After almost four years in charge, Dieter Hecking has parted company with VfL Wolfsburg, following the side’s poor start to the season.
His side had struggled to keep up the momentum from their 2014-15 campaign, when they finished second in the Bundesliga and won the DFB-Pokal for the first time. They have won just one league game this season, with Hecking’s final match the 1-0 defeat to RB Leipzig on Sunday.
Valerien Ismael, coach of their under-23 side, will take over as caretaker manager, with his first game in charge against SV Darmstadt 98 on Saturday.
2014-15 the high point of Hecking’s reign
Hecking had established himself as one of Germany’s top managers in his time at the Volkswagen Arena.
The 52-year-old joined the club at the beginning of 2013, following his spell with 1. FC Nürnberg. He made his name as a coach in leading Alemannia Aachen into the top flight, and had also managed Hannover 96, who he joined barely weeks into Aachen’s first Bundesliga season.
He led to club to eleventh by the end of the 2012-13 season, before finishing in fifth, and just a point off the UEFA Champions League the following season.
However it was the 2014-15 season that his side hit their peak, with a side inspired by the likes of Kevin de Bruyne coming closest to Bayern Munich in the league, before beating Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final.
However the club struggled to adapt after De Bruyne left for Manchester City, and despite a run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, their league form dipped, and they finished a comparatively low eighth, outside of the European places.
A new coach needed to provide ‘impulse’
Hecking’s position had been under increasing scrutiny after their poor start to this season. Their only win was in the opening match against FC Augsburg, and in the games that have followed they have scored just twice, and lost 5-1 to Borussia Dortmund in September.
Following the lethargic defeat to Leipzig, the news that he had left by mutual agreement was announced by the club on Monday, with his assistant Dirk Bremser also leaving.
“On a personal level, this move really hurts,” admits sporting director Klaus Allofs in the club’s statement, as for him it was “a great joy” to work with both Hecking and Bremser.
However he also said that “following the recently disappointing performances, we came to the decision that a change in the position as head-coach could provide the necessary impulse within the team.”
Hecking said he is “very disappointed” about his time at the club coming to the end. “I would have liked to continue working with the team and guided them back to winning ways, but I respect the club’s decision,” he added. “We enjoyed great successes together here, which we are very proud of.”
Former Bundesliga champion in temporary charge
He will be replaced, in the short term at least, by Ismael, a former Bundesliga champion as a player with Werder Bremen and Bayern.
He has had two spells managing Wolfsburg’s second team in the Regionalliga Nord, winning the title twice, in 2014 and 2016, although the side missed out in the 3. Liga promotion play-offs on both occasions.
His only first team managerial experience was in a four-month spell with Nürnberg following their relegation to the 2. Bundesliga in 2014. He left after winning just four of his 14 games in charge.
He will take his first training session with the first team on Tuesday. André Villas-Boas, mostly recently with Zenit St. Petersburg, and former Schalke 04 coach André Breitenreiter have been mooted in the German media as possible permanent appointments.
Quotes via VfL Wolfsburg.