Leverkusen sack Hyypiä, Lewandowski takes over

After yesterday’s 2-1 defeat at HSV, Bayer Leverkusen have sacked manager Sami Hyypiä with immediate effect, with his former co-manager Sascha Lewandowski taking over until the end of the season. Leverkusen have endured a poor series of results after the Winterpause as well as painful eliminations from the Champions League and the DFB Pokal to Paris Saint-Germain and Kaiserslautern respectively.

It most definitely has been a season of two halves for the Finnish manager, as his side went into the winter break second in the league with a four-point gap ahead of third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach, despite losing their last two games of the Hinrunde. Since the return to action, Leverkusen have only won three out of fifteen matches in total and lost ten of those, prompting the board to call time on the former Liverpool defender’s reign at the BayArena. His successor will be Sascha Lewandowski, who co-managed the club last season with Hyypiä but who stepped down from his post after rifts between the two. Lewandowski has since been head coach of the youth teams at the club but will now once again take over the first team.

Hyypiä arrived at the club as a player in the summer of 2009 from Liverpool and made 60 appearances for die Werkself before retiring as a player in 2011 at the age of 37. He took over the reigns at Leverkusen in April 2012 alongside Lewandowski after the sacking of Robin Dutt, and lead the club to a Europa-League spot and then to third place in the following season. This season was his first as lone manager of Leverkusen and after an inspiring Hinrunde, things went pear-shaped ever since and ended in a rainy night in Hamburg. With the team in free fall and with their presence in next season’s Champions League highly in doubt, the decision comes as no surprise.

Leverkusen’s appropriately-named managing director Michael Schade stated that “After careful consideration and in light of the ongoing crisis, we have come to the conclusion that, at the present time, only a change in management can bring us a much needed lift”. He added that he “would like to thank Sami Hyypiä for his dedicated work over the past few years. He has done an outstanding job both as a player and a manager for us which has contributed to our success in the last few seasons. However, we are now at a point where we cannot see any option to turn things around”.

Sporting director Rudi Völler also had words to say about the outgoing coach: “This decision has been very difficult because Sami has done such a great job in the past two years (…) We want to and must do everything to save this season.”

Lewandowski is well aware that the task ahead is a tricky one: “It’s no easy situation for me to take Sami’s place. We carried the responsibility of the team together for more than a year (…) We will do everything to bring this season to a successful end”.

Not finishing in the Champions League spots would be an absolute disaster for Leverkusen and with Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach pushing strongly behind them, a change was most definitely needed. Whether the managerial change will work remains to be seen, since Lewandowski is no newcomer to the club and his methods are well known to the squad, which might lack that radical change that squads need to turn things around. In any case, his first challenge will be next week’s home match against Hertha Berlin, themselves on a poor losing streak; a make-or-break situation straight from the off for a team who has been the Jekyll & Hyde of the 2013/2014 Bundesliga season.

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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