November 19, 2017

Jonas Hector Signs With . . . (yep, I did it again)

If only clearing away rumors was as easy as booting a ball from stage

He repeatedly told anyone who asked that he didn’t feel the need to make a move, which did almost nothing to deter the swirl of rumors continually connecting German national team star left back Jonas Hector to a succession of big-name clubs.

During 1. FC Köln’s season-opening celebration Saturday, sporting director Jörg Schmadtke announced to the 40,000-plus gathered on the grounds of Rhine Energie Stadium that the club had extended into 2021 the contracts of both Hector and left-wing Leonardo Bittencourt.

Schmadtke going off-script, much to the surprise of Michael Trippel
Schmadtke going off-script, much to the surprise of Michael Trippel

Explaining his decision to extend his deal in Köln, Hector’s words were fairly similar to those he’d offered all summer when discussing his future.

“I am happily a part of this team and simply feel good here with the FC,” said Hector upon the announcement of his new deal. “For me, everything fits, so a contract extension is indeed a logical step.”

logical step? That certainly can be argued, but it’s not the step most expected of Hector after capping two years of reliable play for Germany with a strong appearance at the European Championship tournament in France this summer.

“I would have expected Hector to move to Barcelona. He played a strong tournament,” said former FC Barcelona striker Sandro Ramirez. “Jordi Alba, though, is also among the best left-backs in the world, but it’s been proven that through the course of a season there are many training sessions and games, through which you can show yourself and can take someone’s place.”

Ramirez was with current club FC Malaga in Aachen to face 1. FC Köln this summer shortly after reports that the Spanish giant had initiated contact with Hector’s agents, only to be told there was no interest on the part of the player.

jhfg
If only clearing away rumors was as simple as booting a ball from the stage.

As for the player, he continued to stick to the mantra he had presented before playing in France: ““I am comfortable in Köln, have a contract until 2018, and hence do not need to consider it.”

Which naturally should be translated into “I am awaiting an offer from an English club,” if judging by the rumor-mill swirl that followed.

Liverpool FC was the most-frequently mentioned suitor of Hector, presumably due to the presence of the Premier League’s only German head coach, Jürgen Klopp, on the touchline. Tottenham Hotspur, which signed Köln center back Kevin Wimmer a year ago, was briefly in the mix as being a potential spoiler in Klopp’s pursuit, but reports of Spurs’ interest faded nearly as quickly as they arrived, leaving Liverpool the runaway favorite to be Hector’s home come the end of August.

Forgetting that whole thing where he wasn’t that interested in moving in the first place, of course.

In fairness, it’s not uncommon for a footballer to deny interest in moving away from his current club shortly before being seen in pictures holding the jersey of his newest employer. Also fair is to note that with the superior financial power of English clubs over most German clubs through the superiority of their television-rights deals, it’s entirely possible that club and player are presented with the infamous “an offer he can’t refuse.”

That said, the idea that Jonas Hector might actually stay right where he said he wanted to stay in an effort to see how far he can go with the club he joined when it was in the second division seemed to be completely ruled out as a reasonable step, even if it was certainly one which was available to him.

Coach Peter Stöger said he was “very pleased” that the club was able to extend Hector and Bittencourt, two young players tabbed to help Köln continue to establish itself in the first division and, presumably, eventually taking a crack at European competition.

“Jonas has undertaken an outstanding developmental path at FC,” says Stöger. “He was initially a player in our U21 and then became a regular in both the Bundesliga and for the German national team through high motivation and hard work, most recently with top performances at the European championship.”

And then on Monday, two full days after news of Hector’s contract extension was made public, Hector continued to be the subject of transfer chatter following reports that new Chelsea FC coach Antonio Conte intends to throw a stack of money at an effort to upgrade his left back with a shopping spree in the Cathedral City.

<sigh>

Financial details of Hector’s new deal have not been disclosed.

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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