Stuttgart fire Labbadia
"VfB have parted company with head coach Bruno Labbadia with immediate effect," announced the German club on social networking site Twitter.
The decision to sack Labbadia is not a simple lack of patience or knee-jerkism, however. Labbadia's end had been coming for a while. Last season alone he was a (well-coiffed) hair's breadth away from getting the sack a couple of times but his inconsistent, maddeningly unbalanced team scraped together just enough wins to stave off the axe.
Stuttgart had decided to retain Labbadia to save themselves money that would have to be shelled out in compensation, which they intended to use to bolster their squad for the next Bundesliga campaign. But a total breakdown in relations between Labbadia and managing director Fredi Bobic has seen Labbadia walk out the door at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
His biggest problem, though, was a lack of compatibility with the club's aspirational ethos, as expressed by the relentlessly up-beat Bobic. "This is the end of story about an unlikely couple," wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung. "On the one hand Bobic, the visionary, a positive guy who loves talking about grand plans. On the other Labbadia, the guy who hits the brake, a bone-dry realist who loves dismissing grand plans." A sarcastic quip about what he felt were over-ambitious expectations of a top-five finish ("It's not as if we have bought Messi and Neymar") cost him a lot of support.
His 988 days in charge amounted to an eternity, by Stuttgart standards. Only Christoph Daum, Armin Veh and Felix Magath - who Stuttgart are trying to re-employ - lasted longer than him since the founding of the Bundesliga.
Those stats speak of a club that has been yearning in vain for long-lasting success, a potential superpower that has often been its own worst enemy by way of boardroom decisions and a climate of constant tension. In that they are not alone in this league. But Labbadia should have known that the minimum requirement for a manager in Swabia is at least to flirt with greatness occasionally, instead of rejecting those dreams as baseless pretensions.
Stuttgart's shortlist of managers include the aforementioned Magath, Fulham boss Martin Jol and former Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo.