Germans get it right by a fluke

Imre Karacs in Berlin on the soap opera of the national coach job
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The Independent Football

Germany's stand-in national manager is here to stay. Rudi Völler can expect to have his one-year contract extended, though mainly for reasons off the pitch. For the power struggle that has been racking German football was resolved in his favour even before his side stepped on to Wembley's turf.

Germany's stand-in national manager is here to stay. Rudi Völler can expect to have his one-year contract extended, though mainly for reasons off the pitch. For the power struggle that has been racking German football was resolved in his favour even before his side stepped on to Wembley's turf.

Völler has done wonders with the demoralised squad he took over in a temporary capacity after last summer's Euro 2000 fiasco. Yesterday's performance did no harm to his career prospects. But more important have been the intrigues back home against the man hailed only a few months ago as the saviour of German football, Christoph Daum.

No longer is the German game a byword for meticulous preparation. In the past, national coaches were gently groomed over a period of many years. These days, German football is muddling through in the best English manner.

Berti Vogts, the last national manager to command respect, was smart enough to throw in the towel when he saw that with the players at his disposal he could never meet the expectations of the press. The same conclusion was drawn by his peers, which is why no successful coach went for the job. Germany ended up with Erich Ribbeck. When Ribbeck fell on his sword after the disastrous Euro 2000, the lords of German football had another go at reviving the national spirit. A task force was set up, the warring clubs called a truce, and a "dream team" of three managers was appointed to guide Germany to the World Cup.

It did not seem such a great idea, even then, to have an interim coach, a certified coach, and a coach-in-waiting falling over each other in the dressing room. The compromise worked for a while, but it failed to quell the political battle being waged behind the scenes over mastery of German football. Now the "dream team" is dead, and Bayern Munich, the instigators of the coup against Daum, have been confirmed as the rulers of German football.

No one can resist the power of Bayern Munich. They are by far the richest and most successful club, but they are so busy making money they are unable to spare anyone from their galaxy of coaching stars for the national team. That does not prevent the club demanding total control over Team Germany.

Daum, the national coach-in-waiting, was not going to play ball. He had already crossed swords with Bayern's Uli Hoeness, exchanging insults with him on national television as far back as 1989. Daum is an upstart. He was never a professional footballer, yet as a coach he has time and again given the Bavarians a good run for their money. The footballing aristocracy in Munich regard him as a nutcase, partly because of his unconventional training methods - he makes players walk barefoot over broken glass - but mainly because he refuses to kowtow to them. So they are destroying him before he gets a chance to exert any influence over the lopsided national game.

This contest, like all others played out in German football, will inevitably end in a Bayern victory. Bayern's luminaries, including "Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer himself, are accusing Daum of whoring, snorting cocaine and cavorting with criminal elements. Daum is suing for libel, but even if he should win the case, mud sticks. The controversy is certain to end the gentlemen's agreement which anointed him national coach from next summer.

Which leaves Völler, formerly Daum's assistant at Bayer Leverkusen, in charge indefinitely, if he wants the job. By the evidence on show yesterday, Germany have reg-ained the habit of appointing the right person. Admittedly, this time method had nothing to do with the decision. It was sheer fluke.

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