Leverkusen manager Simon Rolfes: “Uli Hoeneß inspired me”

That’s right, and at the press conference after the game Rudi said: “That was Brazilian.” (laughs)

Simon Rolfes (right) scored his first goal for Bayer 04 in the game against Cologne in September 2005. Rudi Völler was the interim coach at the time.
Simon Rolfes (right) scored his first goal for Bayer 04 in the game against Cologne in September 2005. Rudi Völler was the interim coach at the time.

That’s not the only reason why you both have a lot in common. You became captain and international at Bayer and have been Völler’s successor as sporting director since July. What was the most important thing you learned from him?

I can think of things from many different areas, but there is no such thing as one essential piece of advice. However, I can remember the first advice I got from him as sporting director. We sat in his office in the BayArena in the morning, he pointed through his window at the grass below and said: “Simon, the most important thing is that we win on Saturday – that makes it a lot easier.”

That sounds a bit banal at first.

Absolutely. But it’s just true. As the saying goes: “You can think five years ahead, as long as you win the next game.” Success helps to develop and improve structures in the long term. Short-term success always comes first – that influences the players, employees, the entire work in the club. You can only develop a club and implement visions in the long term if you manage to be successful in the short term.

How was working with Völler on a human level?

There is a great relationship of trust between us. He placed a lot of trust in me – I was given a lot of freedom and was able to design things myself. He often let me just do it and gain my experience. Despite this, he was always available to give me advice when I had questions.

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Two Leverkusen legends: Simon Rolfes (left) and Rudi Völler have a good laugh on the sidelines of the game against Greuther Fürth in spring 2022. (Source: IMAGO/Sportfoto Zink / Daniel Marr)

That sounds almost overly harmonious.

That’s right, you might think so (laughs). But seriously: the constellation with Rudi was ideal for me. There was never any jealousy. Rudi gave me the space to design things and also withdrew from themes bit by bit. Many people in positions like this are unable to let go. For me, this opportunity to create was extremely valuable.

Nevertheless, he leaves big footsteps. Do you feel pressure as Völler’s successor?

Naturally. It is clear that the responsibility is greater – also in terms of external impact. Internally it’s a little different. Basically, I continue to do my work as before. Because even recently, scouting, young talent, etc. were my area of ​​responsibility. With the commitments of Tim Steidten (2019, today Manager Sport, editor’s note) and Thomas Eichin (2020, Head of Youth and Women, editor’s note) I gained very important employees. Not that much has changed in the current day-to-day work with my employees. We have prepared this step by step over the years.