Ismail Atalan replaces ousted Gertjan Verbeek at Bochum
Ismail Atalan replaces ousted Gertjan Verbeek at Bochum. | Photo: VfL Bochum.

VfL Bochum announced on Tuesday that they have parted company with coach Gertjan Verbeek just 17 days before their first match of the 2. Bundesliga season.

However they have wasted no time in replacing him, with Ismail Atalan’s appointment confirmed later in the day. He arrives following a successful spell in charge of Sportfreunde Lotte, and signs a contract until 2019.

His first competitive game in charge will be against FC St. Pauli in just over two weeks’ time.

Verbeek reign appears to end in bad blood

Whilst the announcement that Verbeek had left came as a shock, it wasn’t a surprise, with his relationship with the club’s board believed to have been fraught for some time. The inference from the club’s statements regarding his departure is that things did not end well between them.

The Dutchman had had a reasonably successful spell in charge of Bochum. After taking over in December 2014, they looked on course for a return to the Bundesliga in the early weeks of the 2015-16 season after winning their first five games.

They couldn’t keep that form up though, and eventually finished fifth that season. Damaged by the loss of top scorer Simon Terodde, they didn’t make the same impact the following year, although Verbeek guided them to ninth place and relative safety.

He will not be given another crack though, with the club confirming his exit in a short statement. Sporting CEO Christian Hochstätter admitted that the timing was “surprising,” however despite the “professional qualities” of Verbeek, they felt that “there were too many differences” in opinion between Verbeek and the board.

When pushed on the reasons for Verbeek’s departure during the press conference unveiling his successor, Hochstätter refused to be drawn further. “I thanked Gertjan Verbeek for two-and-a-half years of fantastic work, but the club decided that we should separate and continue with a new coach,” he said.

Atalan and Bochum share footballing philosophy

There will be high hopes that the man they’ve chosen to replace him will make a big impact though, with 37-year-old Atalan having made a big impression during his two-and-a-half years with Lotte.

He guided them to the Regionalliga West title in his first full season with the club, which was then backed up with promotion to the 3. Liga following a two-legged win against SV Waldhof Mannheim in a play-off.

Whilst they fell short of a promotion push last year, eventually finishing twelfth, they made huge waves in the DFB-Pokal, knocking out Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen and 1860 Munich before finally succumbing to Borussia Dortmund in their re-arranged quarter-final.

As a result of that run, Atalan earned himself plenty of admirers, Bochum amongst them, and Hochstätter revealed at his unveiling that they had first spoken with him in January. He feels that his preferred way of playing “fits into our philosophy” and he expects that the new man will “continue to develop our team on the existing foundations.”

Atalan, who had to abort a planned three-day internship with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City once Bochum made their move, spoke similarly about the shared footballing ideas. “I like to see positive football, we always want to be offensive, dominant and powerful,” he explained. He added that the opportunity to do this with Bochum is why he has taken the job.

Quotes via VfL Bochum and Kicker.