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“My work is important, not my job title”

Hertha’s new Sporting Director Arne Friedrich spoke about his new role, as well as challenges and the goals for the new season.

Arne Friedrich has been known for many years as a long-time Hertha player, captain and national team player. After his playing career came to an end, the former defensive specialist returned to Berlin as Performance Manager, and will hold the post of Sporting Director in the coming season. In the future, Friedrich will put his sporting skills into everyday life, while helping Managing Director for Sport Michael Preetz with his work. “The division of jobs is clear, Michael Preetz is my supervisor. I see it as a good thing that he has brought additional sporting skills into the club,” said Friedrich, who emphasised moreover that, “We have already worked well together in the past few weeks. We don’t always agree, but that’s what cooperation is all about.” Like his boss, Arne Friedrich will have a seat on the bench in the future. How he sees his role, which challenges he’s expecting, and which goals he is setting, were revealed on Monday (29.06.20) in a virtual press conference.

Arne Friedrich on…

…the new job: In the past, a lot has been discussed about the role of a Performance Manager, which is an established role in the USA. Under Jürgen Klinsmann, the role was to assess where there was potential that could still be tapped into. This applies both on and off the pitch, as well as for each of the players individually. As Sporting Director, I am now the link between the manager and head coaching team, and the team itself. I am informed about the squad planning, but also about any strategic issues that come up, and also personal management. It’s a great challenge, and one that I’m really looking forward to.

the title of “Sporting Director”: We only spoke about this for the first time right at the end. Firstly, it was about the areas of responsibility which best suited the job description of a sporting director. At the end of the day though, it’s not about the title at all, it’s about what work I’m doing here. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what I’ll be judged on.

…the return to a club he’d spent many years at: I’ve tried over the past few years to learn as much as I can in a variety of different areas. This allowed me to bring some inputs with me. Hertha has very high importance in my life. I’ve spent unbelievably great years here, I became a national team player here, in the end it’s like completing the circle. Working with everyone else is a lot of fun. This is a great position, with which I can do a lot of work and make changes. I would also like to work on the club culture, and there’s still a lot to be done in any case.


…differences in working with Bruno Labbadia as opposed to Jürgen Klinsmann: Both are essentially very different types of coach. Jürgen Klinsmann brought two assistant managers with him in 2006, and they did the work on the pitch. Klinsmann was a big picture coach, and tried to broaden the horizons. I’ve known Bruno Labbadia since my playing days at Bielefeld. We got on very well with each other, I was very impressed with how obsessed he was with winning. He was always working, even after training, he would keep on working. As a coach here, I know him as a workhorse. He starts working early and comes home late in the evenings. Bruno is totally structured, he has a very concrete plan and has also brought together a really functional team. You can see they have a clear style, on the pitch, but also in the dressing room. I’ve already seen a couple of coaches and I think they do amazing jobs. 

…the upcoming plans for the squad: I will be involved with the managing director for sport, the coaches and the scouts. We have been looking around for a while now, but it’s a unique time. Nobody knows how prices will develop and nobody knows who will sell players. The transfer window will be open for longer, so we may sign players late on. There are a number of uncertainties – players like Lucas Tousart haven’t played a game in months. That’s the case for every team though. I’m interested to see how the transfer market develops.

…wage limits and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic: It’s obviously something that will come up and will be discussed after it was mentioned at Schalke. I’m used to it from the US, where a salary cap is commonplace in many different sports. Corona has had a big impact – clubs have had a tough time financially trying to survive. I have to pay the DFL a huge compliment as they ensured that everything went swimmingly with their health concept. A lot of great work was done there. The Bundesliga took on a leadership role and the other countries have now followed suit. We’re now on holiday – I’m excited to see how the other leagues will be.

...the 2019/20 season: We have had some really turbulent months. I never lost contact with Hertha during my time in the States. I regularly came to the stadium when I was in Berlin. Jürgen Klinsmann contacted me one day and asked if I’d like to be part of his team. I did it mainly for the club though, as Michael Preetz, Paul Keuter and our president Werner Gegenbauer had often given me signs that they’d like me to come back to Hertha BSC. A few things came together at the end of last year and I ended up in my role. That wasn’t my plan at that time. Hertha were in a precarious situation at that moment and I wanted to play my part in the fight against relegation. We don’t need to talk about how difficult that time was. Things became even more complicated with another change of coach and Corona. I think everyone who has worked for the club should be given some praise. The way we started after the break and a two-week quarantine was impressive – also thanks to the new coaching team and Bruno Labbadia. We took 10 from a possible 12 points from the first four games and that was the basis for our survival. We have started to build something now and we’re now working on a more stress-free season next time. We’re pleased to start afresh, as there has been a lot of turmoil in the club this season.

 …about the goals for the new season: We fought against relegation for a long time and finally got out of that battle in the last few games. First of all, we want to be in a calmer area of the table and work on improving our quality. Of course, we want to get back up the table, but we’ll see if that’s possible in the upcoming season. In any case, we’ll work really, really hard, in order to play high quality football.

 …his sporting goals: Of course I’m primarily responsible for the first-team players. But perhaps I can also bring something to the youth set-up in terms of the mentality. We have lots of great young talents, and we can look to get the most out of them by developing their characters. That’s what I’ll be looking to do. Hertha has a great academy. We have to try to play good football, whilst at the same time giving something back.

 …the Arne Friedrich Foundation: That’s still going. We have a board of trustees and a support group, who have done an incredible amount of work over the past few weeks. Nothing will change in that regard; I will continue to supervise, perhaps not as hands-on as before, but the foundation does a lot for me. I have learnt to be grateful and I want to give something back through my work.

…his plans for the summer and his house in the USA: Of course I won’t be giving my second home away. I have friends who can check on it, air it out and turn on the taps. I will also take a small vacation, but I will remain on call. We will drive to France to unwind a bit. The last few months have been very full-on. Spending a few days by the sea will do me good. 

…the new job: In the past, a lot has been discussed about the role of a Performance Manager, which is an established role in the USA. Under Jürgen Klinsmann, the role was to assess where there was potential that could still be tapped into. This applies both on and off the pitch, as well as for each of the players individually. As Sporting Director, I am now the link between the manager and head coaching team, and the team itself. I am informed about the squad planning, but also about any strategic issues that come up, and also personal management. It’s a great challenge, and one that I’m really looking forward to.        

Teams, 29.11.2020
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