Hoffenheim have fired head coach Markus Babbel after just 29 games at the helm - only seven of which the side was able to win. The small-town, big-budget club is flirting with relegation and winless in five games.
Hoffenheim officially parted ways with head coach Markus Babbel on Monday, a day after a 4-1 home defeat against Werder Bremen. It was the club's third consecutive loss in front of its home fans, cementing its place third from bottom in the Bundesliga. Dejected fans were booing their side even before the halftime break.
The southwestern club has conceded 36 goals in just 15 league games this season, nine more than any other team in the Bundesliga. Only the disastrous form of Augsburg and Greuther Fürth, sides with far less financial firepower than Hoffenheim, had kept Babbel's unhappy troupe off the bottom of the table.
Club manager Andreas Müller had already hinted at Babbel's fate in the moments after Sunday's defeat to Bremen, telling reporters: "We will talk calmly and without pressure, but also analyze the situation ruthlessly. I cannot answer whether we will continue with Markus. The situation is precarious."
Babel before Babbel
The situation in recent months was tense in the dressing room as well as on the pitch. Star forward Ryan Babel, who joined from Liverpool on a multi-million euro deal just 18 months earlier, took the unusual step of buying out his own contract to facilitate a move away from the club in the transfer window at the start of the season. The club has also been battling to deal with the loss of star midfielder Boris Vukcevic, still recovering after a life-threatening car accident in September.
Babbel had spent less than a season in his coaching post at Hoffenheim, having joined the club with relatively high hopes. He left his previous club, Hertha Berlin, amid considerable off-pitch acrimony – but had not been fired for poor performance. Indeed, Hertha tailspan their way towards Bundesliga relegation last season only after Babbel departed.
The German football magazine Kicker named former Kaiserlslautern coach Marco Kurz and even national team co-trainer Hansi Flick, Joachim Löw's right-hand man, as potential replacements. With just two league matches remaining until the month-long winter break in the Bundesliga, the club might wait until then to fill the vacancy.
Hoffenheim is partly owned and supported by German SAP software tycoon Dietmar Hopp.
A right-back in his playing days, Markus Babbel won more than 50 caps for Germany and first made his name at Bayern Munich. He became one of Germany's more successful exports, spending four seasons at Liverpool.
Hoffenheim's Under 23 coach Frank Kramer will temporarily take charge of the senior team.