The star who can't stay still

Will Matthaus prove more committed to Netanya than his previous postings?

lothar matthaus 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
lothar matthaus 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
When the news first broke that Lothar Matthaus would be running affairs at Maccabi Netanya next season, the Israeli soccer community was struck with disbelief. A German soccer legend, Matthaus captained West Germany to the World Cup title in 1990 and was one of the biggest stars in world soccer during the 1980's and 1990's. He is without a doubt the biggest name ever to grace Israeli soccer, but his checkered and unsettled managerial career has raised concerns that he is unlikely to stick around for long and that Netanya is a last refuge for a man running out of options. Speaking from Germany this week, Matthaus says that the prospect of managing in Israel excites him and defends his career path for the varying experience it has given him. However, he acknowledges that he still does not know what position he will hold at the club, nor does he have any coherent plan for its future. "I've been a big fan of Israel for a couple of years now," Matthaus tells the Jerusalem Post. "I've been to Israel many times privately for long weekends and holidays and last year I came with my son. I like Israel and the mentality of the people there. I got a good offer from a club which can go to Europe and I think this is a good chance for me and for the team. I think we can have a good future together." Matthaus, who has known Netanya's German-Jewish owner Daniel Jammer for many years, is unsure if he will act as the club's manager or coach and is planning on doing whatever he can to help the team. "I'd like to use all my experience on the field and off the field to help the club. I have a lot of experience from 30 years in football and I'd like to give everything I can to the club," he says. "At this moment I'm only planning forward for the next couple of years. We have a contract for two years and I hope to stay for a minimum of two years in Israel. "I like to work professionally and give my best for my club. You can't come and change everything immediately." Matthaus began his coaching career with Rapid Vienna in 2001 and achieved his first real success with Partizan Belgrade, guiding the Serbian club to the league title in the 2002/2003 season and to the Champions League group stage the following year. The German, however, walked out on Partizan midway through his second season at the club to become the coach of the Hungarian national team, which he left after a single and unsuccessful campaign. The most bizarre part of Matthaus's resume came in Brazil where he quit Atlético Paranaense after just seven matches in charge. After five weeks at the club he told the management he needed to rush back to Europe in order to deal with an urgent personal problem. Despite assuring the club he'd be back in several days, he went missing for a couple of weeks and ended up faxing in his resignation, never to return to Brazil. "I left Brazil after two months and there was an agreement with me and the president of the club that we would never speak about it," was all Matthaus was willing to say on the matter. In May of 2006, Matthaus signed as coach of Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, but despite helping the team to the league title was sacked by the club after a single year. "I like my job and have good experience coaching in different countries with good results. I haven't taken the easy way, but I like the difficult way too," Matthaus says of his eclectic coaching resume. "In football you can't plan titles or how long you stay at any one place. I think football is a daily business. I like to give my best and I like to prepare a team for the future. I'm a team player and don't like to move [from] a club every year or two." The Israeli Premier League is often criticized for its level of play and poor infrastructure, but Matthuas speaks highly of the local league. "I saw a couple of matches in Israel and I feel that the level is higher than Austria, but not as high as England and Germany, which is normal. The league is well organized. The level of the league is high, it's of a good quality," he remarks. Netanya fans are hoping Matthaus's reputation will attract world class players to the club, but when asked if he will bring in any big names the German said: "I think we have the players to do a good job. We don't have the same budget as Chelsea." Matthaus will be replacing the very successful Reuven Atar at Netanya. Atar is on course to guide Netanya to a second place finish in the Premier League for a second straight season and also led the team to the State Cup semifinals for the first time in 13 years. The German will have to win titles to do any better than Atar, but he's wary of giving any guarantees at this stage. "I can't say at the moment what my plans for the future are. I like to plan everything properly. I'd like to make the owner happy and the fans happy and work professionally with the players. At this moment it's too early to say what I plan to do. I need to get to know the players and the club better and then we'll see," Matthaus says. "I'd like to get to know the staff better before I decide whether to bring in my own coaching staff. Maybe we don't have to change anything, or maybe we have to change a lot, I really don't know at this moment."