Despite missing out on a UEFA Champions League spot for the first time in five years, Werder Bremen general manager Klaus Allofs is looking forward to the club's UEFA Europa League campaign and says he was "pleased with last season's achievements".
Bremen finished tenth in the Bundesliga last term, their worst placing of the 2000s, but Allofs insisted there were still plenty of successes including winning the German Cup and reaching the UEFA Cup final. "Obviously we would have liked to have done better, but it proved how hard it is to maintain a team challenging at the top year after year," Allofs told uefa.com. "There were a number of factors which contributed to our inconsistent form, but the squad reached the UEFA Cup final and won the German Cup, so overall we were pleased with their achievements."
Their German Cup final victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen secured Bremen a berth in the inaugural UEFA Europa League and Allofs is excited about the new competition. "We're all very proud to be participating in the first Europa League," he said. "I think UEFA have done the right thing in reconstructing it to be more like the Champions League. I'm interested to see how things go, but I'm sure it's a step in the right direction."
A Bremen side that has been built around playmaker Diego since 2006 now needs a new direction after his departure for Juventus. Although it seems a huge hole to fill, French midfielder Johan Micoud was also deemed irreplaceable until Diego's arrival and Allofs hopes history will repeat itself after the signing of Marko Marin. "[Marin] along with Mesut Özil are more than capable of taking on the playmaker's role. I'm sure we'll be able to cope without Diego although his departure came as a major blow." Both Marin and Özil will also come into the season on a high after winning the recent UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Sweden with Germany.
However, there is uncertainly over the future of striker Claudio Pizarro, the club's top scorer in the league last season with 17 league goals, but who is on loan from Chelsea FC. "We would like to hold on to him and Claudio himself wants to stay," Allofs said. "However, he still has a contract with Chelsea for the next two years so we'll have to wait and see. A decision will probably come shortly before the start of the new season."
Moving in the opposite direction, midfielder Tim Borowski might return to Bremen after failing to hold down a starting place with FC Bayern München last season. With so many potential arrivals and departures, former West Germany captain Allofs is loath to make a prediction for the new campaign. "Of course we want to be up there with the top clubs. However, to say we want to win the title or qualify for the Champions League would be foolish at this stage. Once we've made our preparations and the squad has settled, we'll see how the team functions as a unit and then we can start setting goals."
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