Bierhoff: Why Germany treats players like 'independent entrepreneurs'

Bierhoff has been Germany's general manager since 2004

Bierhoff has been Germany's general manager since 2004

GERMANY team manager Oliver Bierhoff says modern players are ‘independent entrepreneurs’ who will not accept the ‘command and control’ style of leadership.

Bierhoff, who has been in post since 2004, said the days of strict hierarchies and players having to blindly follow orders have long gone.

“The new generation does not just want to execute, they want to shape things themselves, understand them and tackle challenges,” he told Adidas’s Gameplan A.

“For young people especially, we can provide them with individual help in conceptional and structural areas. For example we can help young players find their own personal career path in the national team.

“But players are also individuals. There are some players with whom you can conduct tough analyses and give very clear instructions, while with others this needs to happen in a gentler, more personable manner.

“Every team member has their own plan and individual career. If you are in an ambitious department, every member will also want to follow their own path. You’re all working towards a common goal, but everyone also has their own plan. A football team works like a business unit.

“For a long time it has been more than just 11 friends who go for a beer together after the game. They are work colleagues from different countries, with different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.

“Professional soccer players are a kind of independent entrepreneur and have to think about the path they’re taking, even during their active career. Are they going to hire a chef or physiotherapist? How are they going to position themselves in their personal marketing? How do they organise their private life?

“Getting out of their own surroundings and meeting other young entrepreneurs who are taking a risk and have their own convictions is immensely important.”

Bierhoff, who scored the winning goal for Germany in the final of Euro ’96, compared the national team of 2004 - which needed a lot of direction from above - to the side that won the World Cup in 2014.

“In 2004, we were in a significant rebuilding phase,” he explained. “We [the management] had to provide the motto and the way forward.

“Ten years on we were a team of much more mature players. We were able to move away from the basics. The mood and the atmosphere were generated by the team. That’s how it should work in an ideal world.

“It’s the little things that make the difference, not always just the big bombshell. The sum of the details that are lived out constantly creates interesting things and a sustainable change in the team culture.

“And here the leading players play a decisive role. They must be completely convinced of the vision. Without them it won’t work. Because these players carry and shape the culture too.

“I am not a fan of just writing a few buzzwords on posters. If there is no energy or life behind the culture, it will never become established in a team. You have to be convinced of your principle and live them daily. You have to exude them.”

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