This Sunday the time has come: Bayer Leverkusen can become German champions for the first time against Werder Bremen (5:30 p.m.). Christoph Daum, who between 1997 and 2000 was assistant coach three times with the Werkself, talks about Leverkusen's great career and, before the match against Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.), also about VfB Stuttgart, with the who won the trophy. in 1992 .

Christoph Daum, cancer patient: chemotherapy “works well”

Mr. Daum, in October 2022 you made public your lung cancer, so the most important question is the first: How are you currently?

Thanks, I'm ok. I just got out of oncology, my 30th round of chemo. We do infusion therapy that works well. The goal was to stop the acute process of cancer and bring the cancer to some type of chronic state. That's fine because the cancer cells only grow minimally. Maybe you can imagine yourself a bit like a diabetic who has to inject insulin; That is similar to what happens in this chronic cancer that we aspire to.

So will he be able to enjoy it if Bayer Leverkusen become champions for the first time on Sunday?

Absolutely! We will be in Mallorca with some friends and we will watch the game against Werder there in the early afternoon. And we want to make everything Sunday a kind of day of celebration. I feel incredibly happy for everyone who works in Leverkusen and that the term Vizekusen will soon be history (laughs).

His son Marcel is assistant coach in Xabi Alonso's coaching staff and they often exchange ideas, if he had thought that this season in Leverkusen was possible. ?

I know that at Bayer they wanted to get into the Champions League. No one can predict in advance that it will be so extraordinary, but it speaks to the great work of everyone involved.

When the players look inquisitively at Xabi Alonso, he “shows it”

Coach Alonso is on everyone's lips. What does your son tell you about him?

Xabi has continued to develop at Leverkusen. At first he was more with himself and with his Spanish The teammates are busy, today involves the entire coaching staff. It also integrates all employees, whether they are from the marketing department or the media department. He is an absolutely positive figure and creates a good atmosphere throughout the club, because he accompanies the people.

Just like the players in training, partly through his own actions with the ball, when he demonstrates his qualities as a former world-class kicker.

Exactly. There are often situations in which players look questioningly at Xabi when he has just told them what he wants from them. Then he proves it himself and conjures an ankle pass like it was nothing. This is impressive for the players and always encourages them to be confident at this level.

So sure of themselves that they could become champions on Sunday, 24 years after their drama at SpVgg Unterhaching, when they lost the championship on the final day. Afterwards you stayed in the hallway of the cabin with your son Marcel in your arms, who was crying. Now the circle has been closed: his son could become a champion with Bayer. A crazy story.

Yes, of course it is very emotional for us, something great. Marcel was 13 years old then. Experiencing everything up close, all the impressions and emotions, of course, made a deep impression on him.

“Xabi Alonso and Sebastian Hoeneß are the coaches of the season”

And in relief?

Yes, definitely. I think that our failure in Haching influenced his school days, his studies and his professional life so much that he knows that he always has to invest everything until the end in order to benefit and win. I've had to smile a little these last few days because Marcel has only spoken very cautiously – if at all – about winning the championship. He doesn't want to do that until everything is resolved. He knows the irrationality of football, which allows him to always be focused.

VfB Stuttgart, his second former club, is also always focused this season. How do you assess the development in Bad Cannstatt?

What VfB achieved in this round is as important as Bayer Leverkusen's success; VfB is as outstanding as Bayer. These are the two teams of the season, and Xabi Alonso and Sebastian Hoeneß are the coaches of the season. It's incredible what Hoeneß and his team do in Stuttgart.

What do you mean exactly?

The pressure that VfB can exert on the pitch, how and where the team defends, how dominant the game is, all of this is impressive. VfB plays possession-based football and, in addition to a perfectly balanced system, also has great individual class, just think of Serhou Guirassy, ​​Deniz Undav or Chris Führich.

“With a refined Swabian euphemism”

VfB has the coach you already mentioned, who, like Alonso at Bayer, has become one of the most sought-after on the market.

I thought Sebastian Hoeneß was exceptional even during his time at TSG Hoffenheim. There were twelve or thirteen regular players missing and he kept the team stable with many inexperienced professionals. He never complained; There are other colleagues who like to look for excuses.

Now Hoeneß and VfB are about to reach the Champions League. How do we face next season as the entire club, with the new competition and new challenges?

It is important that VfB does not expect to have to return to the premier class. With a cultivated Swabian euphemism, one would have to proclaim the goal of always wanting to play for international places, nothing more. Too high expectations would be poison now. And those responsible must reinforce the team with a sense of proportion without altering the structure of the squad. But I see VfB on the right path.

“There seems to be a curse on the club”

However, his former club is once again on the wrong path with all its disputes and conflicts at management level. Will there never be peace?

It seems that somehow there is a curse hanging over the club. I remember when I was a coach, we were winning against a rival in what was then the Neckarstadion and we played a great game; Suddenly, the team shouted “Aprons off!” for a quarter of an hour. And this didn't just happen once, as you know. At VfB it seems that way: there have always been riots and protests against the people in the management.

Today the fans have in the Kieker, among others, Claus Vogt, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder's younger successor as president. What has to happen for peace to return to VfB?

The disputes have dragged on in recent years. Finally, managers must speak with a single voice again.

With all due respect: at VfB there are probably easier goals.

Yes, but you can have different opinions: you have to demonstrate unity to the outside world. Take a look at the bond currently forming between fans and the team, the euphoria in Stuttgart and what mutual appreciation can achieve. As a VfB club representative, you should take this unity as an example and not jeopardize it with arguments.

By Marco Seliger