Edin Terzic, a son of immigrant parents from the former Yugoslavia, is living the Dortmund dream. Like many other football-mad kids born and raised in Germany‘s industrial west, his formative years were often spent conjuring up mental images of scoring goals for his club of choice, of course the Schwarzgelben.
While that particular dream was never realised, Terzic has now been handed the chance to stamp his outgoing personality on the team of his heart in a different way, as interim coach of Borussia Dortmund — who take on Union Berlin on Friday (2:20 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+) — until the end of the season. Make no mistake, the heart part is important to mention. At a club that is such an emotional fireball, by appointing Terzic to succeed his former boss Lucien Favre at least in the short term, the hope is for a return to a more passionate, proactive figure in the technical area.
Favre was done for after Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation at home against Stuttgart, but not because of that performance in itself. There had been too many stumbles against modest opposition: think the 2-0 loss at Augsburg and the 2-1 defeat to Cologne before last weekend’s demolition job.
Even senior players were less than subtle in their comments after the weekend trouncing. When captain Marco Reus says, “We are not a team that can defend well” or describes a display as ”shameful,” then your ears prick up. Mats Hummels turned to the little used idiomatic expression, “Zu viel Geschnicke,” which can best be translated as the English ”too much faffing around.”
After a lengthy discussion in an executive box at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park involving all the senior decision makers, including CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and sporting chief Michael Zorc, there was no inertia. Favre’s fate was sealed.
It was not the preferred option to let the Swiss tactician go at this stage, but the club felt they had little choice. In a league featuring European champions Bayern Munich and improved versions of RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg, concern about not hitting their minimum target of a top-four place had become real as they sit fourth, three points off the league lead, but having played one game more than their competition for the European places.
Favre was and is a very able coach and educator. Sources close to the club have consistently raved to me about his methods and footballing nous, but in a results-dominated business, it’s legitimate to ask if he qualifies as a Meistertrainer — someone who can win titles.
It must also be said that personality comes into this. Favre is pleasant and likeable but somewhat distant, introverted and guarded in his public dealings. Listening to his media briefings, we came to expect the usual salad of words we had all heard before.
BVB fans need fire and brimstone from their head coach. They had the ultimate football evangelist in Jurgen Klopp, between 2008 and 2015, and it has been a struggle for any of the ensuing four managers before Terzic’s appointment to measure up. Favre could never compete in this department, nor did he try.
Then when results went awry and doubts crept in about an often overly slow and ponderous style, the strikes against the coach meant his position had become untenable. Borussia Dortmund’s overreliance on the currently injured Erling Haaland had also exposed the true extent to which they were underperforming in other sectors of the team.
In the aftermath of Favre’s dismissal, my inbox was full of questions from around the world wondering what next. Who would Dortmund bring in? A big name from abroad?
Remember, this is Germany, and there is no tradition of doing what is frequently done in England and buying out the contract of someone else’s head coach or manager midseason. Instead, such changes are worked out so they take effect the following summer. A stopgap to fill the void is the normal solution, and that is what Dortmund have opted for.
There was speculation that the club’s promising U23 coach Enrico Maassen might get the nod, but Terzic — viewed as someone independent of Favre, even though he was part of his coaching staff — had many things going for him, not least an existing relationship with the first-team squad. Let us also not forget the impact a certain assistant coach made upon being promoted to the top job at Bayern a year ago. Could it happen along similar lines for Terzic?
First things first, his debut as coach at Werder Bremen on Tuesday night saw a solid-if-unspectacular BVB grind out a 2-1 win. But Terzic — who shouted, cajoled, instructed and praised from the technical area all night — was broadly happy. Symbolically he gave 16-year old Youssoufa Moukoko his first start — making him the youngest player to ever start a Bundesliga contest — something Favre had shied away from.
Afterward, Terzic summed it up like this: “At times it was the BVB football I imagine. I’m proud that we gave everything from start to finish.” He was most proud of the way they ”defended the victory.”
There is more polishing to be done, though, and the next test comes on Friday against perhaps the biggest surprise package of the season: Union Berlin. There are no hiding places for Dortmund or Terzic right now, not that the coach strikes anyone as a shrinking violet.
The early favourite to take over the reins on a permanent basis is Borussia Monchengladbach‘s Marco Rose, a man who concedes he learned most of what he knows playing under Klopp at Mainz for six years. Rose reportedly has a release clause that can be activated next summer and it’s frankly not hard to envisage him as Dortmund’s tactician in chief.
Given his Bundesliga head coaching experience at a traditional giant as well as FC Salzburg, Rose holds the edge over the incumbent at the helm of the Austrian champions, Jesse Marsch. However, the American would potentially be an attractive candidate for Gladbach if Rose were to move on.
Mauricio Pochettino might be in the conversation but would first need to develop a comfortable command of German. It’s also probable he’ll be lined up somewhere else by the summer.
I’m not going to overlook Terzic, though. A Croatian passport holder, he has learned a lot working under Slaven Bilic at Besiktas and West Ham United. He also served in different capacities in the Dortmund youth academy during the successful Klopp years.
When it comes down to it, Terzic is the personification of the magnificent football madhouse that is the Ruhrpott. Born in Menden just 18 miles from Dortmund, he played semi pro at places like Herne and Wattenscheid, to pay for his sports-science studies at the Ruhr University in Bochum.
Terzic truly gets Borussia Dortmund, as someone who first attended a game in the Westfalenstadion at the age of nine. Expect energy, enthusiasm and passionate football to once again be on the menu for BVB fans with one of their own at the helm. Can he spark Dortmund back into title contention? I’m intrigued.