wall that new young talent is going to need to be developed to replace the players that have left the club. Three points out of seventh place and seven behind Eintracht Frankfurt for a longshot chance at matching their fourth place finish from last year, Favre needs to create a squad that can serve the purpose of winning now while giving young players valuable experience for the future. Hanke, a veteran of the Bundesliga and a striker who is not scoring, might just be left out.
His form has been poor in terms of goals scored, but was his quality ever going to be enough for a squad with the newfound lofty ambitions Gladbach and Favre have for the club? Hanke’s career high for goals sits at 10 for Hannover in the 2007-08 season, hardly numbers that a striker who gets the majority of caps at a Champions League/Europa League level team in the first place. Part of this likely has to do with the loss of a midfield playmaker as influential to a team’s offensive output as Marco Reus as all of Gladbach’s forwards have been underwhelming for a side that has scored just 32 times in 23 Bundesliga games this year. That excuse has not been awarded to Hanke as his age and the emergence of young players have the 29 year old on the outside looking in and Gladbach looking to distance themselves from a transfer that looked very promising for them at the end of last season.
It seems that this deal is just one that did not work out for Monchengladbach. Perhaps they thought a change of scenery would lead to Hanke’s output being greater than what it was in Hannover, but now we know for sure what the former German international striker is capable of. He is a player who will get you a handful of goals a season, but he won’t lead your team’s offensive output. Eight goals last season playing with Reus and that 2007-08 season in Hannover might have given Favre and the board high hopes that this year Hanke would continue to breakout, but it just did not happen. We are seeing evidence of this now and it is very possible that Gladbach are finally realizing the error they made in bringing Hanke in, creating the newfound animosity between player and club that has came out in the media in the wake of his contract not being renewed.
The youth movement is very evident and with Patrick Herrmann showing his forward flare this season with six goals and becoming more of a forward presence than a midfielder day by day. Luuk De Jong has had his own goal scoring troubles up top this season with just three goals, but his reputation and potential will buy him more time as the 22 year old and Herrmann are clearly part of the future plans of the club. All of these factors have contributed to seeing Hanke pop up on team sheets less and less this season.
With young players like Amin Younes and Peniel Mlapa showing great promise for the future it is evident that the board and Favre do not feel that Hanke is in their plans. With his last goal coming in November in a 2-0 win over Mainz, his form isn’t forcing himself into Borussia’s Starting XI and now with it absolutely clear that he will be walking away on a free, what is the payoff for playing Hanke anymore if he is not scoring goals? The forward scene at Monchengladbach has just became too crowded for Hanke with De Jong, Herrmann, Younes and Mlapa all provided Favre with more upside to playing them than the older, less tantalizing Hanke. It might be unfair due to his clear reputation as a first team striker, but that is the situation at Gladbach and thus the impending change of scenery for both sides come July.
The fact that he doesn’t fit into their new playing style or standards has also been made clear in the media from Favre and board director Max Eberl. Only getting eight starts after 29 last year drives home the point in the first place, but Favre and Eberl made it clear for Hanke that he just simply does not fit in their long term vision with their recent comments.
“Mike has done a lot for Gladbach, but the club has done a lot for him,” he said somewhat cryptically. “It is a purely sporting decision.” (Favre)
““I offered Hanke a deal in the autumn but, in the meantime, our playing philosophy has changed.” (Eberl)
Those comments are glaring and line up exactly with the way Hanke’s season has went. After a respectable first year where he scored eight goals settling into the club, he has lost his goalscoring form drastically when Gladbach was hoping it would go upwards, making the tough decision to let him go to make way for new/younger players much easier for the club.
This isn’t to say Hanke isn’t of top striker quality for many of the Bundesliga’s teams. He enjoyed a nice spell for Hannover where he scored 21 goals in three seasons at the club. Despite only scoring two goals this season the German football world knows that Hanke can bring around 7-10 goals to a team most seasons, something that nearly every mid to bottom table Bundesliga side would enjoy to have. Signing Hanke on a free would be a massive coup to any club in that category in need of an offensive punch, especially considering that he will almost certainly be leaving on a free transfer.
Where he goes kind of hinges on what happens for the rest of the season. With Gladbach’s slim top four hopes almost entirely hinging on a result Friday over Eintracht Frankfurt and even more luck afterwards, it is very possible that Hanke will still play in Favre’s plans during these final eleven fixtures. If Hanke can shake off the cobwebs and get a few strikes in the back of the net with the caps he does get and helps Gladbach , his stock rises. If Gladbach start to fade out of the Europa League discussion and Favre looks to give players Younes even more opportunities after his start last weekend and see what he has for next year, Hanke’s stock will be the same as it is right now.
After his own performance the July transfer window will see which team is looking for a veteran striker. His former club in Hannover could be a possibility if 96 decide to cash in on Diouf’s strong season in the seller’s market. Teams like Nurnberg and Stuttgart could use the depth at forward Hanke would bring and Augsburg and Hoffenheim would welcome a bargain of a free transfer themselves if they fight off relegation this season.
At 29 Mike Hanke’s career is now at a crossroads. Finishing out the year on a team that has made it clear he isn’t good enough or wanted by them, he needs to maintain professionalism and get results on the pitch in order to move onto the next chapter in his career. The man has a lot of football left in him, where that football will be played will be determined in the next few months and in July.
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