What goes up must come down is the saying and you can’t really argue with physics. What also can’t be argued against is the fact that FC Ingolstadt are the club which more than any are the embodiment of that old adage.
Only formed in 2004, die Schanzer enjoyed a meteoric rise from the Bayern Liga to the Regionalliga, and then up into Bundesliga II within just five seasons. A few years of consolidation were followed by Ralph Hasenhüttl leading them into the Bundesliga as champions in 2015. It was a fairy tale story for the club and when the Austrian coach led them to a more than respectable 11th place finish, it seemed the dream was going to continue.
However, with Hasenhüttl lured to RB Leipzig and relegation following in 2016-17 things began to turn sour and the dream has turned into a nightmare with Ingolstadt’s defeat to SV Wehen Wiesbaden in the relegation play-off this season condemning them to the third tier.
Two years ago they were mixing it with the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, whereas next season will see them taking on the lesser lights of SG Sonnenhof Großaspach, SV Meppen and Viktoria Köln.
Five different coaches found themselves in the Ingolstadt hot-seat last season, but neither Stefan Leitl, Alexander Nouri (just 8 games and no wins), Roberto Pätzold (one game as caretaker), Jens Keller or Tomas Oral were able to turn a disastrous season around and save the club from the drop into the third tier of German football.
The consequences of relegation are going to hit hard. The club’s budget will be slashed with the TV money of Bundesliga II cut, and league payments set to sink from €14 million to just €1.4 million. Ingolstadt’s wage budget was on the high side amongst second division clubs (they had the third most expensive squad behind FC Köln and HSV) and this won’t be able to be maintained in the Dritte Liga. Veteran Marvin Matip and Thomas Pledl have already announced their departures while it is hard to imagine the likes of Sonny Kittel, Almog Cohen, Dario Lezcano, Mergim Mavraj or Björn Paulsen staying put.
Sporting Director Thomas Linke has departed after only taking on the role in April, while coach Oral has also quit. So, new trainer, new management, new squad, new budget, new league. Next season promises to be a real wake-up call for FC Ingolstatdt and a far-cry from their heady rise under Ralph Hasenhüttl.
What went up, has indeed come down.
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