With little activity in the transfer window, Fredi Bobic made in-roads to keeping head coach Bruno Labbadia by agreeing an extension until June 2015 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
A former player of Hamburg, FC Bayern and Werder Bremen, among others, the ex-German internationalist has been head coach since 2010 following indifferent short spells at Greuther Fürth, Bayer Leverkusen and HSV. Labbadia has a 43.06% win ratio from his 72 Bundesliga matches in charge and in that time leading Stuttgart to a respective 12th and sixth placed finish.
Operating in a similar model to Werder Bremen, Bobic hoped for a solution to the on-going contract negotiations between club and coach, in order to allow the general manager to plan the targets for the second half of the season. Labbadia agreed a two-year-deal, along with assistant head coach Eddy Sozer and the current coaching team to
Bobic commented: “We are pleased to have succeeded in prolonging the contracts of Bruno Labbadia and assistant coach Eddy Sozer for two years. They have our trust, as we know that they have not reached the end of their goals yet and will continue to work hard for the success of the club.”
The prolonged length of contract talks between Labbadia’s representatives and the club was a hindrance to the morale around Stuttgart. The 46-year-old trainer turned down several contract offers from the club’s hierarchy and with his deal coming to an end in the summer, Bobic was keen to tie up Labbadia during the January transfer window.
“Since we started we have been going down this intense road without any compromise and we still have some way to go,” Labbadia said through official club channels. “We want to create a team that is fun and excites.”
And excite Stuttgart have failed to do. The Swabians have endured a miserable start to therückrunde, losing all three of their matches since the end of the winter shutdown that stretched to four consecutive games. Christian Gentner’s solitary strike on the hour mark in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Fortuna Düsseldorf is their only goal in 2013 and they were the last side in the division to break the feat.
Stuttgart lie 12th in the league, as part of a congested mid-table that is separated by six points between sixth and 15th position. Labbadia has been piecing together the puzzle to find the balance in Stuttgart’s squad in the aftermath of a number of key departures in the summer of 2012.
The likes of Julian Schieber, who joined Borussia Dortmund for £4m, defender Matthieu Delpierre, Khalid Bouhlarouz and then in January, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, moved to pastures new meaning Labbadia was forced to make adjustments to the team that had looked very strong in the second half of the 2011/12 campaign.
Breaking his coaching tenure into six month stints and league-tables, the club’s progress under Labbadia has been inconsistent following his appointment in December 2010. Inside the first spell in the South-West of Germany, Stuttgart finished top of the six-month form table in the rückrunde of 2009/10 with 12 wins from 17 games and 35 goals.
That progress, though, looked a world away, as Stuttgart won three from their 17 games of 2010/11 which saw them sit second-bottom by the end of the hinrunde. The ensuing rückrunde seen a marked improvement for The Reds with the fourth best record of the second half of the campaign, as Stuttgart secured a mid-table finish under Labbadia.
Last season, Stuttgart were eighth by the winter shutdown, before an impressive first six months to 2012 secured a place in the European positions for the forthcoming campaign. Labbadia’s side were free-flowing, free-scoring – VfB were the second highest scorers of last season’s rückrunde – and eventually finished in sixth.
There is a trend here. Labbadia’s reins are generally marked by a slow start to the season, followed by a strong finish to the campaign that tends to compensate for any misgivings in the first part of the term. Praise should be forthcoming for Labbadia in his stable moves in the transfer market with Stuttgart generating a €21.6m profit from two-and-a-half seasons of buying and selling players.
The head coach, working with general manager Bobic, has consolidated the progress of the squad, amidst lucrative sales for Sami Khedira, Sebastian Rudy, Christian Träsch and Bernd Leno in his first 18 months in charge. This sound model of operating has kept Stuttgart in the black
In the financial year of 2010, Stuttgart made a loss of €2.2m which coincided with the planned expansion of their Mercedez-Benz Arena to a 55,000-capacity stadium, whilst raking in €118m in revenue, including money from their stint in the UEFA Champions League. They only managed to reach the UEFA Europa League the following season but still managed to reach €117m for 2011, operating at a small profit of €71,000 and relying on broadcasting revenue for 42% of their income, highlighting the importance of Champions League qualification.
Improved commercial contracts and a limited matchday revenue – this was due to the work on their stadium in 2010/11 – has held Stuttgart’s growth back in recent years, thus, forcing a more artful and conservative approach in the transfer market. Their £5m signing of Vedad Ibisevic went again the grain, slightly, but was a sensible investment from Bobic given the Bosnian striker’s expected return.
VfB Stuttgart president Gerd Mäuser insisted last summer that “the club can only stay competitive if it continues to develop young talents, which it can sell to competitors later on” after the sale of highly-rated Schieber to Borussia Dortmund. The increased broadcasting contract from next season could allow Stuttgart to invest further in the playing squad and find the quality to match others in the areas around them.
Labbadia might be keeping Stuttgart stable and a profitable force in the transfer market but the competitive environment of the Bundesliga, particularly in European positions, is beginning catch up on the Swabians. Three matches without a victory in the second half of the season, to date, will be a worrying sign for the club’s hierarchy who will set European qualification for next season as an expected target for the season.
Follow Senior Editor Ross Dunbar on twitter @rossdunbar93