Berlin, 24 January 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Hertha Berlin have parted company with coach Bruno Labbadia and long-serving manager Michael Preetz, the Bundesliga club have confirmed, after the crisis club suffered a 4-1 home debacle against Werder Bremen on Saturday.
The Berliners are 14th and just two points above the relegation play-off place after a terrible run of form brought only one win in the last eight games.
Pal Dardai, who coached Hertha 2015-2019 and has most recently been a youth coach at the club, could take the reins again but Hertha said they would make a decision on their new boss in the coming days.
Sport director Arne Friedrich, a former Hertha defender, will step in for Preetz until the end of the season, the club said.
“Bruno Labbadia and his coaching team have put a lot of work into the development of the team week for week,” said Carsten Schmidt, Hertha’s executive chairman. “But at the end we had to acknowledge that with 17 points from 18 games we’re in a very serious situation.
“Therefore after a period of reflection we have decided to bring a new impulse with a change of coach.”
Labbadia leaves after nine months having been appointed in April 2020. He led the club out of relegation trouble when the season resumed from the coronavirus suspension but failed to build on that this term.
Preetz, a legendary Hertha striker, has been with the club for a quarter-century and manager for nearly 11 years but paid the price for the continual failure to establish the club in the upper part of the table.
Fans protested against his leadership before Saturday’s game with Bremen proved the final straw.
Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer paid tribute to Preetz, who also said he was “incredibly thankful” for the many years spent at the “club of his heart.”
The team did not score in three recent matches against lowly Arminia Bielefeld, Cologne and Hoffenheim, and though they finally found the net again against fellow strugglers Bremen, the hammering prompted a change of course.
The results are in stark contrast to statements from new managing director Carsten Schmidt who said recently that January was the month to get the campaign back on track as Hertha aim to transform themselves into a ‘Big City Club’ capable of challenging.
Labbadia, 54, could not continue the upward trend of from his appointment and this season Hertha struggled from the outset instead of eyeing the upper regions and a Champions League berth – the ultimate goal of their investor Lars Windhorst who has poured some 375 million euros (454 million dollars) into the club.
Labbadia was reportedly at odds with Preetz as Hertha didn’t fully reinvigorate their squad in summer despite the departure of key players including Vedad Ibisevic and Per Skjelbred.
German World Cup hero Mario Goetze was mentioned but joined Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, and Matteo Guendouzi was the most prominent arrival, on loan from Arsenal.
Labbiadia said that the team needs some time to find its footing but this ran out for the coach whose original contract was until 2022.
That Preetz, 53, joins him in heading for the exit is more of a surprise given his status within the club from his playing days but club bosses decide drastic changes were required.