“I’ve always liked the Bundesliga a lot - it’s a fascinating league,” he told assembled journalists at his official unveiling. “Teams in the Bundesliga play a very high tempo brand of football and the stadiums are always packed. You can really sense how passionate the fans are about the game in Germany.”
Di Matteo isn’t the only tactician who has been unable to resist the lure of German football in recent seasons. Indeed, with eight foreign coaches from eight different countries currently plying their trade in the division, the Bundesliga is employing more coaches from abroad than ever before.
Of Europe’s top four leagues, only the English Premier League (12) currently has more foreign head honchos than the Bundesliga. Viktor Skripnik’s appointment as SV Werder Bremen boss last month lifted Germany’s top table above Spain’s Primera Division, which boasts seven non-Spanish coaches, while only four foreign tacticians are contracted to clubs in Italy’s Serie A.
With the league of the world champions broadcast in over 200 nations across the globe, an average of over 42,600 fans flocking through the turnstiles every match and a whopping 967 goals scored in the division last season (just short of the league’s historical best), it’s easy to see why Di Matteo and 1. FSV Mainz 05 head coach Kasper Hjulmand found the pull of the Bundesliga too strong to turn down this year.
It isn’t just on home soil that the country’s top division is continuing to impress, however. A string of emphatic displays by Germany’s European representatives has seen the Bundesliga close the gap on the Premier League in recent weeks. And let’s not forget the 2014 FIFA World Cup: the Bundesliga left an in Brazil, with 77 players dining at Germany’s top table selected to represent their respective nations in South America - 15 of whom ending up getting their hands on the famous trophy in Rio de Janeiro.
‘New ideas and fresh impetus’
As is the case with any perceived foreign invasion in football, one of the questions that constantly seems to pop up is: will the number of imports and appointments from abroad hinder the development of young, homegrown players and coaches? In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com in the wake of Pep Guardiola’s appointment as FC Bayern München head coach, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Germany legend Günter Netzer explained why he felt the number of foreign bosses in the division will only help it in the long run.
“I think we need some new ideas in Germany,” he said. “That can only come through foreign coaches who favour a different style of play and have a different playing philosophy. They definitely provide a fresh impetus to the league.” With the likes of Mainz, Mönchengladbach, Hannover 96, 1. FC Köln and Hertha Berlin - to name but a few - all flourishing under foreign leadership, it’s hard to disagree.