Fred Rutten isn’t the only new Dutch manager in the Bundesliga, as ex-Tottenham Martin Jol took over the reigns of Hamburg earlier this month. It’s been nearly 30 years since Jol’s last appearance in Germany. He made 9 appearances for Bayern Munich as a midfielder in 1978/79 before returning to the Netherlands the next season. His managerial journey has now mirrored his playing career, rotating among the northwestern European triangle of the Netherlands, England and Germany. This time around he hopes to spend more than a year in the Bundesliga.
Jol will be Hamburg’s 26th gaffer in the past 45 years. While this seems like a lot it’s actually the norm for the league (as next week’s entry on Bruno Labbadia will detail). The only manager to last longer than 4 years at Hamburg? Ernst Happel. Yes, he of Ernst-Happel-Stadion fame (the stadium was named for the two time European Cup winner and not vice versa, in case you were wondering). While fans would love it if Jol could emulate Happel’s European triumphs, they’d be satisfied with replicating his domestic success. Coincidentally both Happel and Jol began their managerial careers at ADO Den Haag. Anyway, it’s been 25 years since he Happel brought home the team’s last championship. Since then they’ve been a steady, if not spectacular, club:
They own the unique distinction of being the only remaining original Bundesliga side never to have been relegated. To continue staying afloat in the Bundesliga and hopefully challenge for silverware Hamburg must first and foremost continue developing their Dutch pipeline.
Currently Hamburg employ four Dutch players in their first team: Joris Mathijsen, Nigel de Jong, Romeo Castelen, and captain Rafael van der Vaart. Chelsea-flop Khalid Boulahrouz is also a recent member of this group. Together they comprise the second-largest national contingent in the squad and arguably its most talented. Hamburg has developed in somewhat of a Dutch Portugal. Portugal, for obvious reasons, is the destination of choice for young Brazilian talent making their initial move to Europe. Those who display enough promise are then snapped up by larger clubs. A crude analogy, to be sure, but it effectively describes the situation. Like the Bundesliga at large, Hamburg in particular has evolved into a showroom for foreign talent before it moves on to more lucrative English or Mediterranean shores.
The most obvious example of this will soon be Rafael van der Vaart, who has made his feelings quite clear about leaving Hamburg over the past year. For a time the rumor was that he’d end up at the Mestalla with Valencia. Now the bids have centered around the Spanish capital, either as part of Atletico’s summer signing spree or as Real’s ersatz Ronaldo. Although his contract runs through the 2009-2010 season it is clear that he is on his way out and almost certainly to the land of his mother’s birth. Hamburg would be well-advised to sell soon rather than risk losing a hefty (approximately 15 million Euro) transfer fee thanks to the Bosman ruling.
The best way to spend the van der Vaart money would be exactly how the club has in the past, on young players. While no one has or will likely ever confuse Hamburg for Arsenal, the club have made the decision to pursue mostly young professionals (three of the four Dutch players above are 25 or younger, for instance). It seems unlikely that Jol will alter this policy, although were he to try he’d find himself dealing with a much stingier board than Tottenham’s (and he won’t have a repeat of his run-in with Spurs’ director of football Damien Comolli).
Is Jol the man to have Hamburg fans partying like it’s 1983? Is there a limit to how many Dutch players German fans can stomach in the squad? Is it only a matter of time before Hamburg, taking their cue from North London, replace Jol with Sevilla’s current coach, Manolo Jimenez?
Next Week: Bruno Labbadia at Bayer Leverkusen
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