Chris Boud continues 90Minutecynic’s look at the alternative options for Celtic as they search for a new manager for the Parkhead hot seat.
For the last half a dozen years or so I’ve taken a keen interest in the Bundesliga. Whilst it’s stock has risen considerably in that time and the top teams and players have received plaudits throughout Europe, there have been few managers who have received the attention of the UK media. Jürgen Klopp, Jupp Heynckes and Joachim Löw have all had a few paragraph’s dedicated to them but outside of those elite there has been little else.
Chris Gallagher started the search for alternate Celtic Manager options with the immensely talented Thomas Tuchel and when I was asked to consider a dark horse for the Celtic job my current, favourite German manager sprang to mind. A man with a cult following who is known as a football philosopher I feel Christian Streich has all the attributes needed to take Celtic forward.
As the 2011/2012 Hinrunde (first half of the season) drew to an end, SC Freiburg sat at the foot of the Bundesliga. A known Yo-Yo (or elevator) club, moving between 1.Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga on a frequent basis, it was expected the Brazilians of Breisgau would be returning to 2.Bundesliga, a league more befitting of their restrained budget.
The recently appointed Marcus Sorg was relieved as first team manager and his assistant, Christian Streich, hesitantly accepted the role. Having spent 16 years coaching with Freiburg, Streich knew the club well; few however could have predicted the turn around in fortunes the Baden-Württemberg native would inspire.
Streich oversaw a victory in his debut Bundesliga match; the first time in the club’s history a manager had achieved this. That result not only raised the team off the foot of the table but spring-boarded them to a fantastic set of results which led the team to a 12th placed finish. Had the league started when Streich took over the reigns; Freiburg would have finished in sixth place.
His first full season in charge proved even more fruitful as Streich led his side to a fifth placed finish, earning Freiburg European football for only the third time in their history. SCF where only just pipped to fourth place and what would have been a historic qualification for the UEFA Champions league.
Unsurprisingly Freiburg’s exploits did not go unnoticed and other clubs took their pick of their players. Streich lost ten players that summer, with around half of those players amongst his top performers.
With additional European games to play, Streich’s squad decimated and little in the way of funds to replenish his squad it would be foolish to expect a repeat of the previous season’s exploits. And so it proved with Freiburg knocked out of the Europa League at the group stage and struggling in a relegation battle at the halfway point of the season.
Streich managed to rally the troops and gathered almost as many points in the last ten games of the season as they had in the first 24, achieving a solid 14th placed finish.
Whilst disappointing in comparison to last season’s result this is still a huge achievement. Streich is working with one of the lowest budgets within the Bundesliga and has managed two mid table finishes and a European placing. Although he did not manage to progress past the group stages of the Europa League his only two defeats in Europe where to eventual competition winners Sevilla. All this achieved not just under financial restraints but after having his side stripped of its best players.
Like his [former] Mainz counterpart Thomas Tuchel, Streich is a very progressive manager and tactically aware. He has no shortage of admirers, including Tuchel who wanted Streich to join his own staff. Treble winning Jupp Heynckes, who Streich beat to the Kicker Coach of the year 2012/2013, was incredibly complimentary:
“The best man in Freiburg sits on the bench. He has worked not only at the foundation, he has the turnaround effected in Freiburg. He is humble, competent and can modernise how football is played.”
Under Streich, SC Freiburg have been described as a poor man’s Barcelona; a fair comparison. Streich has his side play incredibly attacking and entertaining football, encouraging his players to run and press at all times. Organised yet fluidic; athleticism is key.
Looking at this season in 25 out of 34 Bundesliga match days Freiburg have featured in the top three Bundesliga sides for distance ran, with the team covering on average over 121km a game.
As seen above long balls are a rarity with Streich preferring his side to pass their way to victory.
Streich has also shown himself adept at spotting talent. With his experience at Under-19 level he has a keen eye for youth and has supplemented his squad by developing younger and older players alike. He also made one of the shrewdest transfers of the season when he brought in young Swiss striker Admir Mehmedi after he had lost the majority of his front line in the summer. Whilst this was a loan deal from Dynamo Kiev, Streich insisted upon a purchase clause in the deal that has been duly exercised. The 23 year old managed 12 league goals and four assists making him one of the stand out stars of the Bundesliga this season.
Why Christian Would Streich it lucky For Celts
Whilst Celtic obviously financially dominate their domestic league, his ability to work under financial restraints would be an asset as our relative spending power to our European counterparts is obviously limited. Streich has manged well with a wage cap for top players in the region of £8,000 per week and so should be in a position to manage well within Celtic’s budget.
With Celtic expected to maintain a policy of developing players to sell at a profit, a proven track record of rebuilding after major squad losses is an ideal quality in the next Parkhead manager. Streich’s ability to work with youth would also be a huge asset.
Streich has also displayed an ability to achieve results without resorting to negative tactics. He is a true student of the game and considered a footballing genius by many. He displays true passion for the game, running up and down the side line and always wants to his side to entertain their fans.
Why Celtic will Streich Out
Streich is refreshingly straight talking. His media interviews and press conferences have become the thing of legend in Germany, to the point some news outlets have a Streich of the Week section devoted to his sometimes controversial and always entertaining philosophising. Humble but direct the German has no fear of speaking his mind. Not unlike Jose Mourinho in England he spent some time as a media darling, however the tide started to turn and he was soon seen as darker figure. Within the setting of Scotland a blunt and forthright character managing Celtic is likely to very quickly find the media against him.
More importantly Streich has spent 19 years coaching at Freiburg. Whilst he has stated that nothing lasts forever it seems unlikely he would leave this club which has meant so much to him whilst still of such high stock. A move to Scotland would also be a huge departure. Streich does speak some English however this is fairly limited.
That said should Streich decide to leave he might find it difficult to manage a club, which comes up against his beloved Freiburg, and pastures new may call.