Who is Alexander Zorniger? The Barnsley linked radical German coach who clashed with Timo Werner and transformed Teemu Pukki’s mentality

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 13 October 2020, 10:48

It’s been a week since Gerhard Struber vacated his post at Barnsley, which left the Yorkshire club scrambling around for their 18th full-time manager of the century.

At the time of writing, the former Tykes defender Darren Moore - now manager of Doncaster Rovers - is the odds-on favourite in the next Barnsley manager market.

However, there’s been no news of any contact between the parties concerning a potential switch.

Hannes Wolf and Eddie Howe, who have both featured from the get-go, remain in contention - in the betting at least - while Hartberg’s Markus Schopp, ex-Huddersfield manager Danny Cowley and Barnsley’s caretaker Adam Murray are all in the mix.

History tells us that this market could drag on for quite some time. After all, it was in October of last season that Murray occupied the caretaker tag for a whopping six weeks while a flurry of managers came in and out of contention for the post. In the end, Struber was the surprise appointment.

There haven’t been too many movements over the last few days, except for the sudden appearance of Alexander Zorniger, who is a best-priced 10/1 to rock up at Oakwell.

So, who is he, what’s his managerial history like, and why’s he had beef with Timo Werner? 

Let’s take a look...

Who has he managed?

Zorniger began his managerial career in his homeland Germany with 1. FC Normannia Gmünd, with whom he managed for five years between 2004 and 2009. 

He was briefly an assistant at VfB Stuttgart, before he became head coach of Sonnenhof Großaspach.

In the summer of 2012, Zorniger took charge of RB Leipzig, where he enjoyed a successful two-and-a-half-year tenure.

Next up was a disappointing 15-game spell at VfB Stuttgart, then he ventured over to Denmark where he completely transformed Brøndby IF’s style of play; between 2016 and 2019.

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Is Alexander Zorniger Barnsley bound?

What’s he won?

Zorniger propelled Sonnenhof Grossasbach into Germany’s third-tier in 2012.

He then took RB Leipzig from the fourth league into the second, and also lifted the Saxony Cup. In total he won 60.42% of his matches at the club.

At Brøndby he led the club to their highest league position (2nd) in 11 years and reached the cup final. He replicated this league standing the following campaign which saw his troops agonisingly falter in their final few games, which allowed FC Midtjylland to claim the spoils. 

However, he did win the Danish Cup (2018) at the second time of asking - a competition the club hadn’t tasted success in since 2008.

What’s his style of play?

At Brøndby Zorniger employed a radical style of football known in Denmark as overfaldsfodbold; where teams attempt to overwhelm their opponents through aggressive pressing - picture an extreme form of Gegenpressing. 

In a nutshell his team were characterised by their intensity, courage, ability to take risks and their lightning fast transitions. An article in the publication Information describes Zorniger’s use of a stopwatch in training sessions:

“Once a team has captured the ball, it has had eight seconds to reach a finish - while the team that has just lost the ball has had five seconds to win it back. Thus, both the defense and offensive chain are forced to act with great fury.”

During his time at the club he also made history by fielding a team without a single Danish player - something that had never happened in the Superliga before. Of his decision, Zorniger said

"We fish in a very small lake (in Brøndby's talent academy) and right now we do not have the quality to take two or three players from there every year."

He’s had beef with Timo Werner?

During his brief time in charge of Stuttgart, Zorniger managed Timo Werner, the Chelsea forward.

Back then (2015) Werner was only 19-years-old and was struggling to nail down a starting position under Zorniger. "I am not his nanny," Zorniger said at the time. "He should not be satisfied with just making the squad."

Then, a month later, Zorniger wasn’t too impressed with Werner’s goal celebration during a 2-2 draw with Hoffenheim:

“We could have won 3-2, but Werner was so busy blowing kisses to the crowd after his equaliser that he forgot to focus on scoring a winner.”

He’s also managed Teemu Pukki?

At Brøndby he managed Teemu Pukki, who in his two full seasons under the coach hammered in 48 goals.

"We [Brondy] got a new coach after the first two years,” Pukki told Sky Sports in June. “He was a tough German manager who got us into shape and changed our mentality about football. That really helped me."

Is he currently available for hire?

Yes. Zorniger has been out of work since February 2019, when he left Brondby mid-way through his third season.

He was recently linked with Schalke after they sacked David Wagner, and a few months ago he was reportedly in the mix to take charge of Steve McClaren’s former club FC Twente.

Should he be appointed at Barnsley, fans will witness attacking and aggressive brand of football, while the players will be pushed to their absolute limit in training.

He will speak his mind, he’s very demanding and isn’t afraid to push people’s buttons or challenge the existing culture at a club.

In other words, expect a roller coaster ride.

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