Let’s just say that football-Twitter can an obnoxious place to be at any given time. In the giant football-less hole that is the summer break (Yes, MLS, I know you’re playing soccer-football all summer. Calm down!), however, it gets mega-obnoxious. “Silly Season” hardly covers it.
Between the proliferation of blogs and the power of search engines, every rumor that is muttered anywhere online turns into a blog post and then, in turn, into a cited source for continued reports. And because page-views are the name of the game, learning the truth behind any transfer rumor is worth a pittance compared to just regurgitating as many of them as you can, as quickly as possible. (Note: The headline of this piece should serve as a good example of how this game is played.)
I hate it more than I do Borussia Mönchengladbach.
For Bundesliga fans on social media, transfer season is a time of seeing the names of top players continually cycled through the mill of top English clubs named as being in pursuit of a transfer. The obscene amounts of money available to English clubs through huge television-rights deals is quickly giving lower-table sides the sort of purchasing power in Germany that had been somewhat reserved for the top handful of big-time clubs, so we should all expect that it won’t be long before fans of the Watford’s and Bournemouth’s of the Premiership are just as guilty of treating Bundesliga rosters like restaurant menus the same way fans of the Manchester United’s and Chelsea’s have been doing for years now. As soon as a player makes a bit of a name for himself from his play in Germany, you can bet that name will quickly appear in transfer rumors to the birthplace of the game.
Marco Reus is perhaps the best example of this. Since rising to prominence with Borussia Dortmund a few years ago, Reus is heading to any number of clubs in nearly every transfer window. The rumored suitors have been many, yet the über-talented and oft-injured star of the BVB continues to prefer the black-and-yellow. There seems to never be any genuine action with regards to a move of Reus, but it has hardly ever mattered. In fact, this might be the first summer in a few years he’s not been shared around Barcelona, Madrid, Manchester, and London like a Netflix password. Whether it’s because the rumor mill has grown tired of being continually wrong on Reus or due to the aforementioned injury history is difficult to determine. For a little while, though, Reus was a player who became known to those who think only of the English product as “football,” and once those folks know a name, it’s just a matter of time before he moves to the “best league in the world” or the Spanish mints with money to burn.
While Jonas Hector largely toiled in relative obscurity the last few seasons thanks to his home at 1. FC Köln, his performance at the European Championships suddenly have him getting the Marco Reus treatment. Liverpool has been, by far, the worst offender, theoretically because they have a German trainer in Jürgen Klopp who’d be most-likely to be able to convince a German player to make the move to a foreign land. Well, that and the fact that Hector once was quoted as saying that “if Jürgen Klopp called, I’d have to think about it.”
Nevermind that he’d been a rock at left back for his club in the move from the second division to consecutive seasons of mid-table security in the Bundesliga while also becoming the most-reliable player for Germany in the two years since the World Cup ceremony in Berlin, he scored the shootout winner against Italy in the quarterfinal round. He’s a legend.
And legends eventually move to one of the top clubs in England or Spain, right?
That’s where most of the Summerloch (summer hole/void) chatter in social media is right now, particularly those who digest league news only through English-language filters and/or see most of the football world only through the filter of Premiership-tinted eye wear.
But for those of us who also keep an eye on the local press in Köln, we already know that Hector already rejected the advances of FC Barcelona in the wake of Germany’s French exit.
“I am comfortable in Köln, have a contract until 2018, and hence do not need to consider it,” said Hector before the Euro 2016 tournament “I am not under pressure. I do not necessarily need to find a new club after the (European Championships).”
Such statements can be taken either way and, frankly, are often nothing more than window dressing when uttered by an athlete. In fact, it’s just the sort of thing typically said shortly before a move is finalized.
Those of us fortunate enough to have watched Hector blossom from sixth-division find into Gigi Buffon-beating national hero know that Hector is anything but typical, though. It’s possible that Hector declined to even entertain an offer from Barcelona because he has another move already in mind, but it would completely fit the guy nicknamed “Schlaubi” (Brainy Smurf) by his buddies back home in Kleinblittersdorf (population 11,193) if he genuinely does feel comfortable in Köln and that feeling comfortable is more important to him than making the typical move of a player who has risen to prominence.
