"Continuity," said Fernando Carro, "is a key to success. In the team but also management." After the departure of Rudi Völler from operational management, the club boss now has Simon Rolfes alongside him as sporting managing director. Honorary captain Rolfes wore the Werkself shirt for ten years up to the end of his playing career in 2015 and the 40-year-old took over as sporting director at Bayer 04 at the end of 2018. In a first joint interview with Sky, Carro and Rolfes talked in detail about the transfer strategy, ambitions and key areas within the club.
The focus of the duo is not exclusively on the first team. The Spaniard and his new partner at the top want to drive forward all areas in the club. In the youth teams, at board level, in management and the medical section. "We want to be at the top in all areas – and that's not always a question of finance," said Carro.
The two managing directors are clear in terms of their approach. "We are two people who are very driven and ambitious," said Carro. And, with the sporting success of the Werkself, the duo have formulated clear targets. Carro: "We want to be consistently amongst the best four clubs in Germany and the top 16 in Europe. That's our ambition."
The management at Bayer 04 are pursuing a clear transfer strategy to achieve that. With the sale of homegrown player Kai Havertz to Premier League club Chelsea in the summer of 2020, the Werkself achieved a "high transfer fee", according to Rolfes, and with part of the income they were able to sign highly talented and young players like Moussa Diaby, Edmond Tapsoba, Jeremie Frimpong and Piero Hincapie. "They are all still very young and have outstanding ability," declared Rolfes.
According to Rolfes, the search for players at Leverkusen is focused on "those we trust to develop quickly at the highest level here who can strengthen the team." A very good reputation has been achieved in this area including abroad. The current team continues to be very young and "has the quality for the Champions League. That competition not only reflects our ambition but also that of our players."
To find players of that quality primarily requires good scouting. And good scouts. "We have made a number of changes in that area recently," said Rolfes who is responsible for scouting at Bayer 04. Tim Steidten, the new sporting manager, has moved closer to the sporting managing director while Kim Falkenberg has taken up the role of head of scouting and squad planning. And the youth section under Thomas Eichin as head of the Performance Centre, an "absolute top man" according to Rolfes, is of enormous significance to the sporting achievement of the first team and there has been very good progress in recent years.
"When we do something, we do it right." Carro not only refers to work with the senior squad, the youth teams and scouting with those incisive words but also to women's football. "That area is of great significance at Bayer 04 and is also very important to the two of us," said the 57-year-old. "We regularly attend the matches, are involved in all important decisions and very interested in the sporting and structural success in its development."
Here too, as in all other areas, it is a question of "combining the short-term nature of sport with the long-term strategy." A challenge that Fernando Carro and Simon Rolfes are keen to take up...
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