June 11, 2018 By Jake Nutting
by JAKE NUTTING
The Tampa Bay Rowdies could be losing one of their most influential players earlier than expected, according to reports in Germany.
Multiple outlets state that midfielder Marcel Schäfer, who has already stated this will be his final season as a player, is a leading candidate to become the Sporting Director at VFL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga in the next few weeks. Unused Substitutes has reached out to the Rowdies for a comment on the reports.
Taking a position at Wolfsburg has long been the veteran’s ambition. After the announcement of his signing ahead of the 2017 United Soccer League season, he made it clear that his intention was to rejoin his longtime club in Germany as a member of the front office. In fact, he’d already arranged to do so in an agreement with Wolfsburg, but only after he played out two seasons in America with the Rowdies.
Wolfsburg’s slide down the Bundesliga standings and recent shakeup in the front office, though, may be speeding up Schäfer’s shift from player to front office executive. Since Schäfer’s departure midway through the 2016-2017 Bundesliga season, Wolfsburg has narrowly remained in the country’s top division by surviving relegation playoffs two years in a row. Bruno Labbadia replaced Martin Schmidt as Manager in February to guide the struggling club on the field, while Jörg Schmadtke was hired as Managing Director in May.
Schmadtke started in his new role recently and apparently wants Schafer back at Wolfsburg immediately to help in the transition. No decision has been made yet, according to the reports.
“We are in contact with Marcel Schäfer and in talks,” Schmadtke stated at one of his first press conferences in charge. “You’ll see where the talks are going, he’s a candidate, but nothing’s decided yet.”
Losing Schafer would be a blow to the Rowdies at any point in the season, but it could be particularly rough as new head coach Neill Collins continues to try and right the ship a month into the job while dealing with a rash of injuries. Despite missing last week’s draw with Nashville due to suspension, Schafer leads the club with 39 scoring chances created. The next closest player is Michael Nanchoff with 13 chances created.
If the reports are accurate, an announcement on Schäfer’s departure could come soon. The Rowdies, who sit 9th in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings, do not return to the field until June 22 to face Penn FC at Al Lang Stadium, which could now end up being Schäfer’s final match with the club. Such an exit would only hasten Tampa Bay’s search for midseason reinforcements.
Photo by Patrick Patterson/Unused Substitutes
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