Jörg Schmadtke is one of the most respected sporting directors in German football, thanks to a career spanning over 20 years. - © IMAGO/Darius Simka/IMAGO/regios24
Jörg Schmadtke is one of the most respected sporting directors in German football, thanks to a career spanning over 20 years. - © IMAGO/Darius Simka/IMAGO/regios24

Who is Jörg Schmadtke? Everything you need to know about the former Wolfsburg, Cologne and Hannover sporting director


In German football, the role of sporting director is one of the most important at any club - if you want success, a strong, reliable and resilient person in that position is crucial. Few have had a career as long as Jörg Schmadtke's, but who exactly is the former Wolfsburg, Cologne and Hannover chief? bundesliga.com gives you the lowdown...

The player

Before moving behind the scenes, Schmadtke forged a decent playing career as a goalkeeper. He made his debut for Fortuna Düsseldorf in 1985 as Die Flingeraner suffered a 4-0 defeat to Bayern Munich and was on the books at Freiburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach before hanging up his gloves in 1998. Overall, he played 266 times in the Bundesliga and 109 times in the Bundesliga 2, contributing to two third-place top-flight finishes.

The big break

Immediately after retiring, Schmadtke became Rainer Bonhof's assistant at Gladbach for a year before taking up the goalkeeping coach position at Düsseldorf on a short-term basis in 2001. Later that year, Alemannia Aachen, one of Germany's oldest clubs, found themselves in considerable financial trouble in Bundesliga 2. There were even concerns they could lose their licence until Schmadtke was hired for the first time as a sporting firector in December.

Schmadtke between the sticks for Fortuna Düsseldorf during his playing days. - /

Through the 59-year-old's tireless work, the club's situation stabilised and, in 2004, they qualified for the UEFA Cup despite still being in the second tier after reaching the DFB Cup final - they were ultimately beaten 3-2 by Werder Bremen in the showpiece. A year later, Aachen earned promotion to the Bundesliga and, although they lasted just 12 months in the top flight, Schmadtke's star was clearly on the rise.

Since then

Schmadtke left Aachen in 2008 and spent four years in Hannover between 2009 and 2013. Again, Schmadtke had a significant impact, helping Die Roten consolidate themselves as a healthy Bundesliga club - they secured a top-four finish in 2009/10, earning a first UEFA Europa League participation the following term.

Then, one of Germany's biggest and most traditional outfits came calling in Cologne, where Schmadtke again spent four years after being appointed in 2013. Within a year of his arrival, Cologne were promoted back to the Bundesliga and qualified for the UEFA Europa League in 2017. Die Geißböcke were going through a difficult period before Schmadtke rocked up, but the latter's Midas touch worked wonders and convinced Wolfsburg to snap him up in 2018.

Schmadtke on the bench during his time at Hannover. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

There were ups and down during his five-year stint at the Volkswagen Arena, but his know-how and work ethic never wavered, and his retirement in January 2023 brought to an end the career of one of the most respected senior figures in the Bundesliga.

The best signings

The transfer market is often difficult to navigate, but Schmadtke has succeeded more than most. Ron-Robert Zieler was signed under the director's watch in 2010 at Hannover and is still at the club - he is now the captain and has even earned six caps for Germany, winning the 2014 World Cup.

Lars Stindl, Didier Ya Konan, Mame Biram Diouf and Wout Weghorst all impressed for Hannover and Wolfsburg respectively, but Anthony Modeste, who Schmadtke purchased for Cologne in 2015, is his masterpiece. The Frenchman had impressed in fits and bursts at Hoffenheim, but it was in North Rhine-Westphalia that he flourished, scoring 79 in 157 matches across two spells, including 25 Bundesliga strikes during the 2016/17 campaign as Cologne clinched their best league finish in a quarter of a century.

Watch: Anthony Modeste's stunning goal for Cologne against Bayern during the 2016/17 campaign

What they said

Schmadtke has many admirers, including former Borussia Dortmund and current Liverpool head coach Jürgen Klopp. Speaking earlier this year upon Schmadtke's departure from the sport, the 55-year-old said, "I would have liked to work with him, I'm sure it would have worked out well. He's a top character, somebody who never changed in 38 years and stayed true to himself. He'll be missed by football".

While the two have yet to work with each other professionally, they are both good friends of the legendary German rock band Die Toten Hosen and are, therefore, well acquainted.

Despite never working together professionally, Schmadtke and Jürgen Klopp (l-r.) are good friends. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

Seasoned head coach Dieter Hecking knows a thing or two about sporting directors and, having worked with Schmadtke in Aachen and Hannover, is all too aware of his ex-boss' strong-willed character. However, upon his former colleague's Wolfsburg appointment in 2018, he had nothing but praise.

"Jörg has always made a lot out of a little," he said. "In Aachen, for example, he took over the club shortly before it would have gone bankrupt, then switched to Hannover during a difficult phase. His last stop in Cologne wasn't easy either. He can quickly give structures back to clubs that are not doing well. He is ready to confront problems and is definitely not a yes-man."