Some players just go about their careers without really appearing on the radar of public opinion, solidly doing their job and simply performing their role. Others have a bit more character and from time to time raise an eyebrow or two. And then there are the real characters who excel in their profession, but also cause numerous headlines and engender a love/hate relationship with fans and club hierarchies.
When you develop a ‘cult following’ you know you are in the latter group of players and right now, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Martin Hinteregger is firmly in the third category.
The Austrian international is not just ‘popular’ at the Commerzbank Arena, he has his own growing army of fans- the Hinti Army complete with a catchy little song. Down in Augsburg however, he is not so well loved.
One door closes
Hinteregger made headlines last January when FC Augsburg suspended him for comments made about then-trainer Manuel Baum. “I cannot say anything positive about him” Hinteregger told reporters when asked if Baum was the right man for the Augsburg coaching post.
The Fuggerstädter had just lost the tenth game of the season to Mönchengladbach and the defender had had enough. “The downward spiral has been happening for a year. The whole of 2018 has seen the curve going downwards”.
Following his suspension and a breakdown in the relationship with Baum, the 27-year-old was sent out on loan to Frankfurt for the rest of the Rückrunde just before the transfer window closed. He settled instantly and his arrival coincided with Frankfurt starting the second half of the season with a 15-match unbeaten run in all competitions. Relaxed off the pitch, and highly combative on it, Hinteregger was quickly taken to the hearts of the Adler fans.
The ‘Hinti Army’ song penned in his honour went down a storm both amongst fans and his team mates and when he returned to Augsburg at the end of the season, Eintracht fans began a concerted effort to persuade Augsburg to let him join permanently.
In the meantime, Sandro Schwarz had replaced Baum at Augsburg, so the scene was set for Hinteregger to be repatriated. But in the players head why would he want to swap European football and the swagger of Eintracht Frankfurt for a relegation battle with Augsburg?
Get me out of here!
During the club’s pre-season preparations in Austria a video surfaced online and on social media that appeared to show a very drunk Hinteregger staggering around a bar with team mate Kevin Danso. The next day, the defender didn’t appear for training and then to make matters worse didn’t turn up for an official team photograph.
The talk was of Hinteregger going on strike to force through a move to Frankfurt. Whatever the truth, ‘Hinti’ did get his wish with Adi Hütter signing him on a permanent deal. Adler fans were delighted at the return of the General of the Hinti Army.
The new season began in typical Hinteregger-style with headlines being made for both good and bad reasons. He opened the scoring for Eintracht after just 36 seconds against Hoffenheim with a great volley, but then caused a bit of a stir after receiving treatment on the field for cramp. An injection and mystery crystals were seen to be administered- something that caused the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to investigate the player.
Keep your head down
He was however cleared of any wrong-doing. All calm on the Hinteregger front? Not so fast. During the recent international break with Austria the centre back was in trouble once more.
Hinteregger’s absence from the squad to face Poland in midweek was not due to injury as first reported. National trainer Franco Foda had actually suspended the player because he had broken curfew. Celebrating his 27th birthday in the ski-resort of Flachau, Hinteregger opted to carry on partying, rather than return on-time to the team hotel. Rather than the stated 21:30 deadline, he is said to have staggered in at 07:30 the following morning!
Surely, it’s time for Hinti to keep his head down and avoid any more controversy. Easier said than done with Frankfurt travelling this weekend to…… (you’ve guessed it) Augsburg. What are the chances of there being no Hinteregger headlines this weekend?
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