Labbadia starts Hertha Berlin training for ‘Day X’ amid coronavirus

By Florian Luetticke and Thomas Wolfer, dpa

Bruno Labbadia returned to Bundesliga coaching on Monday at Hertha Berlin and while preparing the team for a league restart will forgo “a large part” of his salary as long as action is suspended because of the coronavirus.

Managing director Michael Preetz made this announcement at Labbadia’s official presentation on Monday, naming the gesture “great and remarkable.”

Hertha appointed Labbadia on Thursday with immediate effect and conducted his first training session later Monday.

“The plan is: to prepare the team in a optimal way for Day X,” Labbadia said.

Because of the pandemic there were no handshakes, embraces or high-fives when the 54-year-old returned, almost a year after leaving Wolfsburg who he had guided into the Europa League.

Training also took place without physical contact and in small groups of players which makes Labbadia’s task even harder.

Backed by new investor Lars Windhorst, Hertha also had big ambitions at the start of the season but find themselves struggling in 13th place as the league is suspended since mid-March, and at least until April 30.

Labbadia is the fourth coach this season at Hertha – following Ante Covic, former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann and Alexander Nouri.

Hertha decided to let Nouri, who had just one win in four games in charge, go now instead of keeping him until the end of the season.

Like all other clubs, Hertha hope that the season can be completed with matches behind closed doors, if they get approval from health and state authorities.

When exactly that will be remains to be seen, with Labbadia saying: “It could be in three weeks, in five weeks, or it could be in August.”

Labbadia said he fully supported the health regulations in place at the clubs and throughout the country. Only seven media were allowed to attend Monday’s news conference, with others submitting their questions via e-mail. Photographers and cameras were not permitted.

“I’m pleased to be here. Hertha was the club that I wanted to come to. I see a lot of potential here and I can’t wait for the challenge,” Labbadia said.

“We want to make the best of this difficult situation together now.”

I’m excited to convey our ideas to the team. We now need to get an idea of where the players are at. We want the lads to have fun playing football.”

Labbadia also said he had several offers in summer after leaving Wolfsburg who he had led into the Europa League, but that Hertha had been his preferred destination.

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