Otto Rehhagel

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Otto Rehhagel
Otto Rehhagel 01-2.jpg
Rehhagel in 2010
Personal information
Date of birth (1938-08-09) 9 August 1938 (age 84)
Place of birth Essen, Germany
Height 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)
Position(s) Defender
Youth career
1948–1957 TuS Helene Altenessen
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1957–1960 TuS Helene Altenessen
1960–1963 Rot-Weiss Essen 90 (3)
1963–1965 Hertha BSC 53 (6)
1965–1972 1. FC Kaiserslautern 148 (17)
International career
1960 West Germany Amateur 2 (0)
Managerial career
1972 FV Rockenhausen
1972–1973 1. FC Saarbrücken
1973–1974 Kickers Offenbach (Assistant coach)
1974–1975 Kickers Offenbach
1976 Werder Bremen
1976–1978 Borussia Dortmund
1978–1979 Arminia Bielefeld
1979–1980 Fortuna Düsseldorf
1981–1995 Werder Bremen
1995–1996 Bayern Munich
1996–2000 1. FC Kaiserslautern
2001–2010 Greece
2012 Hertha BSC
Men's football
Representing  Greece (as manager)
UEFA European Championship
Winner 2004
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Otto Rehhagel (German: [ˈɔtoː ˈʁeːhaːɡl̩]; born 9 August 1938) is a German former football coach and player.

Rehhagel is one of only two people who, as player and manager combined, has participated in over 1,000 Bundesliga matches (the other being Jupp Heynckes). In the Bundesliga, he holds the records for the most victories (387), most draws (205), most losses (228), and his teams have scored the most goals (1,473) and conceded more (1,142) than any other. He served as the trainer of Werder Bremen between 1981 and 1995 and won twice the Bundesliga and in 1992 the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with them. After a rather unsuccessful intermezzo at Bayern Munich, he won the Bundesliga sensationally with the promoted team 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

Internationally, Rehhagel coached the Greece national team from 2001 to 2010 in the their most successful footballing era – during that period, the Greece won the 2004 European Championship unexpectedly and qualified for the 2010 World Cup, their second World Cup finals appearance. A 2022 critically acclaimed film entitled, King Otto, was made on Otto Rehhagel's triumph with the Greece national team for the 2004 European Championships.

Playing career[edit]

Born in Altenessen, Rehhagel began his playing career with local club TuS Helene Altenessen in 1948. He moved to Rot-Weiss Essen (1960–63), after the start of the Bundesliga for Hertha BSC (1963–65), and until 1972 for Kaiserslautern. He played 201 games in the Bundesliga. As a player, Rehhagel was known as a tough-as-nails defender.

Managerial career[edit]

Early years[edit]

In 1974, he took charge of Kickers Offenbach, but failed to make an immediate impact as a manager. Most famously, while in charge of Borussia Dortmund in 1978, he suffered a historic, record-setting 12–0 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach, after which the tabloids called him Otto Torhagel ("Tor" means goal in German, and "Hagel" means a hailstorm). In 1980, Rehhagel won his first trophy as a manager, when his Fortuna Düsseldorf side won the German Cup.

Werder Bremen[edit]

Rehhagel managed Werder Bremen from 1981 to 1995. During these 14 golden years for the club, Rehhagel transformed Werder from a small minnow into a powerhouse, dazzling spectators with powerful up-tempo play and a smothering defence. During this spell, Werder Bremen established themselves as one of the main teams in the Bundesliga, overtaking hated rivals Hamburg as the top club in the north and sparking an intense feud with Bayern Munich. In the mid-eighties, Rehhagel often fell just short of success and had a string of second places and Cup Final losses. In that time, his nickname was Otto II or Vizeadmiral ("Vice Admiral"). However, Rehhagel led Werder Bremen to two German championships in 1988 and 1993, two DFB-Pokal victories in 1991 and 1994, as well as winning the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1992. In this period, Rehhagel produced a host of international stars, such as Rudi Völler, Karl-Heinz Riedle, Dieter Eilts, Marco Bode, Mario Basler, Hany Ramzy, Andreas Herzog and Rune Bratseth. Rehhagel's Werder Bremen team of 1987–88 was at that time the squad which conceded the fewest goals ever in the Bundesliga (22), this record was surpassed by Bayern Munich in the 2007–08 season with 21 goals. His stint with Werder Bremen (14 years Bundesliga) is the second longest consecutive occupation as a manager ever in the Bundesliga. It was eventually surpassed by Volker Finke of Freiburg (16 years).

