VfB Stuttgart hopes to stay in the league with CEO Wehrle

NAlexander Wehrle lived in the Rhineland for nine years, where he worked as CEO of 1. FC Köln. As a Swabian, it is a time of great deprivation, especially in culinary terms, as Wehrle, who was born in Bietigheim-Bissingen, emphasizes. To the north of Frankfurt – apart from Berlin – there are usually not enough pretzels and maultaschen.

When Wehrle returned to VfB Stuttgart at the end of March as a replacement for Thomas Hitzlsperger as CEO, he was primarily in need of specialties from home. “I have a lot to catch up with there,” the 47-year-old says. That is why he now often eats Maultaschen in all varieties in the club restaurant.

The stakes are high

On the last day of the match, VfB will meet Cologne in their home arena on Saturday (15.30 in FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky). Of all things. While the Rhinelanders will be allowed to play internationally in the coming season, it is up to Stuttgart to stay in the Bundesliga. For Wehrle, this is a special match after eventful years in FC.

But he does not get sentimental, there is too much at stake for that. “The only thing that matters to me is that we get three points,” he says. If his team wins and Hertha BSC loses in Dortmund, Stuttgart would move up to 15th place and secure another season in the Bundesliga.

“A felt bag in felt”

Wehrle is convinced that this constellation will become a reality. Above all, the 2-2 victory over champions FC Bayern increased the players’ confidence. “Momentum is on our side,” he says. But one problem that has so far reliably followed the Stuttgart team is the lack of exploitation of chances. Until now, the VfB players have wasted a lot when it comes to scoring opportunities, and at times they almost grotesquely missed the goal, including in the match in Munich.

It is therefore not surprising that striker Sasa Kalajdzic afterwards said “that we feel like a lucky bag”. No one knows what to expect at VfB before the match, even the players are often a mystery. After they seemed to have come to terms with the relegation against the second division third party, it is now possible to remain in the class directly. “If anyone can create something like that, it’s us,” Kalajdzic claims.

Wehrle, on the other hand, classifies everything less dramatically, the players often played very decent football, he says, “but the results were lacking”. He does not want to pass on insider knowledge about Cologne.

Head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and his analysis team have gathered enough knowledge and data and researched the opponent thoroughly: “They do not need any hints from me.”

Matarazzo’s relegation future open

The CEO does not want to talk about a possible relegation of VfB, but he has of course related to the scenario. Stuttgart has applied for the license for both the first and second divisions.

In the event of relegation, they want to return to the Bundesliga immediately. Whether with Matarazzo and sports director Sven Mislintat is still open. An assessment of the overall situation is made after the season, Wehrle says.

It would be easier for the club to get continuity and more calm in the squad planning if it stayed in the Bundesliga. However, VfB is dependent on transfer income, so Kalajdzic and left-back Borna Sosa are likely to leave VfB this summer. “If players want to take the next step, we have to accept it,” Wehrle says.

As CEO, it is important for him that he strategically places VfB in the coming years in such a way that the club again becomes attractive to financially strong companies.

In addition to reliability and sporting success, this is achieved above all by not only appointing young players from our own youth to the squad on the professional team, but also developing them in such a way that they ideally become regular players there.

“It has to become one of our qualities again,” Wehrle says. The potential is there. The B-Juniors recently lost to FC Schalke in the final of the German championship, and the A-Juniors are in the final of the cup against Dortmund.

Wehrle himself was once so talented as a young winger for TV Möglingen that he could have switched to VfB after a trial session. But his parents had other plans, the boy studied after high school and community service and then started in 2003 – for the benefit of the parents – as a trained administrative researcher at VfB as an adviser to then-president Erwin Staudt.

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Wehrle experienced the championship in 1992 as a fan. On Saturday against 1. FC Köln, the team will wear a special jersey that is very reminiscent of the one from the 1991/92 championship season. The campaign was planned long in advance, but they are a bit superstitious at VfB. The team wore special jerseys four times this season and won four times with them.

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