Having spent the last twelve months in contract limbo, one-time Bundesliga coaching prodigy Markus Weinzierl is now back on the market and ready to get his career back on track following his tumultuous time at Schalke.
For eight years the coaching career of Markus Weinzierl was one of constant ascendency with his reputation growing year on year. The young trainer progressed from the 3.Liga with Jahn Regensburg into Bundesliga II and then into the Bundesliga with FC Augsburg. When big boys Schalke came calling it seemed the Königsblauen had just the coach to help realise their ambitions.
However, after just one season at the Veltins Arena, he was unceremoniously fired and left on the employment scrapheap with Schalke and manager Christian Heidel unable or unwilling to negotiate a termination of his contract. From hero to zero in the space of 12 months, he’s now ready to make a comeback.
Weinzierl’s coaching career began back in 2008 after a low-key playing career which saw him run out for Bayern Munich II, Stuttgarter Kickers, SpVgg Unterhaching and Jahn Regensburg. When Regensburg sacked coach Thomas Kristl after seven matches without a win left them in the relegation zone in Liga 3, it was his 34-year-old co-trainer Weinzierl they turned to the steady the ship. The Jahn ship was duly steadied with die Jahnelf eventually finishing five points clear of the drop.
The following three seasons saw the young coach guide them to 16th, 8th and then third which set them up with a promotion/ relegation play-off with Karlsruher SC. Beating KSC saw Regensburg promoted to Bundesliga 2 after an eight-year absence. Weinzierl though was not to get the chance to continue the adventure in the second tier as Bundesliga side FC Augsburg lured him to the Fuggerstadt to succeed Jos Luhukay.
Having by-passed the second division, the then 37-year-old coach saw Augsburg to safety in his first season finishing 15th, before finishing 8th in 2013-14 and then impressively clinching a place in the Europa League by finishing 5th. Despite then ‘only’ finishing 12th in 2015-16, Schalke moved for his services and so convinced was manager Christian Heidel that Weinzierl was the man for die Knappen, that he agreed to pay Augsburg a reported €3 million in compensation while paying the coach €2 million per year on a contract dated to June 2019.
Having guided Augsburg to wins over Bayern in both the 2013-14 season and the following one (1-0 at the Allianz Arena), the hope was that he could repeat the success at the Veltins Arena.
The least said about what transpired in the Ruhrgebiet the better! Schalke began the season under Weinzierl’s tutelage with five consecutive league defeats. The jury was immediately out on the new coach and despite reaching the quarter-final of both the DFB Pokal and the Europa League, a 10th place finish in the Bundesliga spelt the end for him after just one season with the Königsblauen.
The writing was very much on the wall at the end of the season when Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka went public with his disillusionment with the coach. “He is a coward. He will not stay as the coach of this team, otherwise Schalke will drop to the second tier. He told me I should look for a new club and I told him: ‘Listen, you believe you’ll be here longer than me?'”
Konoplyanka’s outburst went largely unpunished by the club- probably because they knew he was right. Weinzierl was duly fired and replaced by another young prodigy Domenico Tedesco. This was however not your usual separation. Neither party could agree on acceptable terms with Christian Heidel keen to recoup some of the huge outlay on the coach, and Weinzierl fighting his corner to have the remaining two years of his contract paid in full.
An impasse arose whereby Schalke had a new (and successful) trainer in Domenico Tedesco, but were still tied contractually to Weinzierl and paying his wage still.
The former Augsburg man did reportedly have offers last season with his name being linked with both the Austrian national team position and the post at VfB Stuttgart following the sacking of Hannes Wolf, but his contractual wrangle with Schalke just muddied the water and nothing came of either. More recently the now 43-year-old was linked with both Eintracht Frankfurt and Dynamo Dresden.
After over a year of stalemate, Schalke moved at the start of July to officially terminate Weinzierl’s contract making leaving him free to openly seek employment. So what does the future hold for him? Can he return to the huge promise he showed at Augsburg? Or has he been irreparably tainted by his shambolic year in Gelsenkirchen?
During his time away from the game he has spent time with his family, but also has travelled around picking up new ideas and coaching methods- he spent a week hosted by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for example.
In an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung following his contract termination, Weinzierl spoke of his readiness to return to the touchline and claimed he wouldn’t be averse to taking on the challenge of a Bundesliga 2 club and trying to establish them in the top flight, but then also would not be against taking on a more traditional big club.
There are bound to be coaching changes sooner rather than later (such is the business of top class football) and no doubt the name of Markus Weinzierl will be bandied about for each and every one that comes up. He rose, he fell, but now he’s ready to rise again. Where that will be, only time will tell.
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