Hamburger SV – Bruchhagen returns to the Bundesliga

Hamburger SV – Bruchhagen returns to the Bundesliga

Manuel Veth –

Hamburger SV have now won two games in a row, and as a result have climbed out of the bottom of the table, and move to 16th place, which is the relegation playoff spot.

Hamburg had a terrible start to the season, and on September 25 the club fired Bruno Labbadia, who saved the club from relegation in 2015, and hired Markus Gisdol. The results under Gisdol at first, however, were not an improvement, and in the first six matches under the new coach the club only managed one point.

But then on matchday 11 Hamburg picked up a 2-2 draw against 1899 Hoffenheim, and then drew Werder Bremen in the Nordderby. Then on matchday 13 Hamburg picked up an important victory against Darmstadt 98, and another victory against FC Augsburg on matchday 14.

Hamburger SV was starting to pick up points

The club was starting to pick up their pace, and made inroads in preserving their status as the last Dino of the league—the club is the only founding member of the Bundesliga that has never been relegated.

Despite the improved results in the league, however, the club has not been able to get out of the limelight. On Sunday afternoon kicker reported that following matchday 16, Heribert Bruchhagen will replace managing and sporting director Dietmar Beiersdorfer.

Beiersdorfer was sporting director during the club’s last great period, between 2003 and 2009. He then returned in 2014 from Zenit Saint Petersburg under great fanfare to take over as the new managing director.

Beiersdorfer was supposed to replicate his first successful stint at the club when Hamburg developed several promising players into stars—including Rafael van der Vaart, and Nigel de Jong—and also reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup in 2009 and 2010.

In 2014-15, which was Beiersdorfer’s first season back, Hamburg barely escaped relegation, as the HSV beat Karlsruher SC in the relegation playoffs only thanks to a last minute free-kick by Marcelo Díaz.

The survival in the relegation battle was mostly down to head coach Bruno Labbadia, who was able to rally the squad after taking over. Then in his second season the coach managed a tenth place finish.

The influence of Klaus-Michael Kühne

In the meantime Hamburg sold 7.5% of their shares to billionaire Klaus-Michael Kühne for €18.75 million. Kühne had previously invested in the club by purchasing 33% of the player contracts for Dennis Aogo, Dennis Diekmeier, Paolo Guerrero, Marcell Jansen, Lennard Sowah, and Heiko Westermann for €12.5 million in 2010.

Kühne’s investment was increased to 11% in February 2016. Then in May 2016 Kühne freed up another €50 million for player transfers. The team paid €32 million for new players including €14 million for VfB Stuttgart winger Filip Kostić.

Alen Halilović was signed from Barcelona in the summer but has been a disappointment thus far – Image by Oleg Dubina*

At the same time, however, the investment created an imbalanced squad. Hamburg needed a centre back, but instead signed the talented Brazilian wing-back Douglas Santos from Atlético Mineiro for €7.5 million. Labbadia wanted another defender signed, but Beiersdorfer failed to get a deal done, and instead Hamburg struggled when several centre backs went down with injuries.

Another problem was the signing of the talented Croatian playmaker Alen Halilović. Halilović failed to gain playing time under Labbadia, as he reportedly lacked the tactical schooling necessary to function on a modern Bundesliga side.

It was therefore no surprise that Kühne soon begun to criticize Hamburg’s transfer policy, and head coach Labbadia in particular. As mentioned above Labbadia had to leave the club in September, even though he could hardly have been blamed for how the squad was put together.

Bruchhagen takes over

Hamburg’s directors also started to criticize Beiersdorfer, who in his double role as the managing and sporting director was responsible for putting together the squad. In many ways he lacked the ability of his first term where he identified young talented players that could be developed into stars.

Perhaps it was the fact that he was acting in a double role. In his first term director Bernd Hoffmann, who was in charge of the non-sporting tasks at the club, supported Beiersdorfer. Now Beiersdorfer appeared overwhelmed with the tasks in hand.

Heribert Bruchhagen will now have to steady the boat at Hamburger SV - Image by Steffan Ewald     CC-BY-SA-3.0

Heribert Bruchhagen will now have to steady the boat at Hamburger SV – Image by Steffan Ewald CC-BY-SA-3.0

But Beiersdorfer has to be blamed for the fact that he failed to sign a sporting director on several occasions. The latest negotiations with VfL Bochum sporting director in November turned into a complete farce, and ended with Hochstätter staying in Bochum.

It was the latest blunder in Beiersdorfer’s search for a new sporting director, who can fill the apparent holes in Hamburg’s squad. With Gisdol now winning games the directors at Hamburg must have felt that the right investments in the winter could move the club quickly out of the drop zone.

At the same time they also believed that Beiersdorfer was not the right man to oversee those investments, and therefore decided to severe ties. In his stead Heribert Bruchhagen will now take over.

The 68-year-old Bruchhagen announced his retirement in May 2016 after serving in several positions at Eintracht Frankfurt from 2003 to 2016. Hamburger SV have now lured Bruchhagen back from retirement.

Hiring Bruchhagen is a risk

There are risks involved in this move, however. The directors contacted Bruchhagen in early November, before the club started to collect points, and there is a danger that new turbulences caused by the change of management could become a distraction for the players, especially in a time where they need to focus on building upon their recent victories against Darmstadt and Augsburg.

Another problem could be the fact that Beiersdorfer has completely rebuilt the management structure of the club, which will now have to be completely rebuilt under Bruchhagen. Bruchhagen is an experienced official, and is also rumoured to have a sporting director in hand to take over in January.

Perhaps the winter window will be the right time for die Rothosen to make the necessary changes to the squad, and climb out of the bottom of the table. At the same time the changes could also adversely affect the club’s relegation battle…

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist,  writer for, and podcaster for He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.

*Copyright (c) 2016 Manuel Veth. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License“.