Take a deep breath, start again
After a season of superlatives Bayer 04 enter a difficult year. Key players Michael Ballack and Zé Roberto leave Leverkusen and head south to Munich. New to the Leverkusen squad are the two Brazilians Juan and Franca, Daniel Bierofka, Hanno Balitsch and Jan Simak.
Help for flood victims
Bayer 04 play in a charity match at Dynamo Dresden on 27 August. Some 30,000 spectators at the Rudolph Harbig Stadium raise a sum of over €300,000. The money goes to benefit victims of the flood catastrophe that has affected Dresden.
A spanner in the works
Bayer get off to a false start in the Bundesliga campaign. After eight matches the team is in 15th position. And there is not much relief in the UEFA Champions League. The opening game ends in a 6-2 defeat away to Olympiakos and then a 2-1 reverse at home to Manchester United.
However, two wins against Maccabi Haifa and the two nil victory over Olympiakos at the BayArena takes Bayer through to the next round again.
1 October 2002: Bayer 04 Leverkusen win 2-0 at Maccabi. Boris Zivkovic (6), Pascal Ojigwe, Yildiray Bastürk (10) and Thomas Brdaric (23) congratulate the double goalscorer Marco Babic (19).
The team simply can't get their act together in the league. In part, that is due to bad luck with injuries. In addition to Nowotny, regular players like Juan, Berbatov and Sebescen are sidelined long-term. Ulf Kirsten is a pro not on active service. At the end of the year Bayer are 14th in the Bundesliga
Nowotny suffers another cruciate injury
The squad prepares for the second half of the season at a winter training camp in Naples/Florida. There are great plans. Jens Nowotny is back again. But in his first game after a nine month injury lay-off against Cottbus (0-3) he tears his cruciate again. Unbelievable bad luck! Jenne is ruled out for the rest of the season. Lucio is also unavailable for three months after a foot operation.
Toppmöller departure – Hörster – new head coach
Bayer make to emergency signings for the defence: the Brazilian Cris and the Pole Radoslaw Kaluzny. However, the downward trend continues. After a 2-1 defeat at home to Hansa Rostock on 15 February 2003 – the fourth defeat in the second half of the season in succession – Bayer 04 part company with Klaus Toppmöller. The previous U21 coach, former Bayer 04 pro and Germany international Thomas Hörster takes over as head coach.
In the UEFA Champions League, Hörster makes his debut in a home game against Newcastle United on 18 February. After defeats against Barcelona and Milan, Bayer also lose this game (1-3). The club now concentrates completely on the Bundesliga. The remaining three games in the Champions League are also lost.
Kohler becomes sporting director
At the end of March, Jürgen Kohler, former Germany international and 1990 World Cup winner, joins the club as sporting director. A post that wasn't filled since Rudi Völler moved to the DFB.
Spectre of relegation is abroad
Bayer 04 are still in a relegation spot on matchday 30 and are three points short of safety in 15th place. The 3-0 defeat at Stuttgart and the 4-1 loss at Hamburg are low points in a completely messed up season.
Augenthaler to the rescue
With two games to go before the end of the season Bayer make another change in the head coach hot seat: Klaus Augenthaler, who would have been the Bayer 04 coach at the start of the new season, replaces Thomas Hörster who returns to the youth section.
The last two matches at home to 1860 Munich and away to FC Nürnberg, Augenthaler's former club, have to be 1 to retain top-flight status. The mission is a success. The Lions are beaten 3-0 with goals from Bierofka, Berbatov and Babic. At FC Nürnberg's Franken Stadium it is Yildiray Bastürk who nets the crucial opening goal on 36 minutes. Bayer are staying up! This season cost a lot of nerves. Get over it quickly and look forwards.