Bayern Munich[edit]

After 14 golden years at Werder Bremen, Rehhagel left to manage former hated rivals, Bayern Munich, before the start of the 1995–96 season. Prior to Rehhagel's arrival, Bayern had a disappointing, but financially lucrative season in 1994–95 (a very poor sixth place in the Bundesliga, but semi-finals in the Champions League). In the summer of 1995, Bayern spent a lot of money, buying Jürgen Klinsmann, Andreas Herzog, and others, and Rehhagel was brought in as manager to replace Giovanni Trapattoni. It was widely expected that Munich would steamroll the opposition in 1995–96, but from day 1, Rehhagel clashed with the team and the team environment. His single-minded and occasionally eccentric ways did not mesh at all with Bayern, who quickly felt that Rehhagel was too rural at heart and had no clue about how to interact in the fancy environment of Munich. Moreover, Rehhagel's old-school tactics and patronising of the Bayern players caused major antipathy in the Bayern team, especially from Klinsmann, who never missed an opportunity to take shots at Rehhagel. Despite Rehhagel getting Bayern to the UEFA Cup final, Bayern's results in the Bundesliga dropped alarmingly in the second half of the season, and Rehhagel was famously sacked just 4 days before they were due to play in the first leg of the 1996 UEFA Cup final. Rehhagel's job was taken over by Franz Beckenbauer, who led the team to victory in the 1996 UEFA Cup final, and oversaw an upturn in form in the last couple of weeks in the Bundesliga, but Bayern finished second, as Borussia Dortmund won their second German championship in a row.

1. FC Kaiserslautern[edit]

After being sacked by Bayern Munich, Rehhagel took over as manager of Kaiserslautern in 1996, after a season where the club had won the DFB-Pokal but had also been relegated from the top-flight following a catastrophic season in the Bundesliga. Rehhagel injected new energy into the team, which saw Kaiserslautern comfortably getting back into the top-flight in 1997, winning the second division by 10 points. Prior to the start of the 1997–98 season, Kaiserslautern were seen as dark horses for a place in the UEFA Cup, but Rehhagel's team simply steamrollered the Bundesliga opposition all season. With sparkling offence and sheer never-ending energy (half a dozen games were won in injury time), Kaiserslautern won a sensational German championship in 1998, the first and so far only German championship triumph by a team that had just been promoted the previous season. Rehhagel coached Kaiserslautern to some less spectacular, but very decent results over the next year, such as leading the team to the quarter finals of the 1998–99 UEFA Champions League, but then big internal conflicts within the club, rows with some players, and a massive smear campaign, caused him to resign his position in 2000. Rehhagel finished with a record of 87 wins, 39 draws, and 48 losses.[1]

Greece national team[edit]

In August 2001, following Vassilis Daniil's departure, Rehhagel was appointed as the new manager of the Greece national team,[2] ahead of other candidates, such as Marco Tardelli, Nevio Scala, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, and Terry Venables, who were also being considered for the managerial post.[3] Rehhagel's first match in charge was in October 2001, a 2002 World Cup qualifier against Finland, which ended in a 5–1 away defeat.[3][4] As a result, he rebuilt the squad, and in October 2003, after a 1–0 win over Northern Ireland,[5] Greece qualified automatically for Euro 2004, ahead of Spain and Ukraine. Ranked 150–1 outsiders,[6] they nevertheless defeated host nation Portugal,[7] holders France and the much more fancied Czech Republic on the way to the final, where they again defeated Portugal 1–0. Rehhagel, who was seen as the man most responsible for the team's success, became the first foreign manager ever to win a European Championship and remains the only one to date. Despite not having a star-studded line-up, the Greek team won the championship, conceding no goals in the knockout stage.

Rehhagel giving instructions to players of the Greece national football team before the changes

Rehhagel adopted a defensive approach in playing his Greek side, using energetic midfielders to wear down the opponents and the policy of defending in numbers to numb the opposition's attacks. When charged with boring play, he said, "No one should forget that a coach adapts the tactics to the characteristics of the available players." His time at Werder Bremen, in contrast, saw play described as flashy and spectacular attacking football.[8]

After Rudi Völler resigned as Germany coach in the wake of that country's first-round exit in Euro 2004, Rehhagel was considered by many to be a strong candidate for his homeland's job. He had the support of the public, despite being considered a maverick by the footballing establishment. After three other candidates removed themselves from consideration, Rehhagel received an offer to take over as Germany coach, which he officially turned down on 10 July.

In their qualifying group for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the Greek side failed to make the grade, finishing fourth in a tough group which saw Ukraine advance as group winner and Turkey go on to the play-off. The team returned to success though by qualifying for Euro 2008, ending the qualifying stage with the highest points total of any team and ensuring they would be able to defend their title. On 30 March 2008, Rehhagel extended his contract with Greece until 2010.[9] The Euro 2008 ended in disappointment after three group stage losses against Sweden, Russia, and eventual winners Spain.

For the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying group and having finished second in group Two behind Switzerland, coach Rehhagel and the national team met Ukraine in a two-legged play-off and won 1–0 in Donetsk after a 0–0 draw in Piraeus, with Dimitris Salpingidis getting the winner. The success against Ukraine allowed the Greek squad to compete in the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa and solidified the position of Otto Rehhagel as one of the most important people in the history of Greek sport. At the age of 71, he also became the oldest national team manager to coach in a FIFA World Cup, surpassing Cesare Maldini's record from 2002.[10] Greece lost to South Korea, Argentina, defeated Nigeria 2–1 and exited the FIFA World Cup in the group stage, despite Salpingidis scoring Greek's first ever goal in a World Cup against Nigeria. Rehhagel announced his wish to leave his coaching position after the World Cup. On 23 June 2010, he announced his resignation from Greece.[11][12]

The 2021 documentary King Otto by New York-based director Christopher André Marks chronicles Rehhagel's success in Greece. The film's opening line quotes the first line of Homer's Odyssey, "Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide".[13]

Hertha BSC[edit]

Rehhagel during his stint as Hertha Berlin manager

Rehhagel signed for ailing Bundesliga club Hertha BSC[14] and was manager of the club between 18 February 2012 and 30 June 2012.[15] His attempt to save Hertha from relegation however ended in a failure, after the Berliners were defeated by 2. Bundesliga club Fortuna Düsseldorf in a two-legged playoff. Rehhagel finished with a record of three wins, three draws, and eight losses.[16]

Coaching style[edit]

Rehhagel popularized the phrase kontrollierte Offensive (controlled offence). He prefers a grass-roots approach to football, stressing the importance of at least two (often also three) big, strong headers in central defence. His defensive schemes often use a dominant libero, such as Rune Bratseth, Miroslav Kadlec, or Traianos Dellas. In defence, Rehhagel usually prefers robustness and height over footballing abilities (the most notorious example being Ulrich Borowka). In the period of all-round, fluid defence, many have criticized this as dated and anachronistic, but Rehhagel replied that his success makes him right.

Rehhagel's teams regularly develop pressure on the wings complemented with at least one dominant header as the central striker. Examples include Mario Basler/Marco Bode playing on the wings at Bremen or Andreas Buck/Marco Reich at Kaiserslautern while (Rudi Völler, Karl-Heinz Riedle, Frank Neubarth, Olaf Marschall, and Angelos Charisteas) at the top of the formation.

The backbone of his teams are usually older, more experienced players while younger talents rarely find themselves taking responsibility. At Kaiserslautern, Rehhagel often kept the young Michael Ballack on the bench as a substitute. Despite this, he is also known for being an excellent talent scout, having discovered Völler, Riedle, Marco Bode, Dieter Eilts, Marco Reich, Miroslav Klose, Angelos Charisteas, Sotiris Kyrgiakos, Theofanis Gekas and many others.

With Greece he used man-marking, which was an unusual tactical throwback at the time, meaning their opponents were unprepared to combat it.[17]

Rehhagel is also known for being a good motivator. His teams possess a lot of team spirit, most famously the Greece national team, which he turned from a dead-end squad nobody wanted to play for into a must-be-there-at-all-costs team. He is also famous for reigniting the careers of older players, such as Manfred Burgsmüller, Mirko Votava, Olaf Marschall or Theodoros Zagorakis.

Rehhagel is also a deft and ruthless club politician. He is notorious for restructuring clubs by making friends with powerful people and using them to eliminate the opposition in order to wield absolute power, preferring the system of a benign dictatorship. His way of handling a club – in a competent and innovative, but also highly patronizing and condescending way – has been immortalized as ottocracy, a pun on his name alluding to the style of management/government; autocracy.

Finally, Rehhagel is considered somewhat of a maverick in Germany. In decades of interviews, he has established a reputation for being eccentric, arrogant and unwilling to admit mistakes, similar to e.g. José Mourinho and Brian Clough. However, seeing his impressive record, he is apparently able to back up his words.

Famous players associated with Rehhagel include Klaus Allofs, Mario Basler, Marco Bode, Rune Bratseth, Manfred Burgsmüller, Theofanis Gekas, Angelos Charisteas, Traianos Dellas, Dieter Eilts, Andreas Herzog, Marian Hristov, Miroslav Klose, Olaf Marschall, Hany Ramzy, Karl-Heinz Riedle, Wynton Rufer, Thomas Schaaf, Ciriaco Sforza, Rudi Völler, Theodoros Zagorakis, Andreas Brehme and Michael Ballack.

