Adi Hütter: the man who succeeded Niko Kovac at Eintracht Frankfurt
Adi Hütter has steered Eintracht Frankfurt into the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, and masterminded a credible challenge for a top-four finish with a goal-fuelled style of football that has won as many plaudits as points.
bundesliga.com highlights the work of the little-known Frankfurt boss that has brought his club - and himself - up front and centre stage this season.
Hütter had a lot to live up to when he took over at Frankfurt last summer. Niko Kovac had just won the DFB Cup with the club and was off to Bayern Munich. That the record Bundesliga champions wanted him was testament to how Kovac had turned the Eagles from nosediving into the second tier to soaring in the heady climes of the business end of the table.
Watch: Frankfurt's front three under tactical microscope
"The succession wasn't simple," admitted Frankfurt's sporting director Fredi Bobic. "It shows his courage that he absolutely wanted to do it."
Hütter did. After ending a career in which he had played for Austria at international level, Hütter's life as a coach started in his native country and took him to Red Bull Salzburg where he won the double in the 2014/15 season - his sole campaign in charge - before a three-year stint at Young Boys in Berne that ended with him bringing them a first Swiss title in 32 years.
"You're getting a super coach," said ex-Switzerland international and Frankfurt full-back Christoph Spycher, now part of the backroom staff at Young Boys. But he knew something many in Germany did not with most Bundesliga watchers asking, 'Adi who?'
That few believed in him is perhaps unsurprising given Hütter himself thought he was second-choice at best when he was approached by Bobic. "I was convinced that he would tell me, 'We've decided to go for another coach.'"
The offer of a three-year contract obviously convinced Hütter otherwise, though the doubts must have returned for the man himself - and those who had agreed to employ him - when he made a disastrous start.
The 5-0 DFL Supercup loss to Bayern was followed by Frankfurt becoming the first DFB Cup holders to be dumped out in the first round - the giant-killers being amateur side Ulm - in 22 years. "Of course I'd imagined things would be different," said Hütter.
He wasn't the only one. The start of the Bundesliga season left Frankfurt fans struggling to keep a smile on their faces as Hütter's team picked up just four points from their opening five games. For Hütter, who had rejected moves to Germany as a player and had said he was "fulfilling a boyhood dream in working in the Bundesliga", it was quickly becoming a nightmare.
Bobic's claim that his new coach was a man who has "proven at a number of clubs that with hard work and limited resources, he can extract the maximum. He suits our club perfectly" was also looking as wide of the mark as a badly scuffed spot-kick. Until the moment it didn't.
Hütter revealed, "The board never put me under pressure and showed faith in me" despite calls for his head. The powers-that-be at the Commerzbank Arena held their nerve, and they were soon proved right.
The 4-1 Matchday 6 win over Hannover was the catalyst, spawning an 11-game unbeaten run - including 10 wins - in all competitions. Thirty-nine points out of a possible 60 from the 20 Bundesliga matches that have followed that catastrophic opening quintet have pushed Frankfurt from the brink of the bottom three to within whispering distance of the top four and potential UEFA Champions League qualification.
Hütter's side are actually one point better off but one place further down the table than Kovac's men were at the same stage last season. But 2017/18 was Kovac's second full campaign in charge, and Hütter's side have done it in style: scoring 17 more goals and conceding just three more than last season's squad after 25 games.
While the signing of Kevin Trapp on loan from Paris Saint-Germain has compensated handsomely for the departure of Lukas Hradecky, it is the special chemistry that is part nature, part nurtured by Hütter among his three frontline forwards that has given the team a major boost.
"It's nice as a coach when you know that one of them will always be in a position to score a goal," said Hütter of Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller, a trio as different as they are complementary. And oh so prolific.
They have found the net 37 times between them, putting them in the same bracket as the likes of Paris Saint-Germain's prolific trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, or Liverpool's Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
If his front three keep scoring, the question now is: How far can Hütter take Frankurt? "The Europa League would be the minimum for me, we absolutely have the potential to play in Europe," the Austrian tactician says. Anyone who has seen their performances in continental competition - in which they remain unbeaten - this season as well as their domestic displays is not going to disagree.
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