The Merry-go-round of Mainz

The signing of Loris Karius for Liverpool on Tuesday ensures another summer of change is on it’s way at Mainz 05, the club the 22-year-old leaves for the Premier League.

Karius follows Mainz captain and central midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger out of the door at the Coface Arena, with the 28-year-old Austrian joining Bayer Leverkusen earlier in the week. But for the 05ers, this is nothing new.

Mainz, a reasonably small city located 40 kilometres from Frankfurt, has produced and sold some of the finest talents known in European football today.

In the last decade club has unearthed, to name just a few, Jürgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Neven Subotić, Johannes Geis, Shinji Okazaki, André Schürrle and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

At a time where so many ‘giants’ of the Bundesliga are struggling - Stuttgart (now relegated), Eintracht Frankfurt just down the road, Hamburger SV and Werder Bremen - it is remarkable that little Mainz continue to produce these players, replace them, and compete at the top end of the Bundesliga season upon season.

A lot of their success can be explained with one name: Christian Heidel.

Gameweek 34 in the Bundesliga, the last of the season, marked the end of an era at Mainz with sporting director Christian Heidel leaving the club after 15 years.

Mainz ground out a 0-0 with Hertha Berlin to ensure they make their return to European football next season in the Europa League group stages and gave a fitting end to a successful tenure for the 52-year-old, who was out on the pitch taking the applause of the fans at full time.

Ironically, Heidel, who was born in Mainz, is making the move north to Schalke 04 - a move that will see him link up with former players in Choupo-Moting and Johannes Geis.

Heidel, the man who is said to have ‘created’ Klopp and Tuchel, has had great success with his hometown club - creating and selling on some of Europe’s finest footballers as well as managers, and now with him moving on himself, Mainz may face their greatest challenge yet.

Mainz, as stated previously, have qualified for Europe for the fourth time in their short Bundesliga history - although this will be their first entry into the group stage. This, though, has not made keeping ahold of top quality players any easier - see Karius and Baumgartlinger.

You only have to look as far as the last time Mainz qualified for the Europa League to discover the problems it may cause them. Managed by a certain Thomas Tuchel in 2013/14 the 05ers qualified to play in the 2014/15 Europa League by finishing seventh in the Bundesliga.

However, shortly after the celebrations had died out, Tuchel announced that he would be taking a sabbatical and Mainz were managerless.

Kasper Hjulmand took over from Tuchel, and Mainz crashed out of the Europa League before it begun, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis in the qualifiers - and bowed out of the DFB-Pokal at the hands of Chemnitzer on penalties after a 5-5 draw with their third tier opponent.

Hjulmand did start brightly in the Bundesliga, however, and Mainz sat in the European places for much of the early season. That form would eventually fade with the Dane sacked in February with the club sitting perilously close to the relegation zone in 14th.

That’s when Heidel stepped in and appointed a little-known manager- the manager of Mainz II, one of the most successful reserve teams in the country.

Martin Schmidt, similar to Klopp, is a rockstar manager - filled with character. His long black hair and beard combination, along with the casual blue jeans and t-shirt he wears screams more of a guitarist than a football manager.

But Schmidt is a carefully thought man who ensures his players play a certain breed of attacking football - much like Klopp and Tuchel who have gone before him. The 49-year-old is destined to follow in the footsteps of those two and leave Mainz for bigger and better things in the future.

And then the merry-go-round will continue to spin at the Coface Arena. And even though the orchestrator Christian Heidel leaves this summer, along with Loris Karius, Julian Baumgartlinger and probably more - the club will no doubt continue to nurture talent of similar calibre for years to come.

By: Jonny Clark