Personal life[edit]

Otto with wife Beate Rehhagel in 2017

Rehhagel is married to Beate Rehhagel from Steele, Essen since 1963. They have one child, Jens Rehhagel, who has played football at semi-professional level.[18]

Rehhagel likes to call himself Kind der Bundesliga ("Child of the Bundesliga"), having played in the very first Bundesliga game, and spent his club career there, with nine teams. In Greece, he is occasionally called King Otto (βασιλιάς Όθων), probably in allusion to King Otto of Greece from Bavaria, however he already had this nickname during his coaching career in Germany. As a pun referring to Herakles, son of Zeus, he has been nicknamed "Rehakles" as well.[8][19] Rehhagel is an honorary citizen of Athens.[20]

Career statistics[edit]

As of 15 May 2012
Team From To Record
G W D L Win % Ref.
1. FC Saarbrücken 1 July 1972 30 June 1973 30 7 10 13 023.33
Kickers Offenbach 2 April 1974 9 December 1975 60 23 10 27 038.33
Werder Bremen 29 February 1976[21] 30 June 1976[21] 13 4 5 4 030.77 [21]
Borussia Dortmund 1 July 1976[22] 30 April 1978[22] 74 29 16 29 039.19 [22]
Arminia Bielefeld 10 October 1978 11 October 1979 37 15 9 13 040.54
Fortuna Düsseldorf 12 October 1979 5 December 1980 53 26 9 18 049.06
Werder Bremen 2 April 1981[21] 30 June 1995[21] 609 322 156 131 052.87 [21]
Bayern Munich 1 July 1995[23] 27 April 1996[23] 42 27 5 10 064.29 [23]
1. FC Kaiserslautern 20 July 1996 1 October 2000 174 87 38 49 050.00
Greece 9 August 2001 30 June 2010 106 52 22 32 049.06
Hertha BSC 19 February 2012 30 June 2012 14 3 3 8 021.43 [16]
Total 1,225 606 278 341 049.47


Managerial honours[edit]

Fortuna Düsseldorf
Werder Bremen
1. FC Kaiserslautern


  1. ^ "1. FC Kaiserslautern". (in German). kicker. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Greeks go with Rehhagel". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 9 August 2001. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Rehhagel plots England downfall". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 September 2001. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Troubled Greek journey". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 September 2001. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Greeks through to finals". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 11 October 2003. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  6. ^ Bull, Andy; Doyle, Paul; Bandini, Paolo (4 December 2009). "The Joy of Six: memorable sporting moments of the decade". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Walker, Michael (14 June 2004). "Scolari bears brunt as hosts turn their anger inwards". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  8. ^ a b Baumann, Hendrik (23 June 2010). "Ende der Ottokratie". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  9. ^ "Rehhagel agrees new Greece contract". 29 March 2008. Archived from the original on 1 April 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  10. ^ Nicola Cecere (3 April 2016). "Maldini, dalla Coppa Campioni a c.t. del figlio: una carriera straordinaria" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Rehhagel officially announced his resignation". troktiko. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  12. ^ "Otto Rehhagel quits as Greece coach". BBC Sport. 24 June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  13. ^ Voutos, John (26 May 2021). ""Not many football documentaries start with a quote from Homer": Christopher Marks on 'King Otto'". The Greek Herald. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  14. ^ "Preetz bestätigt: Rehhagel übernimmt Hertha" (in German). 18 February 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  15. ^ Bremer, Uwe (17 May 2012). "Hertha setzt jetzt auf den "kleinen Diktator" Luhukay". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  16. ^ a b "Hertha BSC" (in German). kicker. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  17. ^ Askew, Joshua (11 June 2021). "How did Otto Rehhagel's Greece win Euro 2004?". Holding Midfield. Retrieved 14 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Berühmte Fußballer und ihre Söhne – Jens Rehhagel", t-online (in German)
  19. ^ "Greeks Won't Prevent 'Rehakles' Returning to Germany", Deutsche Welle, 9 July 2004
  20. ^ Rehhagel, Otto; Marks, Christopher (23 March 2022). "Hi! We're Coach "King Otto" Rehhagel and documentarian Christopher André Marks here answering your questions. Ask Us Anything!". Reddit. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Werder Bremen" (in German). kicker. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  22. ^ a b c "Borussia Dortmund" (in German). kicker. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  23. ^ a b c "Bayern München" (in German). kicker. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  24. ^ Jamie Rainbow (4 July 2013). "The Greatest Manager of all time". World Soccer.
  25. ^ Jamie Rainbow (2 July 2013). "The Greatest XI: how the panel voted". World Soccer. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Top 50 des coaches de l'historie". France Football. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  27. ^ "The 50 best coaches in history, according to 'France Football'". BeSoccer. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.

External links[edit]