Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to really believe that…
Cologne is fighting to participate in an international competition. To put it more bluntly: Cologne wants to go to Europe!
And after the next blow of the derby in Gladbach (3-1), the FC is on track to repeat the fairy tale of 2016/2017. It would almost be a miracle. Because last season the club only managed to stay in relegation against Kiel.
BILD explains the Cologne madness!
Right in the middle – jack-of-all-trades coach Steffen Baumgart (50). After weeks of all-out chatter, he announced Europe’s goal just before the derby. Completely official. But mostly successfully. His troupe played in Gladbach as if drunk. “Just crazy! We had balls to play football,” said star striker Anthony Modeste (34) after the derby hit. And further: “We must stay tuned to our goal.”
Baumgart loves his players. And they love it! When the coach yells, it often sounds like bullying. It’s more like affection. He wants to make his boys better every session. Each test match is a competition until the last minute for the coach. “I want to win every game,” he said.
His secret of success: the coach makes sure that each player feels useful. “There is no A-Elf”, Baumgart often likes to repeat. This is also proven by the fact that he keeps changing and sometimes putting stars on the bench. In addition, there is his attacking football. Few contacts, always ahead. No frills. No frills with the hoe. Even with a tight lead, Baumgart would rather bring in two attacking players than up close.
Baumgart does everything else to ensure success. Sends his boys to yoga twice a week. Provides variety in daily training (e.g. football on ice, running units accompanied by pop music) – or satisfies the team with in-house betting games.
But the madness of Cologne is also players who make the difference!
► Above all Anthony Modeste. Holy Thursday, he celebrated his 34th birthday. At Gladbach he scored his 16th goal of the season. Hard to believe: There are club officials who would have loved to chase the Frenchman off the court last summer – even for free.
► Salih Özcan (24) is just as important. He too was on the brink of extinction in Cologne and was already looking for a new club. Only a call from Baumgart last June convinced Özcan to try FC again. Now Özcan is a Turkish international, a leader at FC and has a market value of almost 10 million euros. “Irreplaceable,” Baumgart says of him. That’s why he should extend his contract (until 2023) as soon as possible.
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Coach Baumgart (right) applauds with his players Uth (middle) and KainzPhoto: Marius Becker/dpa
Similar to 2016/2017 under ex-manager Peter Stöger (56), when FC sensationally qualified for the Europa League. The team is finally a unit again. An example: Timo Horn (28), whom Baumgart promoted to number 2 after more than ten years as a regular goalkeeper, says without frustration: “We play completely different football than we played back then. But when it comes to team structure, there are similarities. Following our successes, our team has grown more and more. Everyone gets along well. An example of this is Anthony Modeste inviting the whole team to a birthday dinner. We haven’t had that in recent years. We have good morale and a good collective. It was the same in 2017.”
Hard to believe after the last catastrophic years…