Alexander Wehrle is not the kind of person whose facial expressions one would have to search for emotions for a long time. The fact that the managing director of VfB Stuttgart smiled or laughed for about 58 minutes at the one-hour press conference on Monday was also an unmistakable sign of an extremely good mood about the commitment of the three prominent men sitting next to him: Sami Khedira, Philipp Lahm and Christian Gentner - the only one with a shirt instead of a shirt under a covered jacket - will in future do what the Swabians call "sporting competence" in the press. "A strong signal" is that, so Wehrle. Especially in view of the not so great sporting successes in recent years.
The three prominent ex-national players also seemed in a good mood on Monday when they gave a very rough outline of exactly what they will be doing at VfB in the future. Khedira and Lahm, that much is certain, should work directly for Wehrle, while Gentner should work full-time in the operational sporting business. He will be "close to the team," announced Gentner, who is also fascinated by the interface between the youth academy and professionals. Gentner said he would discuss the future distribution of tasks "in the coming weeks and months" with Sven Mislintat, but there had not yet been any talks with the sports director. Which can be found very strange.
Khedira and Lahm, who Wehrle initially campaigned for alone and then together with President and Chairman of the Supervisory Board Claus Vogt, will in future advise the managing director directly on sporting matters such as squad planning, help determine the strategic direction of the club and activate their respective networks. Khedira, who is still completing a master's course in football administration at Uefa, said he could have started directly as a sports director at other clubs after retiring 15 months ago. But it is too early for that. In Stuttgart he can now learn from "top people" and "pass on our experiences from an eagle's perspective".
While Khedira and Gentner are VfB homegrown talents and people from Stuttgart, the public perception associates Lahm, who was born in Munich, with FC Bayern, where he spent his entire career. Except for the two years at VfB, in which he played 53 league games under Giovanni Trapattoni and Armin Veh. The current director of the organizational committee for the EM 2024 justified his commitment to VfB with pragmatic and emotional components: "The model appeals to me," says Lahm, "it's not everyday that a board allows advice." He also feels connected to the club and the city. In Stuttgart he became a national player. And, almost more importantly: "Here I was away from home for the first time and had my first apartment of my own."
After the presentation of the prominent trio, Mislintat leaves the room at a remarkable pace
Gentner, who had recently pondered quite loudly whether his bones would last a whole season as a player at FC Luzern, justified his decision to end his career in December with his emotional connection to VfB. After New Year's Eve he starts as "head of the license player department" in Bad Cannstatt. Whether this would lead to distortions within the organizational chart was also discussed on Monday. In any case, on the sidelines of the general meeting on Sunday, Mislintat said he was looking forward to Gentner. The rumor that Mislintat only found out about the talks with the 37-year-old when the future collaboration had already been fixed persisted - which could be because it's true. You should actually expect preliminary talks if the boss is to be assigned another specialist in the sporting area.
When asked three times, Wehrle initially made a clear statement on Monday as to whether the personnel had been agreed with Mislintat. His statement that he was "very confident that he's happy when other perspectives come into play" indirectly confirmed that that wasn't the case. Whether it was true that Mislintat, who followed the press conference at the other end of the room, "would probably not be here now" if he found the personnel to be problematic, as Wehrle said, could no longer be checked. As soon as the event was over, he left the room at a remarkable pace.
But "interpretations and speculations" are probably out of place there, too. At least that's what Wehrle thinks, who advised the journalists to "relax a bit". He is looking forward to negotiations with Mislintat, whose contract expires next summer. "We will enter into intensive talks," said Wehrle. "Neither of us are pleasant conversationalists when it comes to contracts."