Former Germany international midfielder Thorsten Fink has stepped down from his role of Vissel Kobe head coach on Tuesday, the J.League club announced. The 52-year old has decided to return to Germany to spend more time with his family, after overseeing a decline in form that saw Vissel fail to win any of their last seven league matches as well as being ignominiously dumped out from the J.League Cup by Kawasaki Frontale.
Thorsten had arrived at Vissel midway through the 2019 season, with the club struggling in the lower half of the J1 table. The German steadied the ship quite considerably that season and Vissel finished the season 8th. The Hyogo Prefecture-based club then struck gold in the cup competitions, winning the 2019 edition of the Emperor’s Cup before following it up with triumph in the 2020 Japanese Super Cup. Victory in the Emperor’s Cup enabled Vissel to qualify for the 2020 AFC Champions League and before the competition was suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Vissel managed to win all two games that they’ve played so far, a 5-1 demolition of Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim at the Misaki Park Stadium and a 1-0 away win at South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
In the current league season, however, Vissel’s old inconsistencies had came back to haunt them. Whilst many saw their shock 1-1 draw at home to newly promoted Yokohama FC in the J1’s opening matchweek as a mere fluke, they never actually recovered from it – with Vissel’s first win coming in Matchweek 3, a 1-0 victory away at Sagan Tosu. After that came a severe fluctuation of form in the league, with Vissel having yet to win consecutive games in the league until today, and that fluctuation culminated in the 7-game winless run that Vissel are undergoing right now. With a squad boasting star power such as FC Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, Belgium international Thomas Vermaelen, and Japan internationals Hotaru Yamaguchi and Kyogo Furuhashi, Vissel’s tally of 20 points from 19 games came as a huge embarrassment.
The fact that Vissel were obliterated 6-0 at home by Kawasaki in the J.League Cup knockout stage doesn’t make things better, with the humiliating defeat permanently etched in Thorsten’s record at Vissel.
“It is not easy to say goodbye to this city, this team, or these supporters, but I have decided to return to my family,” Thorsten said in an official statement released by Vissel, “We were able to win two trophies. This was a history achievement and something that will link us forever. I still believe that the team can achieve good results in both the league and the AFC Champions League, and I wish the club the best of luck.”
Alongside Thorsten, the German’s coaching staff – Sebastian Hahn, Masaki Morass, and Nikola Vidovic – have departed Vissel as well.
Vissel have yet to announce a replacement for Thorsten, however it was rumored that former Mexico, Japan, Osasuna, Espanyol, and Atletico Madrid head coach Javier Aguirre is the top candidate for the Vissel job, with the Mexican considering offers from both the J.League and Major League Soccer.
Whoever replaces Thorsten will have a mammoth of a job at their hands – stopping Vissel’s annual rot in form, retain the club’s performance in the AFC Champions League once the competition restarts, and bridging that massive 27 point gap between themselves and league leaders Kawasaki. The new head coach will have to rally the morale of the players as well, with Hotaru stating that he and the players were caught off-guard by the news of Thorsten’s resignation.
“I just heard about it,” Hotaro spoke to Kyodo News, “It will be difficult for us to get organized.”
Vissel’s next match will be on Wednesday night, with Sagan paying the Misaki Park Stadium a visit in the J1.