After two years out of the limelight, Mario Basler has returned to football after being hired as team manager for Lokomotive Leipzig, who are languishing in the fifth tier of German football.
The 46-year-old has been appointed by club president Heiko Spauke to work together with trainer Heiko Scholz as the club struggle under the shadow of moneybags neighbours RB Leipzig. It’s a far cry from Basler’s heyday at Werder Bremen and Bayern München with whom he won two Bundesliga titles and two DFB Pokal titles.
The 1987 European Cup Winners Cup finalists have sunk a long way down the ladder and currently ply their trade in the Oberliga NFV-Süd with an average home attendance of little over 2000. To make matters worse, newly formed RB Leipzig with the massive cash reserves supplied by Dietrich Mateschitz and his Red Bull empire have quickly moved up through the leagues and currently play in Bundesliga 2.
Despite not having the same financial means as their city rivals from the Red Bull Arena, Basler has his sights firmly set on moving up. “The goal is to be playing in the third division by 2020” he said.
But unlike many fans from Leipzig and indeed all throughout the lower leagues, Basler doesn’t bear any contempt for RB.
“The set-up in Leipzig with Lokomotive and RB is similar to that in Munich with Bayern and 1860. I know it well. I don’t hate RB. If today a Dietrich Mateschitz came and gave me €100 million in order to lead the club into the third division, I’d take the money- like 90% off people would.
“I don’t have any fear. I hope that RB are promoted. The city will profit from it and so could Lokomotive if RB release players that can play for Lokomotive.”
It is unclear how many (if any) ‘Loksche’ fans will agree with him on that score.
As team manager Basler will have a different role to his previous positions he’s taken on since ending his playing career in 2004. He began as trainer with Jahn Regensburg but was fired in his second season after a poor start. He returned three years later with Eintracht Trier, but once again was sacked in his second campaign with the club.
A similar fate awaited him at Wacker Burghausen when they were relegated, but his last trainer post with Rot Weiß Oberhausen ended with him resigning in September 2012.
A maverick in his playing days, Basler provided plenty of headlines for reporters. Now he’ll want to see the headlines covering the renaissance of Lokomotive Leipzig. Rudi Völler once famously said of Basler- “He got far too little out of the talent that God gave him”.
Leipzig will be hoping there is still some of that talent available as he embarks on his new role.