Hertha Berlin surprisingly fired its head of sport, Fredi Bobic, on Saturday after the team lost to Union Berlin 2-0 in the city derby.
Bobic’s departure was unexpected as he was seen as the Bundesliga club’s main hope to clean up others’ mistakes after a botched big-money bid to turn Hertha into a “big city club” left it, instead, as a perennial relegation candidate with little to spend.
Bobic had been in charge since June 2021 and was responsible for signings and squad building. Lately, he had been overseeing more departures than arrivals as he sought to bring down expenses at the cash-strapped club.
The loss to Union was Hertha’s third straight defeat to start 2023 and it left the team second-to-last in the relegation zone. It has fewer points than at the same stage last season, when it escaped the drop thanks only to a nervy playoff win.
Despite the team’s travails, Bobic escaped criticism as he was seen to be doing all he could with limited means. He was even linked recently with the vacant position for the German national team’s sporting director. The position ultimately went to former Germany striker and coach Rudi Völler.
Kicker magazine reported there was discontent internally with Bobic for months, however. Bobic was responsible for ousting club favorite Pal Dardai as coach last season and replacing him with the luckless Tayfun Korkut. He coaxed Felix Magath out of retirement to save it from relegation.
Bobic, who enjoyed a successful five-year spell in a similar role at Eintracht Frankfurt, failed to have the same luck at Hertha. His transfers have not worked out as hoped.
It’s unclear if the derby loss had any influence on Hertha’s decision to fire Bobic due to the internal bureaucracy involved in taking such a step, but the announcement came a couple of hours after the game.
“The presidium, together with the supervisory board of Hertha BSC e.V. decided unanimously to release its head of sport, Fredi Bobic, from his duties with immediate effect,” the club said in a statement.
Hertha said it was going to hold a news conference on Sunday and gave no further details.
Bobic’s tenure was marked by turmoil from the moment he took over – and before.
Former general manager Michael Preetz was fired in January 2021, ending his 25-year association with the club. Former Sky Germany CEO Carsten Schmidt lasted less than a year as managing director before leaving for personal reasons in October 2021. Sporting director Arne Friedrich also quit the club.
Hertha has been in a state of upheaval since millionaire backer Lars Windhorst first invested in the club in June 2019. Windhorst pumped 374 million euros ($408 million) into Hertha as he dreamed of turning it into a Champions League contender.
It didn’t happen. Bobic said last year the money was gone.
Windhorst in November agreed to sell his 64.7% stake to Miami-based 777 Partners after falling out with club president Kay Bernstein. That dispute followed allegations that Windhorst hired an Israeli detective agency to force out the previous president, Werner Gegenbauer. The deal with 777 is still subject to approval from Hertha’s board and the German league.
Hertha coach Sandro Schwarz is the team’s eighth since 2019.
Bobic said before Saturday’s loss that Schwarz was in no danger of losing his job – regardless of how it went.
Instead, it’s Bobic who’s gone.
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This story was originally published January 28, 2023 2:28 PM.
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