Friday, 1 April 2011

It's A WI-FI Words : England as good as Germany? Not with that team spirit, says Bierhoff

Rival manager says Capello's World Cup squad was split and hails Bundesliga as the model for national success

Fabio Capello was warned last night by the Germany manager Oliver Bierhoff that he must repair the worst team spirit the latter says he has seen in an England side if his claim that his side's development mirrors that of Joachim Löw's side is to prove accurate.

Bierhoff, who has been general manager of the German national side since 2004, said that a new clutch of talented young players was not enough on its own to revive a nation and Germany's success revealed the need for a more fundamental culture of pride and camaraderie – something Bierhoff says he did not see when he observed England in South Africa last summer.

Asked at the Soccerex conference in Manchester if Capello's World Cup squad was the worst he had seen, Bierhoff said it was. "In this tournament [2010] it seemed to be the worst. In 1996 they were good and together," he said.

In the week when Capello's powers of communication have come under close scrutiny, Bierhoff cited that quality as essential, and after recalling the strength of Terry Venables' 1996 side, he also stated the value of a country's national manager also being a citizen – though came short of declaring it a pre-requisite for international success.

"There was not a big communication and team spirit in England [at the World Cup]," Bierhoff said, with English Football Association executives in attendance. "Fabio Capello is a famous, experienced coach but you could see there were certain groups like France who were divided. It happened to me in 2000 when we didn't go through.

"At the World Cup we had a strong team spirit and discipline to do what coaches asked of us. England had quality players, but you could see the players were not communicating any more."

On the issue of a native manager Bierhoff added: "I don't known that it's essential but it helps. [It means] he is not like a project manager who comes in for four or five days. He must know what is going on in the country."

Capello said after England's 1-1 draw with Ghana on Tuesday that he saw England emerging like Germany – last summer's third-placed side and now ranked third in the world. Bierhoff and coach Jürgen Klinsmann began the process of rebuilding a failing side after the 2004 European Championship. "I hope that people will talk about us like they did about Germany," Capello said, as he reflected on his "interesting talents".

But Bierhoff, speaking at a conference discussion about the German Bundesliga, revealed the gulf between it and the Premier League where the national team's interests are concerned. In total, 53 per cent of Bundesliga players are homegrown, their average age is 25 and from the age of 16 onwards, 12 players in each squad at the various centres of excellence in Germany must be eligible to play for Germany. "Sooner or later you have a bunch of German players who must be talented," said Christian Seifert, chief executive of the Bundesliga. Only 40 per cent of Premier League players are English.

The abundance of talented young Germans at every club has contributed to an extraordinary Bundesliga season, with fancied names like Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and Schalke confined to the bottom half. When second-placed Bayer Leverkusen played leaders Borussia Dortmund recently, there were 16 German players on the pitch and only one who was older than 22. "When you have these young players, even if they lose, fans treat them in a different way because they run and they fight," said Bierhoff.

When Germany set about their work, Klinsmann and Bierhoff made a good relationship between the national set-up and the Bundesliga a fundamental target. "That was crucial," he said. "I think the development of [Bastian] Schweinsteiger, [Philipp] Lahm and [Thomas] Müller would not have been the same at the club if they had not played in the national side. Each helps each other. A national team is a national icon, the property of people in Germany."

But restoring the values of the pre-superstar era was equally significant, he said. "We found that [the young players] just threw their kit on the floor after training. On the one hand, these are spoilt kids – but we created this situation. For 15 years we have done everything for them, driving them around, everything done perfectly for them. We wanted them to change but we wanted to give them initiative. Now they divide up the socks, the shirts."

While Capello has left Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce to battle with club managers to release Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll and Kyle Walker for this summer's European Championships, Bierhoff passionately argued the merit of players playing both Under-21s and seniors. "If you let them feel by communicating that it is very important for their development and their personality that they have a good Under-21 tournament, they do well. It is now a very good thing for us in the [2010] World Cup that a lot of our players... all played together in the Under-21 side."

Bierhoff added Germany is also seeking to tackle the problem of the Champions League assuming greater importance to players than internationals. "We don't pay our players anywhere near what they get for their clubs so it is more a matter of pride at being selected among the 20-23 best players in the country. We tried to develop something which you can feel now – someone who is excluded from the group, wants to get back into the squad.

"This is not only because of the success of the group but also about how we work together, how we feel together, how the relationships are between the players but also with our co-workers and also with the coaches."
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