Hertha Berlin hopes Fredi Bobic leads club to success

BERLIN (AP) — Hertha Berlin presented Fredi Bobic as its head of sport on Tuesday, hopeful he will be the one to help the underperforming club finally make good on big investments from financier Lars Windhorst.

Bobic, who had five years of success with Eintracht Frankfurt, faces a big challenge in replicating that at Hertha.

“We shouldn’t speak of huge goals right at the start, but acknowledge the realities and do a good job,” Bobic said on his first official day in charge.

The 49-year-old Bobic said he had already spoken with Windhorst, as well as coach Pál Dárdai and sporting director Arne Friedrich.

“The first thing will be to bring in a certain stability,” Bobic said. “Real stability in sporting areas and to adjust the structures so they’re modern and competitive against the other Bundesliga teams.”

Hertha only narrowly escaped relegation last season and has been struggling to meet expectations since Windhorst first backed the club in June 2019. The financier has seen little return on his investments of 374 million euros ($450 million) since he foresaw Hertha as a “big city club” on a par with others in London, Madrid or Paris.

“It felt like it’s been two years of fighting relegation,” Bobic said. “Of course, that’s something we don’t want at Hertha, and we don’t want to see in the future. But then you have to fight, and you have to work, and you have to change certain things.”

Bobic said five coaches in two years were too many, and he defended the players who have had to adjust to constant change.

“It’s not easy to develop players,” said Bobic, a former forward who played for Hertha from 2003-05. “It’s a while back but still I know what it’s like when you have three or four coaches in a short time. It’s nearly impossible to develop. So continuity will be an important factor in development here at Hertha.”

Hertha’s on-field troubles have been matched off it. Former Germany great Jürgen Klinsmann’s tenure as coach ended in acrimony in early 2020. General manager Michael Preetz was dismissed in January, ending his 25-year association with the club, a month after former Sky Germany CEO Carsten Schmidt took over as managing director.

Scandals have also added to the sense of chaos at the club. Goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry was fired last season for making homophobic and xenophobic comments in a newspaper interview and board member Jens Lehmann followed after sending a racist message to a Black former player.

While Hertha has been struggling, city rival Union Berlin has been thriving since its promotion to the Bundesliga in 2019. Union, which was expected to fight to stay in the league, clinched a European qualification place while Hertha players celebrated avoiding relegation. It was supposed to be the other way around.

Bobic is bringing a team of assistants to help Hertha live up to its potential. Former Freiburg and Hannover sporting director Dirk Dufner begins as team planner on July 1, while a host of analysts, scouts and managers are following from Frankfurt.

But it’s clear who the most important man will be.

“We’re all very happy that we’re sitting here with you, Mr. Bobic,” Hertha chairman Torsten-Jörn Klein said as the presentation began. “For success, you have to say, that’s what we want.”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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