Visibly bleary-eyed after a sleepless night, FSV Mainz sporting director Rouven Schröder appeared before the cameras in a scheduled press conference Thursday afternoon. Schröder presides over a club in chaotic disarray following a highly publicized training boycott on Wednesday.
Showing remarkable candor, Schröder didn't downplay the precarious situation his club finds itself in.
|Rouven Schröder.||Photo: Olaf Kosinsky, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0|
Mainz's Rouven Schröder confirmed the reason his players refused to take the pitch related directly to the club's suspension of forward Adam Szalai. "The team has undertaken a solidarity action for Adam," Schröder noted, who also announced that Szalai had been assigned to the U23 squad and will not be allowed to train with his fellow professionals.
The Mainz managing director again sought to emphasize that Szalai's suspension had nothing to do with a pay dispute of any kind. "The Szalai issue has absolutely nothing to do with salary concerns," Schröder told the press, "We already informed Adam in the summer how the sporting situation stands and that we could not guarantee him enough playing time; not even in light of the European Championship of [summer] 2021."
Szalai's agent promises fight
Schröder seemed to imply that the dispute with the 32-year-old Hungarian striker had to do with the player's request for more minutes ahead of a potential call-up to his national team. Szalai's agent says different. Oliver Fischer, Szalai's professional representative, is on record as stating that Szalai was suspended because he tried to steer the team council toward a fight for the delayed renumeration they were promised during the COVD lockdown.
"Mainz's actions are shocking and cannot be accepted," Fischer is quoted by German site Transfermarkt as saying, "Adam did nothing wrong either on or off the pitch."
Fischer also told VRM-group newspapers that he would contest the suspension on behalf of his client. "We will stand firm and insist that Adam be allowed to participate in team training next week," Fischer is quoted as saying in the German footballing magazine Kicker, "Adam will not look for a new club. He wants to and will stay in Mainz."
Beierlorzer tells his side of the story
Mainz trainer Achim Beierlorzer has, in the past, noted that Szalai did not accord him the proper respect. He defended the decision to suspend Szalai and exclude him from training as a logical choice, given that the club had publicly declared he no longer had a future with the Nullfünfter.
"The anticipated conflicts of such a situation would have led [anyone] to make such a decision," Beierlorzer said, "There are also [previous personal] experiences that I don't want to delve deeper into."
Beierlorzer also said that he had spoken to the team, expressed understanding for their stance regarding Szalai, and did not take the training strike as a personal affront to himself.
Schröder's words signal more conflict to come
At the end of the day, the sporting director couldn't produce words that convince anyone that the rift between players and management is behind the club. The problems appear to remain very much a live issue. Beierlorzer may potentially be under fire if he has lost the locker room.
"Life does not always follow a straightforward and positive course," Schröder told the press corps in a curiously cryptic metaphysical statement, "What happened did not [build up] overnight. It is clear that what transpired will not be resolved immediately. We must continue to work intensively on these issues. It will be a longer process."
Showing candor, Schröder admitted that he had considered disciplining the players for their boycott action before realizing that he did not have the internal capital to take such action. "We knew that this decision would be an unpopular one, but we must say that we misjudged the communications channels in this case," he noted.
With even greater candor, Schröder flatly stated that he had no positive spin to put on developments. "The fact that the team didn't show up for training is a very pleasant situation," the director is quoted on the club's website as saying, "This definitely constitutes an escalation. There's no need for us to sugarcoat anything."
In pre-season prognostications, many German football tippers have picked Mainz to potentially implode and sink to dead last in the table. An ill-timed mutiny such as this likely affirms the concerns of many that the Pfälzer are in trouble.