Certainly, Hector was in no huge rush to leave sixth-division side Auersmacher SV, where he played through his teens with older brother Lucas before moving to 1. FC Köln in 2010, then in the second division. And it wasn’t as if he was arriving as some 20-year-old phenomenon, either. “Schlaubi” spent his early time with his new club’s second squad in the Regionalliga West, which is the fourth division of German football. The only experience the vast majority of German national team players ever have with the fourth division — at least once they’re old enough to drink beer legally in the United States — is as an opponent in the opening round of the DFB Pokal!
It’s not as if Hector is without ambition, though. He did, at one point, go to FC Bayern München for a trial. A move to a football giant is certainly a strong possibility for Hector, particularly if the effzeh fail to extend their continued improvement into the European spots. It would be reasonable for a player to want more of that extra-level of competition after experiencing the thrill of the European Championships. Even so, there seems to be some appeal in the idea of being a key building block in Köln’s ambitions, rather than going elsewhere to bask in the reflected glory available at clubs already entrenched in the upper reaches of football’s class system. If Hector and similarly pursued teammate goalkeeper Timo Horn are able to lift their club to glory, they will receive a huge share of the credit rather than being a plug-and-play cog in a traditional football machine.
And from a practical standpoint, such achievements can only increase their value exponentially. Right now, both players are valued on what they might yet do as much as their accomplishments, which is to be understood with just two top-tier seasons featuring prominently on their curricula vitae.
Personally, I subscribe to Occham’s razor to explain what may happen with Hector this summer. Here you have a small-town guy who might have been content to play forever at Auersmacher SV under certain conditions. In fact, proximity to home played a role in club selection when Hector was finally ready to leave. 1. FC Kaiserslautern, also in the second division at the time, might have seemed a more-logical destination, geographically speaking, but perhaps Hector saw the FC as a quicker route to the Bundesliga.
Further, he doesn’t have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social-media account, nor does he have in his employ a publicity team to create a “brand” around his new-found fame. His “Aw, shucks” demeanor is by no means an act. Look at the grin on his face as he sends greetings back to his hometown from his French adventures.
Back in his beloved Saarland, Walter Ries co-owner clubseven, a discoteque in Saarbrücken Hector is known to frequent, says Hector will never again pay for a drink at his club after scoring that goal against Buffon and Italy. Though, that’s hardly a big bill for Ries to pay as he adds that while Hector is regular, he always orders alcohol-free drinks.
So now that I trolled for your click to get you here and delivered a TL;DR-worthy screed without addressing the big question at hand, allow me to reveal the answer to the question of where Jonas Hector will land at the end of this transfer window:
Back in Köln with a fat, new contract featuring an elevated escape clause.
It may be presumptuous to figure that turning down FC Barcelona can mean ONLY that Hector will not move at all, but we effzeh can be presumptuous, especially when it involves the greatness of the club (i.e. always far greater from our point-of-view than from yours). The current word around the club is that a three-year extension is in the works, hoping to keep Hector on board while making him the club’s second-highest wage-earner after Anthony Modeste (strikers are still strikers, apparently, national-team glory or no.)
Along with the new years and fattening of the bank account, Hector would also be looking at a more-permanent shift to the defensive midfield. Coach Peter Stöger had deployed Hector at the six several times in the second half of the season.
“Since I’ve been in Köln, Jonas Hector has played a major role,” says Stöger. „but he has also shown that he can help the team from the middle.”
Finally, a contract extension for Hector might also put him as the heir to the captaincy. Matthias Lehmann is likely nearing the end of his days as a regular for Köln. Who better to be the on-pitch leader than the soft-spoken, unassuming guy who has achieved great things through hard work and determination?
While an extension in Köln might normally seem an unlikely move for a rising star, it wouldn’t be too big a surprise in this particular case. And snubbing the big-moneyed suitors in favor of continuing for blaze his own trail would be completely in line with the notion that Hector simply is significantly different from the stereotypical modern footballer.
For those of us who think there is greatness outside the level of the Champions League regulars, it would also be a welcome and refreshing move . . . not to mention for those of us who bleed red-and-white.
Come on effzeh and come on Jonas Hector football god!
Header photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
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