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Baumgart out as Cologne coach with team stuck in Bundesliga relegation zone

Steffen Baumgart Steffen Baumgart - The Canadian Press

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Relegation-threatened Cologne parted ways with coach Steffen Baumgart on Thursday because of the team’s disappointing start to the season.

Further bad news came later for Cologne when the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed the club's appeal against a ruling concerning the signing of Jaka Čuber Potočnik from Slovenian club Olimpija Ljubljana, confirming Cologne's ban from registering new players for the next two transfer periods.

The CAS agreed with the earlier finding that the now 18-year-old Potočnik committed a severe breach of contract against his former club Olimpija when he terminated it without just cause in January 2022, and that Cologne was jointly liable.

“We have always said that we have always taken the transfer ban scenario into consideration and will organize our squad planning accordingly until the end of the now definitive ban,” Cologne managing director Christian Keller said. "There is always an opportunity in every challenge. It is precisely with this attitude that we will look ahead and tackle this challenge.”

Earlier Thursday, the Bundesliga club said the 51-year-old Baumgart had jointly agreed with Keller and sporting director Thomas Kessler not to continue.

“We were very open, direct, factual and respectful in the last days and weeks, as to whether or not the strength and conviction are there in the required amount,” Keller said. “For that reason, it is to be fully respected that Steffen questioned his own personal conviction. As a result, we collectively decided to end our working relationship — even when that hurts, personally.”

Baumgart’s last game in charge was a 2-0 loss at his ex-club Union Berlin on Wednesday. Both teams had been level on just 10 points going into their last game before the winter break. Cologne remained in the relegation zone after the defeat.

Baumgart had already hinted after the game that he was thinking of quitting.

“Cologne is my club. When you’re working 2 1/2 years at a club, it’s not about throwing in the towel or not. It’s about what’s the best thing for this club. It doesn’t mean yes or no, but I think we have to be clear — we’re all responsible and we have to answer for it,” Baumgart said.

Baumgart took over in 2021 and quickly became a fan favorite for his direct manner and passion for the team. He led it to seventh place in his first season, then 11th in the next. Now it’s in a fight for Bundesliga survival.

Keller had publicly backed the coach five weeks ago but their relationship had reportedly suffered in the meantime.

Cologne made no mention of a possible successor to Baumgart, who had a contract to 2025.


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