Almost a year since Max Eberl tearfully departed Borussia Mönchengladbach after 13 years as the club’s sporting director, he has embarked on his new project — but it was unclear whether he ever would return to the game and the league where he has left his mark.
Mentally exhausted, Eberl needed a break from it all. “I just want out, I simply want nothing to do with football. I want to see the world, I want to have fun, I want to be Max Eberl,” he said in January 2022, when he left the Rhine club where he’d also spent the last six years of his playing career.
“I don’t have the strength to do this job anymore. I’m worn out and tired. I have to pay attention to my health,” he concluded. Glum-faced Gladbach officials flanked Eberl at his farewell press conference, sympathetic and grateful for his huge contribution but deflated that they were losing one of the best in the business.
“There’s no 99% with me, I wanted only to give 100%,” he said in that press conference a year ago. “But I realized this perfectionism was becoming too much.”
Following the best part of a year away from the game, Eberl has reunited with head coach Marco Rose with the aim of spearheading the Red Bull outfit’s quest towards silverware and establishing them as a long-term challenger to Bayern Munich’s domestic hegemony.
The first test of the Eberl-Rose axis in Leipzig could scarcely have been greater but they came through unscathed, on a night when they were without the injured Christopher Nkunku and first-choice goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi. It was a challenge that Leipzig rose to, securing a point against the league’s best team and consolidating their position in fourth.
Marcel Halstenburg’s equalizer canceled out Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s first half opener to secure a share of the points against Bayern, who have only lost once to Leipzig in their 16 meetings. Merely by keeping their 14-game unbeaten run intact, it’s a sign of progress for Leipzig but Eberl clearly has greater ambitions. “The day will come when Bayern will have to vacate the throne,” he told DAZN on Friday.
Eberl has joined a club that in many ways is the polar opposite of Gladbach, one of the Bundesliga’s most traditional and celebrated clubs, and joined one whose circumvention of the 50+1 rule puts them starkly at odds with the values of German football. For Eberl, the move is motivated purely by sporting ambition.
“I am grateful for the time of recovery that was necessary for me and I feel ready and full of energy again to want to work in soccer,” he said in December, when his appointment in Leipzig was confirmed. “I’m coming to a club that has developed rapidly in recent years, is very ambitious and stands for a clear soccer philosophy. There is huge potential here – in the entire club and the entire region.”
Eberl begins with a full in-tray. Will Leipzig be able to hold onto midfielder Konrad Laimer? Can they convince Josko Gvardiol and Nkunku to resist interest from the Premier League? Can Leipzig make the quality additions to their squad to sustain their fine start?
These questions will be easier for Eberl to answer with his friend Marco Rose alongside him. The pair worked successfully as sporting director and coach in Mönchengladbach between 2019 and 2021, when Eberl was left broken by Rose’s departure for Borussia Dortmund.
“I’m disappointed about Marco’s decision, but I’m also glad that we can still look each other in the eye. We still respect each other. The decision hasn’t driven a wedge between us,” Eberl said at the time.
With Leipzig’s former sporting director Oliver Mintzlaff now working in the management of the Red Bull group but still on the board of the club, Eberl and Rose have an open road to manage the day-to-day sporting decisions and rekindle their working spark. And with Rose’s former co-coach at Gladbach Frank Geideck now also in the dugout in Leipzig, there’s now a strong Gladbach flavor to Leipzig’s management team.
Eberl is widely considered one of the game’s smartest sporting directors having unearthed some of the Bundesliga and Europe’s top players during his time in the Rhineland. Marco Reus, Granit Xhaka, Marcus Thuram, Matthias Ginter, Thorgan Hazard, Alassane Plea and Denis Zakaria are just a few of the players Eberl brought to Borussia-Park.
His track record and eye for emerging young talent fits Leipzig’s club profile perfectly, as does Rose’s penchant for high-energy, attacking, possession-based football. It would appear that having landed Eberl and rekindled one of German football’s most effective duos, Leipzig finally have the sporting infrastructure in place to give themselves a shot at removing Bayern from their throne.