“It’s always all about staying true to ourselves”


Sporting director Klemens Hartenbach on the winter transfers, bad luck with injuries and squad planning for SCF from the 3. Liga to the Europa League.

Mr. Hartenbach, are you relieved to have brought in another central defender, Attila Szalai, late on in the winter transfer window because of our large number of injuries?

Hartenbach: We were already hit by the long absence of Philipp Lienhart and the even longer absences of Kenneth Schmidt and Max Rosenfelder. And even though we managed to get a player in for the second half of the season in Attila, we’re still quite short-staffed now. But you can’t plan in advance for so many injuries.

The many injuries did also result in young players like Jordy Makengo, Merlin Röhl and Noah Weißhaupt getting a lot of game time, and impressing.

Hartenbach: Of course I’m really pleased about the development of the young players who’ve been able to gain so much experience. No one can take that away from them. And that’s really good for us, in particular when you’re not just thinking about the current season, which I can never let myself do. Previously, you’d maybe have thought: oh my God, it’d be awful if one player or another got injured. We don’t have to think like that anymore. That’s definitely a positive.

Florent Muslija was also signed in the winter, after a bit of perseverance.

Hartenbach: That is on one hand a reaction to the current situation with a few players, and on the other we wanted to bring him in as soon as possible to give him what he himself wants: becoming a real Bundesliga player at the second attempt, after his time at Hannover.

He described himself as “fast, lively and tricky” in an interview on the SCF website.

Hartenbach: This type of player has always suited us well. He’s a multi-faceted attacking player who can create chances in the final third and also go for goal himself. Now it’s about striking the balance between wanting to play direct and having a bit of patience. That’s the hurdle everyone has to clear. And we’re hoping that we’ve set him up well to do that in the conversations we’ve had.

Particularly after the first half of the season and with young talents such as Noah Atubolu, Jordy Makengo, Merlin Röhl and Noah Weißhaupt in mind, it should be easy for SC to put figures on the table in these discussions to prove how many players have made the jump into the first team here each year.

Hartenbach: A higher percentage of players have been called into the first team ranks than before. On the other hand, the competition has not decreased either. By that, I’m referring to the teams with a higher financial backing such as Manchester City or Chelsea, who make connections with feeder clubs, where players tend to move to. For example, if Man City come calling with their City Football Group behind them, as a young player, I wouldn’t know whether I'll be playing for Girona or somewhere else. Now, they’ve built up such a strong network that they can easily find an opening for the player to get minutes and play at an appropriate level. As a big club, you have to say to the player: Come to us, but next year you won’t get any opportunities to play – just hang in there. We, on the other hand, can tell them: If you come to us, you have a great chance to get some minutes. With this in mind, it’s getting increasingly more difficult for us.

With this situation in mind, is it tough to see the second team sat at the bottom of the 3. Liga?

Hartenbach: I still remember when FC Bayern’s second team won the third division, and were then relegated the following year. We were the runners-up, and are now sat in last place half a year later, so we were fully aware that something like that was possible. It’s still too early to come to any conclusions. Ultimately, it’s great to be playing in the 3. Liga. On the other hand, going back and forth between the Europa League and games in the 3rd division is a demanding task for everyone at the club, also in terms of selecting the squad and recruiting new players. At the end of the day, we want to remain united and not have a club within a club. You can’t hold anything against the boys who have moved on. If you play so successfully in the 3rd division and handle things the way we do - with an appealing personnel policy and contracts that are not too long, giving the players the opportunity to take the plunge as a training club - then it's simply the logical way to go. If, for example, Philipp Treu notices that he hasn’t made the jump to the first team at the age of 20 or 21, he wants out of the 3. Liga or at least out of our second team, and then second and third-division sides lie in wait.

Is it at least a consolation for you to watch this year’s Pokal quarter-final between St.Pauli and Düsseldorf and see, in Philipp Treu, Carlo Boukhalfa, Vincent Vermeij, Yannik Engelhardt and Christoph Daferner, five players who made their breakthrough at SC Freiburg II?

Hartenbach: Definitely. That’s why we do it! That accounts for a lot of what I like about the job.  And that’s also a big part of why SC Freiburg are in such a good place as a club. I’m not just pleased with the big transfers like Çağlar Söyüncü, Mark Flekken or Kevin Schade. It gives me at least as much satisfaction to see players who’ve come through the second team.

If the second team gets relegated, will SC try to get promoted back to the 3. Liga straight away?

Hartenbach: If that happens, then we will attack things again. The 3. Liga is an awesome platform for young players. They really look forward to the opposition, attention and stadiums. However, accepting relegation to a lower division is a real challenge. It’s always important for us to offset being in a less than ideal division, as is currently the case with the U19s, through a very good individual programme – that’s what academy coaches such as Flumi (Johannes Flum; editor’s note), Felix Roth and Julian Schuster, who are close with the players, help with. We tell them: Hey, you’re playing a level lower than ideal at the weekend, but that doesn’t change anything in terms of the demands and approach to work during the week. There is no let up. At SC Freiburg, getting relegated with a team doesn’t mean that your development worsens. Instead, it goes in the opposite direction.

Did you consider delving into the transfer market for the second team in winter?

Hartenbach: We always consider all options. There’s always the question: What are you telling your own players by doing that? What can you do in winter without things blowing up in your face in summer? It’s a balancing act. We hope that we can ease the pressure on players like Fabian Rüdlin, Mika Baur and Maximilian Breunig staying with the group permanently with the two winter transfers for the first-team squad and the corresponding returnees from the injury list. With us, it’s always all about staying true to ourselves and not doing anything self-destructive that you wouldn’t feel comfortable about when you go home in the evening.

In terms of new signings for the first team, does the fact that it’s well known that SC are doing well financially actually make your job harder?

Hartenbach: I sometimes receive emails or letters which ask: Do you actually want to stash the money away? Spend the money, you’ve got it. However, that’s too short-sighted. Players who we sign for €15 million wouldn’t fit into our salary structure anymore. You’ve got to think twice about at what points you start to change something through a better financial position that you’ve developed. It’s a real step forward for us to be able to convince one or two players to stay in Freiburg. It’s crucial that we’re able to promptly extend the contracts of the boys who are linchpins for us. We didn’t manage to do that often previously. That’s possibly underappreciated a little bit by some people, but it’s of great value to us.


Photo: Achim Keller

Your web browser ist outdated.
The web browser you are using is no longer supported.
Please download one of these free and up to date browsers.
Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge
Chrome Firefox Edge
Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
MS Edge
Why should I use an up to date web browser?
Newer web browsers provide better protection against malware, data theft and other threats to your privacy and security. Up to date browsers continuously close security holes that allow attackers to enter your computer.
New Technologies
The technologies used on modern websites are better supported by newer web browsers. This both increases functionality and improves the website layout. By benefiting from new functions and extensions you will be able to surf the web faster and easier.