Have Stuttgart Sold Themselves into Oblivion?

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Have Stuttgart Sold Themselves into Oblivion?
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One win in seven Bundesliga matches. The joint-worst defensive record in Germany. Just two goals scored in four home games. This is Stuttgart.

With seven domestic games passed, Bruno Labbadia’s side stand 15th in the table. Out of 12 competitive fixtures overall, they’ve won just three: Their victims include Nuernberg, a Dinamo Moscow side in danger of being relegated from the Russian Premier League, and sixth-division German side Falkensee-Finkenkrug.

Struggling in the first half of a season is by no means a foreign concept for Stuttgart, which in three of the last four seasons has entered the winter break in the lower half of the table.

Its record suggests an upward turn is inevitable, sooner or later: The Swabians are historically strong finishers, and since winning the Bundesliga title in 2007 have ended each season in higher standing than their midseason position.

However, regardless of how longstanding it may be, Stuttgart’s trend of second-round success should not be taken as a given. The cold truth is that its investments and transfer dealings have been dangerous at best, if not suicidal.

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Instead of riding the momentum that came from their title run, the club’s board opted again and again to sell their best players to finance an expansive stadium renovation. One day, the decision could spell disaster.

Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira, Christian Traesch, Bernd Leno, Sebastian Rudy, Julian Schieber, Andreas Beck, Christian Gentner... in recent years, Stuttgart have sold nearly a full first team of quality players. Their replacements have been mediocre at best, as in the last five seasons the Swabians have sold for more value than they purchased.

The net transfer funds of €36.4 million have gone towards a €63.5m bill for stadium improvement. Ironically, expansion of the Mercedes-Benz Arena has been of no benefit to the club’s sporting results and has only allowed more fans to see firsthand just how poor their team is: In all competitions, Stuttgart have won just one home game.

Stuttgart's Transfers Since 2008
Year Net Sales

2012-13

2011-12

2010-11

2009-10

2008-09

€6.2m

€6.3m

€7.5m

€12.9m

€3.5m

Source: Transfermarkt

The practice of selling stars and replacing them with lesser players has caused significant trouble for a number of Bundesliga clubs in recent years, with the likes of Hertha BSC and Frankfurt paying a hefty price in the form of relegation.

Stuttgart fans can rest assured that their club will, in all likelihood, avoid the drop. Unlike Fuerth and Augsburg, the Swabians have real class in their squad. And with more German youth internationals in their ranks than any other club, their future is secure.

However, by swapping quality players for stadium renovation, the club nipped their progress in the bud and gained a reputation for selling again and again.

Stuttgart is not a destination for big-name players, and their youth graduates will not have the same loyalty as those from Bayern, Dortmund, and Schalke. With a revolving door of players and trainers, the club lack a clear ethos.

Following their Bundesliga title in 2007, Stuttgart is no more than a stepping stone for players. For the foreseeable future, their Champions League days are over. A pity, they could have been so much more.

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