Christian Keeler (43) has been responsible for the sporting fortunes of 1. FC Köln since April. The kicker spoke to the former Regensburger about the opportunities and problems of the “billion goats”.
The conversation took place before Borussia Dortmund’s perceived interest in midfielder Salih Ozkan, 24, became public. The local player must change for about five million euros. An amount that seems relatively small considering the recent performances of the Turkish International Championship. However, when it was shown, no club had ever paid for Ozkan. His development under coach Stephen Baumgart now makes him a bargain for BVB.
It is said that Geißbockheim’s energy costs have been on the rise for a good four weeks because the lights in your office are always on until at least 10pm. Will an overview be posted soon?
Not as much as I imagined.
Because I spend a lot of time during the day having conversations. This is mostly not possible within 20 minutes. I’ve spoken to each player personally. Sometimes it was a little faster with the younger players, with the more experienced players I talked to sometimes for up to an hour and a half. I really wanted to take this time. To do this, I sat down with each department head and introduced myself to each committee, and of course I participated in various committee meetings. This is all very important, but of course not a time when I work productively. That’s why it takes some time to get to know the details.
Are you a careful boss?
Yes, I would say that.
Do you like being noisy? Or rather the emphatic type?
I like to organize things on the level of facts. If my voice is loud, it will go to medium. And if someone does not want it to be as I imagine it to be, I will not have to raise my voice – a few quiet but unambiguously pronounced words will suffice.
How did Cologne welcome you?
Friendly, open and helpful. I am so happy.
How do you see the differences with Jan Regensburg?
There are more staff and more committees, so there is also a greater need for coordination. But I was just as aware of it as the fact that the club sometimes worked on topics that weren’t even in Regensburg.
Here, for example, there is a corporate development department. Innovations introduced by colleagues were sometimes not relevant in the development phase of SSV Jahn.
To what extent are you still educated and to what extent are you really a decision maker?
I decide on sports.
They sat in the press box during home matches. Do you like sitting among the professionals?
(laughs) It’s quiet over there, you can see very well. Jörg Jacobs gave me the tip, and we sat next to each other. This is perfect. Hope I can keep the place.
In your introductory press conference, you called participating in the international competition “Ice on the Cake”. Now a triple burden, the stress of travel, a possibly disappointing elimination from the awaited playoffs. Is there still a hole in the cherry to choke so badly?
Basically, I try to think in terms of opportunities. For me, the glass is always half full. There is no substitute for optimism for me. It’s great to play internationally – for me personally too, I’m experiencing it for the first time. This is also a first for the entire coaching team. We are all looking forward to it and seeing how far we can go.
Cologne is literally eager to extend the contract with Stephen Baumgart and his team. How far are the talks?
We sat and exchanged our positions. Fortunately, they were identical. Stephen made a clear commitment that he would like to continue the mission here. And then I said on behalf of all the directors of the football club that we also want to continue. Now it comes to pouring that into a mould. It’s absolutely positive that Stephen looks at upcoming missions the same way we do.
Last season should not hide the fact that we still lacked the substance to land regularly in a European competition.
In the medium term, we will have to position ourselves as a development club.
A club that usually brings in players who are not big names in the Bundesliga and have yet to give any evidence of their quality there. Players who may come from the lower leagues or have been in the Bundesliga squad but have played only a little. Bringing these players forward accordingly, and developing them, that is our primary mission.
setbacks taken into account?
You belong. However, we want to avoid it at best of course.
What are the specific sports goals?
First of all, last season should not hide the fact that we currently lack the substance to land regularly in a European competition. This is neither financially nor infrastructurally feasible. So we don’t go into the season and say we want to finish seventh or better. We want to increase the stability of our performance. Expressed in numbers: we want to get 40 points as quickly as possible and then we’ll see how many games are left to play next.
Known for his emotional outbursts: Stephen Baumgart.
IMAGO / Ebner
You are very different from the coach in your outward appearance. Do opposites attract or fly sparks?
We haven’t known each other for a long time. Let’s put it this way: when we played Paderborn with Regensburg, he was not my favorite side opponent during the match (laughs). But before and after the game, I always found Stephen very cute because he’s so different from what he appears to be in public. A reflective person seeks and accepts feedback. And when the feelings dry up after the match, he analyzes clearly and realistically. We don’t differ much there.
He is not a manager who puts pressure on the club and is constantly asking for new players. How important is it to have a coach who thinks economically?
It is very important for the coach to say that things are the way they are. Then try to make the most of it. Stephen is a football coach and sees his most important task as helping the players improve. From the best player to number 27 in the team. I think that’s what makes a better coach.
Can you also see Hanover Linton Maina’s signature on this side?
Linton is a potential player, a development player who brings qualities that must be objectively sufficient to continually assert himself at a first-class level. He is lightning fast, can run into the depths and go one-on-one. In addition, it is dangerous.
What I rarely show…
Linton has areas for development that we have clearly discussed with him and he will work on with the technical staff.
He must now have the right coach.
I said there was no alternative to the path I took? How is that?
So that we don’t hit the wall financially. The handbrake is on, but we’re still rolling. Our mission is to make FC healthy again in the medium term and to make it effective at all levels.
You talked about the necessary savings, 12 million euros is a lot of wood. How does this work?
I can’t promise it will work. On the one hand, we will get cheap players, and on the other hand we will give up one or another player. But we won’t offend anyone here. This is not my idea of driving. If you act right, you will be treated right. This also includes displaying each player’s perspective transparently. Then everyone has to decide for themselves if they want to follow our path – even at the risk of not playing as much.
Must stay in Cologne: Anthony Modeste.
IMAGO / Sports Photo Pack
What about top performing sales?
You will see who opens the market.
To Tony Modest?
His athletic status is undisputed. When it comes to braces, we have a lump formation. Big block, this is from Tony. And a few of them are small. It’s great to have a player who scores a lot. But it would be nice to have a few besides who scored eight to twelve goals. We don’t have that yet. But I think Mark Uth is good at scoring eight to twelve goals. As for Tony, we want him to stay. Not only because of goals, but also because they are important to the dressing room. He knows we want to keep him. But he also knows that we are not currently in a financial position to extend his contract.
Is it before?
He smiled as he left my office (smiles).
They have the term “salary cap” attached to them. Is this supposed to be a way to make savings?
We never talked about a specific number – and we didn’t talk about it internally either. Regardless, every club has a salary cap. The only question that remains is how high it will be. What we don’t have here is a clear salary structure.
How should that look?
To put it tritely: there are the best performers who are at the top of the structure. Then comes the midfield, including potential players and insiders. For each category there is a set of what can be tolerated. This is not the case here. Here a lot of optimists are already paid like the best performer. This is not a sound structure.