Eintracht Frankfurt have gone from strength to strength since Frebi Bobic was appointed as sporting director and their recent €4 million signing of Dejan Joveljić seems to indicate a continuation of Bobic’s impressive transfer policy – a young foreign prospect who should improve the Frankfurt squad and potentially provide substantial profit to the club if sold on. Bobic’s formula has transformed the club’s fortunes since he arrived at Eintracht three years ago.
Eintracht Frankfurt had survived by the skin of their teeth, avoiding relegation in 2016 with a narrow playoff victory over FC Nürnberg. Die Adler had become something of a yo-yo club since the turn of the century, a fate befalling several traditional big city clubs who bounce between the first and second divisions with regularity. A change of tack seemed necessary and the decision was taken to set up a fresh start with Bobic installed as new sporting director.
In hindsight, the appointment seems like something of a masterstroke. Fredi Bobic’s transfer policy, coupled with the work from respective coaches Niko Kovac and Adi Hütter, have seen year-on-year on-field improvement.
2016/17 saw mid-table stability in 11th following the relegation battle of the previous season, as well as a DFB Pokal runners-up spot. In the next season, Frankfurt went one better as they defeated Bayern Munich for their first cup victory in 20 years and recorded a very respectable eighth place in the Bundesliga. Following this, Eintracht earned plaudits across Europe for their expansive style in 2018/19, which brought a Europa League semi-final and seventh position. It is testament to the side’s recent fortunes that this league position was a disappointment in the end, as Frankfurt seemed set for Champions League qualification had it not been for poor late-season form.
Credit must go to Bobic, as the quality of the Eintracht Frankfurt side has significantly improved in the relatively short three-year period in which he has been at the helm. The greatest success seems to have come from young prospects that have perhaps been cast off from previous clubs.
Arguably the most significant buy of Fredi Bobic’s tenure has been Luka Jović, with the Serbian arriving initially in the summer of 2017 on a two-year loan deal. Little fanfare surrounded the signing, as Jović had only made two league appearances for his parent club Benfica. Early on in his career, the striker’s talent was recognised, however attitude problems seemed to hold Jović back.
“He was a very talented player. He had a nose for goal, a natural gift,” Jović’s former Red Star boss Slavisa Stojanovic told Bleacher Report. “But I got angry with him sometimes because he looked so lazy on the training field. At that time, he had slightly longer hair and in some training sessions he was more focused on his hairstyle than anything else.” His diet was also criticised during his time at the Serbian giants.
It seemed that for all of Luka Jović’s talent, he lacked the work ethic and professionalism to fulfil his potential. So, when the forward took on an instrumental role at Eintracht Frankfurt during his loan deal, there was some surprise. Jović recorded eight goals in 22 Bundesliga appearances during his first season. However, it was under coach Adi Hütter that the Serb came into his own, with 27 goals in 48 matches in all competitions during 2018/19. A highlight was the five he netted in the 7-1 rout over Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Jović’s form made it inevitable his stay in Frankfurt would be a short one. Nevertheless, Eintracht were able to trigger Jović’s reported €7 million release clause prior to any lucrative move. Due to Bobic’s foresight, Jović represented a remarkable piece of business for the club. The sporting director took a chance on the talented youth, and the release clause negotiated has allowed Frankfurt to enjoy a considerable profit. Shortly after becoming Eintracht’s own, Jović moved on to Real Madrid for a €60 million fee. Only a fraction of this windfall has been spent on the aforementioned Joveljić, who is thought to be a replacement for his compatriot. If he were to replicate Jović’s form, Joveljić could command a similar transfer fee.
The sporting director seems to favour talent from the Balkan region, which is perhaps why Jović felt so at home in Germany. One of Fredi Bobic’s first purchases for the club was Croatian forward Ante Rebić, who has grown into one of his greatest success stories. Rebić fits a similar profile to Jović, being another tale of a fruitful loan spell and subsequent cheap release clause. After making minimal impact at Fiorentina in Serie A, he joined Frankfurt on loan shortly after Bobic’s arrival in 2016. Following two successful years, Eintracht exercised their option to buy Rebić permanently for a bargain €2 million in summer 2018. Given that this was after an impressive showing at the World Cup, where the player was part of a Croatia side that reached the final, this was a real coup for die Adler.
It was another instance of Bobic’s nous in the transfer market, taking a chance on the player despite his past failings. In consequence, Eintracht Frankfurt now have one of Europe’s in-demand talents as their own having spent a minimal fee. As was the case for Jović, Eintracht will be able to make a sizeable profit when Rebić does move on. This could well be very soon, as the likes of Inter Milan have shown interest in the Croatia international. La Stampa report that the Nerazzurri are willing to pay a €40 million price tag. Either way, Ante Rebić exists as another example of the success of Fredi Bobic’s formula.
Throughout the Eintracht Frankfurt squad, there are further young Fredi Bobic purchases that have improved the side and have the potential to further boost the club coffers in transfer sales. For example, Sébastien Haller was part of the three-pronged attack which contributed so many league and cup goals over the past two seasons. 33 goals in 77 Eintracht appearances will not have gone unnoticed throughout the continent. Other players such as Danny da Costa, Filip Kostić and Evan N’Dicka would also command high transfer fees that would dwarf the amount initially paid by Frankfurt for their services.
In the event of a fire sale at the club, it is fundamental that Eintracht Frankfurt continue the success of Bobic’s transfer policy. The talents of last season moving on would certainly bring financial benefit, but much would be lost on-field from these outgoings. There will be a large amount of pressure on the club to find replacements who can replicate the form of the current stars. The purchase of Dejan Joveljić is an early indication that Fredi Bobic will stick to his guns and focus his attention on young foreign talent. The business model of the past three years has brought steady progress, and there are high hopes that this will continue under Bobic’s stead as sporting director.
By Colin Moore.