A face can retell a whole game. Or a whole season. And sometimes the story is the same.
Thomas Hitzlsperger is actually in his best years. But on Monday night, when VfB Stuttgart's relegation from the Bundesliga saw one of the darkest moments, Hitzlsperger looked like the oldest 37-year-old in the world. Deep were the dark circles of the Stuttgart sports board. Empty was his look. Hitzlsperger's face looked as if it would never stop being shocked.
“I knew it could happen,” said Hitzlsperger, “but having to deal with it, that's tough.” Beside him, Ballermann music boomed out of the cabin of Union Berlin, where the first Bundesliga promotion of club history was celebrated. For Hitzlsperger it was the soundtrack to their own demise. VfB Stuttgart has descended for the third time after 1975 and 2016. The 0: 0 in the relegation return match at the second division third did not reach after the 2: 2 in the first leg in Stuttgart because of the away goals rule.
One chance to score in the second half
The 0-0 on Monday can be interpreted as a parabola on the entire season of the Swabians: With much confidence, the VfB against Union. Everyone in the stadium at the Alte Försterei could see that a team had arrived here that had talent and experience – the mix that really makes them successful. In the end, VfB should be in the lead in almost every relevant statistic.
But when the first setbacks came, when referee Christian Dingert withdrew Dennis Aogo's direct free kick after nine minutes for offside and Anastasios Donis missed the second best chance three minutes later, it became more and more obvious what VfB had been suffering from throughout the season. which he finished with a miserable 28 points: He had no team together, which was prepared for the relegation battle.
Since the 16th matchday Stuttgart was consistently on relegation place 16. And on Monday, as Union had pulled down the VfB once on their own level of playful limitation and the many duels, Stuttgart could not free himself from it. Only one scoring chance had the VfB in the second half. “Union Berlin has been playing soccer much longer and was better prepared than us,” said Hitzlsperger.
Stuttgart was actually prepared for the struggle for the European Cup. A year ago, VfB finished under coach Tayfun Korkut the season as the second best back round elf and seventh. Hitzlsperger's predecessor Michael Reschke bought for 35 million euros for the race for international business. He signed experienced Bundesliga stars like Gonzalo Castro or Daniel Didavi as well as expensive talents such as right-back Pablo Maffeo Manchester City or the Argentine Nicolas Gonzalez. Against Union should the 20-year-old prevent the leading goal, because he ran completely unnecessary in Aogos free kick offside. The squad cost 2018/2019 € 60 million in salaries.
And so the deep case of VfB Stuttgart from European Cup contender to relegated within a year is also the story of a self-overestimation. Also Hitzlsperger, who had been promoted by the newcomer chief to sports director in February, could not fix the birth defect this season. Notwithstanding, the 2007 championship scorer will not survive this descent. From the unsuccessful Korkut successor Markus Weinzierl he separated only when a 0-6 against the direct competitor Augsburg no way out left. Interim coach Nico Willig lost just one of his five games. To put on the U19 coach was the right decision. Hitzlsperger met her too late. “We made too many mistakes,” he said, expressing Willig, “now we're in the second division.”
There, VfB is facing a change – with less money. Stuttgart currently receives around 48 million euros from TV revenues and international marketing by the DFL. In the second division, the sum should be reduced by almost half. The salary budget is to shrink to 40 million euros, which would be much for the Second League. The squad must be rebuilt: World Champion Benjamin Pavard goes for 35 million euros to Bayern. Ozan Kabak, the 19-year-old center-back, who came from Galatasaray for 11.5 million euros in the winter, has no contract for the Second League and should be able to go via clause for 15 million euros. The contracts of Aogo, Captain Christian Gentner and Andreas Beck expire.
“A horror season – from beginning to end”
But in addition to the Pavard-Ablöse there is also hope for the VfB, because it has already made wise staffing decisions: With the former Dortmund and Arsenal Chefscout Sven Mislintat Stuttgart committed a renowned talent recognizer as sports director, with Tim Walter von Holstein Kiel one exciting coach. VfB should agree with Paderborn midfielder Philipp Klement, who scored 16 goals and prepared six in the past season.
When Stuttgart was relegated in 2016, the club was euphoric Despite the number of members grew and season tickets were bought diligently. In the end, the resurgence was. Three years later, Stuttgart is an exhausted, desperate club. The face of Nico Willig revealed that quite well on Monday night: “It was a horror season – from start to finish – this is the low point for VfB,” said the outgoing interim coach. And then he cried with tears: “I'm sorry for the fans and the region, I just hope the VfB will come back.”
Union Berlin – VfB Stuttgart 0: 0
Union: Gikiewicz – Ryerson, Friedrich, Hübner, Reichel – Abdullahi (82nd Gogia), Prömel, Schmiedebach, Zulj (90th + 3 Parensen), Hartel (65th Mees), Andersson
VfB: Zieler – Pavard, Kabak, Badstuber, Aogo – Ascacibar – Gentner, Akolo, Zuber (68th Castro) – Donis (60th Didavi), Gonzalez (46th Gomez)
Yellow cards: Friedrich, Schmiedebach – Gentner