Hoffenheim slide alarms owner

Hopp demands answers from coaching staff as poor run dents European hopes
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The Independent Football

Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp has demanded an explanation for his side's pitiful performance at the weekend. A 1-0 defeat at home to Mainz has left Hoffenheim's ambitions of European football next season in tatters and Hopp would like to know why his team is performing as poorly as it is.

"I could never have imagined us playing so badly," he told the Rhein-Neckar Zeitung newspaper. "It was not even like we had half of our youth team on the field against Mainz – we had our proven regulars. But there was precious little coming from them."

The 69-year-old stopped short of questioning the coach, Ralf Rangnick, whom he has consistently backed in his four years in charge, but he does want Rangnick and the club's director of sport, Jan Schindelmeiser, to tell him precisely what went wrong last Sunday.

"I expect to receive a clear description," he said. "They are going to have to produce an analysis that is conclusive and from which we can deduce what is wrong at present. I would like an explanation for what I saw against Mainz. I could do without any beating around the bush, but then they never do beat about the bush anyway."

Hoffenheim currently lie 11th in the Bundesliga but are 10 points away from a qualifying place for the Europa League next season.

They currently sit 12 points above the relegation zone, so they are unlikely to be dragged into a relegation battle with only nine games of the season remaining.

Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is likely to retire in the summer after confirming he will not be extending his contract at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. The 40-year-old former Arsenal and Germany goalkeeper has opted against remaining with the club and hopes his understudies, Sven Ulreich and Alexander Stolz, will prosper following his departure.

"Staying would be unfair on Sven Ulreich," he told the Bild newspaper. "He will be rivalling Alexander Stolz and they are both looking forward to the challenge."

Asked if he would consider staying on a while longer, particularly as Ulreich has a serious injury and might miss the start of next season, Lehmann said he could "rule that out".

It appears the only scenario in which the former Germany international Lehmann would prolong his playing career is if a Premier League club came calling. He recently claimed that he felt good enough to play another year in the English top flight and an offer to do so may change his mind about retiring.

"I am planning to retire, but you just never know," he added. "I am still really enjoying playing football."