World star Jari Litmanen surprisingly switched to Hansa Rostock in 2005. In conversation with Goal, ex-colleague Rene Rydlewicz raves in the highest tones.
In January 2005, the rough Baltic wind blew the protagonists at FC Hansa Rostock figuratively even more relentlessly than usual. The Mecklenburg team had managed only eleven lean points in 17 games, meanwhile even lost eight home games in a row and thus one of the countless negative records worst Bundesliga team in history, Tasmania Berlin, hired from the 1965/66 season.
The result of the Rostock horror first round: 17th place, tied with the geographically most distant competitor from Freiburg, who only illuminated the Breisgau with the red lantern due to the even worse goal difference. The distance to the saving bank, which was occupied by Borussia Mönchengladbach in winter, was already six points.
Jari Litmanen as a potential savior at Hansa Rostock
A hopeless situation that in the past often led to panic buying or loaning from clubs in a similar predicament. But suddenly, without great Trara, and without the fact that there were boiling or even boiling pots in the rumor mill beforehand, those responsible for Hansa presented a potential savior who hardly anyone had expected: Jari Litmanen. Jari Litmanen, really? The same Jari Litmanen who won the 1995 Champions League with Ajax Amsterdam? The Jari Litmanen, who sometimes carried the prestigious number ten on his back in the star ensemble of FC Barcelona and had played for Liverpool in England?
Truly. Rostock had not inadvertently been cheered on by a previously unknown twin brother of the Finn, but had actually guided the highly decorated, handsome midfield player of international format to the Hanseatic city. “The beacon of hope is there,” said Hansa boss Manfred Wimmer when the club announced the transfer coup. Wimmer said: “We were looking for a special type for a specific position. He had to be a manager, bring experience and be dangerous.”
Characteristics that Litmanans had at their disposal. The noble technician had scored 133 goals in 255 competitive games for Ajax, four goals in 32 games after his time at Barca, and in Liverpool Litmanen put his name on the scoreboard nine times in 43 games. In addition, the then 33-year-old pitched his experience from 93 international matches for Finland’s national team at Warnow.
One of the three tenors changes to a heavy metal band
He symbolically hired Luciano Pavarotti, one of the three tenors, in a heavy metal band studded with rough legs. Faced with the unsuitable comparison, Litmanen said in an interview with the daily world: “I am not very familiar with music. But I know that Hansa is not as bad as many think.” For two weeks he had to consider whether he wanted to join the relegation class mission. Modest statements by an old star who had never noticed any escapades during his career. An impression that his former teammate Rene Rydlewicz talks to goal and SPOX fully confirmed.
“Jari was my room partner at the time,” recalls Rydlewicz, who then greeted his well-known new teammate with a wink with the words “luck for him that he can play with me again”. Rydlewicz adds: “He was the epitome of the model professional, down-to-earth, hard-working and extremely professional. It was crazy. Jari was always the first to arrive at the training area and the last to leave. He gave 100 percent in every training session and actually slept when it was night’s sleep. ”
Rene Rydlewicz: “He was a really good guy”
For the native Lusatian, it was therefore not surprising that Litmanen “was one of the best midfielders in the world in the 1990s.” However, the director never let that hang out: “He was a really good guy.”
Litmanen was used for the first time for Rostock on matchday 20 in the home game against second-placed FC Schalke 04, in which at least a 2: 2 jumped out of the northeast for the relegation-threatening club. “Everything that one would want from younger players these days was in his flesh and blood,” says Rydlewicz, who has since become Manuel Baum’s assistant coach for the German U20 national team, with a view to the footballing qualities of Lithuania. “It was obvious that he had gone through the Ajax football school, which had a very good reputation at the time. If we played the ball back and forth before the start of the training session, he always gave a hundred percent himself. He always has a starting movement made and then offered themselves at the highest pace. ”
Jari Litmanen has always had minor injuries
Although Litmanen noticeably helped the Rostockers with his class, he was also unable to save the wrecking cog from sinking. Also because he was repeatedly thrown back by minor physical complaints. “It was of course great for us to be able to play with such a player,” says Rydlewicz. He adds: “Unfortunately, I also have to say that he always had to deal with injuries due to his senior football age. I still remember that he often had to do individual training sessions. Therefore, from a purely sporting point of view, he couldn’t really help us either. ”
Hansa scored 19 points in the second half of the season, eight points more than in the first half of the season. At the end of the 2004/05 season, the club had to be 17th in the table. but still take the bitter road to second-classness. Litmanen, whose contract was only for the first division, ended the six-month intermezzo on the Baltic Sea with a proof of work of one goal and one assist (he collected both scorer points in the 2-1 win over Hertha BSC).
He left a lasting impression on Rydlewicz: “I found his hard work so impressive. Sometimes he did more in individual training than we did in team training – simply because he really wanted to get fit again. Many other players let their careers in their age End in peace, but that wasn’t the case with Jari. On the contrary, it was extremely impressive. ”
However, it was far from possible to think of a possible career end. After leaving the relegation team, Litmanen tried his luck at the Swedish top club Malmö FF and later at Fulham FC, for which he was not supposed to collect a single competitive minute. In 2008 he moved back to FC Lahti in his home country before changing his employer one last time and signing with HJK Helsinki. 23 games, a goal and four assists later he lifted the Finnish championship trophy for the first time. At the age of 40. As the last official act before he finally ended his glorious career.
Litmans could do anything except backgammon
When he arrived in Rostock in January 2005, Litmans had given hope. “I mostly played for titles. But that doesn’t matter. This time the title will be relegation.” Maybe he, who had thrilled the audience with his fine blade for many years, was simply not made for the traditionally brusque Bundesliga relegation battle. Maybe the magician, who could do complex things on the court, didn’t like the relatively simple game either.
“There was one thing I could do better than him,” says Rydlewicz, clearing up: “Backgammon.”