Bavarian Football Works staffer Jack Laushway is attending Bayer Leverkusen’s training camp in Austria and will be interviewing several key members of the club during this week. Leverkusen are shaping up to one of the most exciting teams in the upcoming Bundesliga season and Sporting Director Simon Rolfes was one of the staff who spoke with BFW during the week.
Managing director Simon Rolfes has been a fundamental part of the resurgence of Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. After a rough start to the 2022/23 season, the club managed to obtain Xabi Alonso’s services as manager and surged up the table. In the offseason, Rolfes was able to bring in top names such as Granit Xhaka, Grimaldo, and Jonas Hofmann.
Just how was Rolfes and Leverkusen able to bring in the big names? Was it Xabi Alonso’s influence?
“Of course the coach is always important in making big signings. His history as a world-class player is important and allows him to have a special connection with the players. But it is not only the coach that helps in recruiting, it is the club, the environment and the philosophy of the club which help create the package.”
So far only Moussa Diaby out of their top talents have left the club this summer, so how does a team like Bayer Leverkusen ensure the big names such as Florian Wirtz are happy and stay withe the club?
“Number one is to be successful, but also that the players feel as though they can develop here and that the team is improving. There might be a point where your top players may leave you, but this is a problem with all clubs in football.”
The club has stayed consistent at the top of the Bundesliga table for years while others such as Schalke and Werder Bremen have fluctuated and even been relegated. In fact, only Leverkusen, Dortmund, and Bayern Munich have managed to stay in the top flight for the past 40 years. So how does the club have such sustained success?
“Professionalism in your daily work is key, as well as keeping your philosophy. Keeping the same club values consistent is important because you cannot change your values every month or with every coach. If you look back at the club in the 90s or 2000s, you can see a clear identity. It is important to keep that identity but to adapt to the environment as well.”
With the rise of technology and AI, it begs the question how many football clubs are referencing this technology, or even relying on this technology to make big decisions such as wage structure and transfer fees. How can Bayer Leverkusen use this technology to make optimal decisions?
“We are already using such technology to check players and even accelerate the scouting process. It is also being used to examine specific play styles in positions, to see how different players might fit in different systems. There are so many different data outputs so the club has to determine their KPIs. It really depends on how you use it,” Rolfes concluded.
Simon Rolfes is clearly the right man steering the ship for Leverkusen at the moment.