In this week's column, ESPN's lead Bundesliga commentator dives into a variety of topics including a likely dance of the coaches this summer.
It was always going to be a matter of which domino would fall first. As things turned out, it happened at Eintracht Frankfurt, where the team announced this week that its coach, Adi Hutter, would be leaving at the end of the season to take charge of Borussia Monchengladbach.
This seemed to perplex more casual observers of the German game. Why would you trade an almost certain Champions League club for one struggling to make Europe at all? The answer is, as always, it's complicated!
Hutter has visibly improved Eintracht in his three seasons there, but changes are afoot and a Bundesliga coach is often only as good as the sporting team surrounding him. With CEO of Sport Fredi Bobic and long-time sporting director Bruno Hubner leaving, Hutter could contrast that with the stability and expertise of Max Eberl and his colleagues at Monchengladbach. Frankly, no-one does it better than Eberl and the chance to work with him was a real lure.
Hutter, a builder and a polisher when it comes to his approach to management, will also have calculated that it's never a bad thing to leave while your stock is high or before negativity can take hold as it inevitably does for every coach at some stage. Unlike Frankfurt, the only way is up at Gladbach.
Eintracht need not just a coach but more importantly a head of sport to succeed Bobic, almost certainly on his way to Hertha Berlin. Several reports this week have linked Ralf Rangnick to Bobic's old job and he would certainly hold appeal, but you don't hire Rangnick without knowing it's his way or the highway. Only with a high-profile figure like Rangnick could a club contemplate having the head of sport also be the head coach, twin roles Rangnick has occupied before with RB Leipzig.
When you think of potential new head coaches in the Bundesliga, Jesse Marsch immediately comes to mind. The American, nearing the end of his second season in Austria with FC Salzburg, is biding his time. He was a logical name mentioned in the Gladbach vacancy story and it would be understandable if Frankfurt had an interest. But Marsch's natural next destination might be Leipzig, where he's worked before as part of Rangnick's former staff and is still highly regarded by Red Bull Global Head of Soccer Oliver Mintzlaff and the big decision-makers.
Why do I raise Leipzig here? Well, if -- as looks ever more probable -- Hansi Flick leaves Bayern Munich to become the next Germany national team boss and Bayern hire current Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann, where else would Mintzlaff look for a successor? Salzburg are part of the family, in a sense, and he would cost them nothing at all. Nagelsmann is under contract until 2023, too; it's not mad to think that up to €15 million might have to change hands for Bayern to prise him away. It could mark a decent bit of business for a coach Leipzig won't be able to keep indefinitely anyway given the esteem in which he's held around Europe.
I must say, I didn't think in this pandemic season that transfer fees for coaches would dominate the Bundesliga landscape in this way. It started with Borussia Dortmund triggering the clause allowing them to take Marco Rose away from Gladbach for €5m. Rather than sulk about it, Eberl and Co. ponied up €7.5m to pay Eintracht, the reported buyout fee for Hutter.
Meanwhile, far away from what must seem like a fantasy world of superstar coaches, Koln sacked Markus Gisdol on Sunday immediately after a painful 3-2 defeat at home against Mainz. They've replaced him with a Bundesliga everyman, Friedhelm Funkel, who comes out of retirement at the age of 67. Funkel is something of an institution in Germany's industrial west and has coached Effzeh before, between Feb. 2002 and Oct. 2003.
This is not a move for the long-term, but rather the appointment of an emergency firefighter with the smell of smoke already in the air. Koln are 17th, in one of two automatic relegation spots, with six games remaining and everything must now be poured into avoiding what would be a seventh relegation. The fixture list is initially not kind, with Bayer Leverkusen away and Leipzig at home. Points must therefore be harvested by Funkel's team against Augsburg, Freiburg, direct rivals Hertha and bottom club Schalke 04.
Either way, Koln will look for a fresh start next season, with candidates like Steffen Baumgart (who'll be leaving Paderborn), former HSV coach Thorsten Fink and much-loved former ex-Koln coach Peter Stoger, all in the conversation.
One man who we should expect to land a Bundesliga coaching job somewhere is Gerardo Seoane, who's on the cusp of leading Young Boys to another Swiss title. Incidentally, Hutter worked there before moving to Frankfurt.
Oh, and of course Hutter also served his time in Salzburg. Being a coach there is a pretty good omen for anyone with designs on working at a high level in Germany. (See: Marco Rose.) This is shaping up to be quite the summer merry-go-round.