Loddar the Bulgar

Statistically, Lothar Matthäus is one of the all-time greats. Holder of the most caps for any German international. Skipper of the winning 1990 World Cup side. The man with the most appearances at World Cup finals. The list goes on.

As much as I will always admire him for leading the Nationalmannschaft in Italia ’90, I never saw Matthäus in much the same way as I did someone like Rudi Völler or Jürgen Klinsmann. He was overly opinionated. A loudmouth. A chameleon. A flake. A footballer who was admired in Germany for his abilities on the field, but never loved. While many other German greats were given nicknames that reflected popular affection or admiration – Tante Käthe, Der Kaiser, Der Bomber – Matthäus was and is rather unaffectionately known as Loddar.

For me Matthäus’ career in football reached its natural end in the mid-1990s. Well, this should have been the case. Instead, we have been treated to more than a decade of Matthäus madness, which started with his being employed as a libero at Euro 2000 and has continued with a litany of seemingly glamourous but ultimately inconsequential coaching jobs.

Yet for some curious reason Bulgaria have appointed him as their new coach. Truth be told, I wouldn’t employ him to coach a even Sunday league under-10s side.

I just don’t know how he does it – it’s as if the rest of the world is completely oblivious to the fact that his coaching record is as comedic as it has been controversial. Perhaps Matthäus, more than aware of of his coaching crapness, has taken on the role as part of some elaborate plot to exact revenge on the Bulgarians for the USA ’94 quarter-final. Or not.

If you really want the lowdown on Loddar’s coaching record, here’s a potted overview:

Eight months in charge of Rapid Wien over the 2001-2002 season, guiding the team to eight place in the Austrian Bundesliga where they finished over thirty points behind winners FC Tirol Innsbruck.

A year in charge of Serbian side Partizan Belgrade between December 2002 and December 2003. Having taken over mid-season, Matthäus did manage to take his charges to the league title, and even secured a dramatic penalty shootout victory against Newcastle United to qualify for the Champions’ League group stage. Too good to be true? Well yes. Loddar being Loddar, he had secretly made an arrangement with the Hungarian FA. B+ for results, E- for conduct.

Matthäus’ spell as the coach of Hungary was plagued by the ongoing drama surrounding his exit from Belgrade, as well as ordinary results. The mission to guide the Magyars to the 2006 World Cup finals were an abject failure, as his side finished well off the group pace. Not content just to walk away, he then turned on the Hungarian FA.

Knowing he’d be laughed out of town if he even considered applying for a coaching job in Germany, Matthäus left Europe for a crack at the Brazilian league with Atlético Paranaense. Two months and seven matches later, he was off again – claiming personal reasons (as had been the case in Belgrade, oddly enough). Having promised to return, Matthäus faxed a letter of resignation and received a reply in the form of a bill for some £3,000 worth of telephone calls he had racked up.

Some four years after being fired by Rapid and two months after running away from his contract in Brazil, Matthäus returned to Austria where he was given a joint coaching role at Red Bull Salzburg with former Bayern boss Giovanni Trapattoni. A year later he was fired, even though the side were top of the league. One wonders what went on behind the scenes.

Israel was Loddar’s next port of call in April 2008 – perhaps they didn’t know him as well there – as he took charge of Maccabi Netanya. Again he was out after a year. The reason offered was that the club had been undergoing financial difficulties, but Matthäus’ track record would suggest they were having trouble with him.

Mirroring Matthäus’ coaching failures has been a series of rather soap-operatic marriages, which seemed to run independently until his fourth and latest wife’s infidelities derailed his plans to become coach of Cameroon. You really couldn’t write a better story if you tried.

So now Matthäus has been appointed as coach of the Bulgarian national side. They must be insane!

Loddar the Bulgar

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