Financial turmoil, internal disputes and poor form are troubling 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
By Svend Frandsen
Financial turmoil, internal disputes and a lack of bite on the pitch have played havoc with 1. FC Kaiserslautern's season.
Bad to worse
The fortunes of the Red Devils, who were in the UEFA Champions League back in 1999 and reached the UEFA Cup semi-final in 2001, have taken a turn for the worse this year and the decision to replace coach Andreas Brehme with former Belgian international Eric Gerets has failed to steady the ship - they are currently propping up the 1. Bundesliga.
The problems really began in the spring when Kaiserslautern failed to follow up on their bright start to the 2001/02 season and missed out on a UEFA Cup spot. To add insult to injury the club lost around €10m in TV revenue after the collapse of the Kirsch media group and the club failed to cash in on their FIFA World Cup star Miroslav Klose and Brazilians Ratinho and Lincoln.
Jäggi steps in
On top of that €50m has been spent on modernising the Fritz-Walter-Stadion for the 2006 World Cup. The result was a deficit of €15m at the beginning of the new season which ultimately led to the dismissal of president Jürgen Freidrich who was replaced by the Swiss clothing manufacturer René Jäggi.
One of Jäggi's first acts was to arrange a €5m loan to help alleviate the club's financial problems. Lotto Rheinland-Pfalz GmbH, the regional lottery council for the Rheinland, provided the money in exchange for the transfer rights for the highly rated Klose. In addition former German international playmaker Mario Basler urged all the players to donate €2m to the club.
But Klose and striking partner Vratislav Lokvenc have only scored four goals all season and the defence has struggled to adapt to a 4-4-2 formation after Brehme's 5-3-2. Their inability to cope was evident over the weekend when SV Werder Bremen were allowed to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 win in the space of 20 minutes.
Most criticism this season has been directed at Swiss playmaker Ciriaco Sforza who is back at the club after failing to live up to his star billing at FC Bayern München. It is thought Sforza and the coach do not see eye to eye on a number of issues and Gerets has often left the former Swiss international on the bench.
However, the Kaiserslautern management are in a difficult situation, with Sforza's contract stating he will be appointed sports director when he retires. Should the club decide to renege on the deal, Sforza will be able to claim €1m in compensation, a sum the club simply cannot afford.
'No room for dreams'
At the moment the club are on seven points from 13 games and if the unthinkable was to happen it would send them into freefall. "There's no room for dreams. We have to steady the ship and avoid relegation," said Jäggi. "It's our only chance of survival."