Defender will leave Hertha BSC after seven years: Niklas Stark and the important final rounds – Sport

It was right after the first change of coach this season at Hertha BSC in late autumn. Pal Dardai’s successor, Tayfun Korkut, fielded the most regular players in a team in a training game. Niklas Stark wasn’t there and wasn’t in the starting XI for Korkut’s debut at VfB Stuttgart a few days later.

Less than four months later, after the second change of coach of the season: In the first session under Felix Magath, Stark was not in the team with the regulars for the final training game. But this time the situation was completely different from the end of November. The 26-year-old was missing slightly injured. Four days later against TSG Hoffenheim he was on the pitch from the start.

After the 3-0 win, Stark listed what went well: Hertha got on well and was stable, “we tightened the chains and communicated well”. What he didn’t mention, but what was also clearly recognizable: As the only six in the new 4-1-4-1 system, Stark’s very appealing performance played a major role in the improvement at Hertha after weeks of failure .

It was fitting that Stark had taken the lead with his first goal in the Bundesliga after more than two years.

And that in a position that he knows very well from before, but hasn’t played in for a long time. Regularly last in the first half of the previous season under coach Bruno Labbadia. The change of position back then wasn’t bad, “to get a different view of the six”, Stark once said in retrospect.

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Coach Felix Magath now remembered Stark’s qualities in defensive midfield and put him there instead of in central defence. Stark didn’t have many ball contacts, but organized excellently. Just like Hertha had a lot less of the ball than Hoffenheim, but everything was under control.

What worked against a good football team like TSG could also work on Saturday against a good football team like Bayer Leverkusen (3.30 p.m., live on Sky). So there is much to suggest that Stark is again in sixth position at Bayer.

Niklas Stark played the most minutes at Hertha BSC in 2020/21

Last season he had the most minutes of action of all Hertha pros, currently he is second behind goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow. Also at Tayfun Korkut Stark quickly became a regular player again. As has almost always been the case since moving from 1. FC Nürnberg in 2015. He became a national player at Hertha, but the last of his two appearances was almost a year and a half ago.

Last summer, Stark said that he could well imagine extending his contract, which is now expiring, and maybe even staying until the end of his career. At the end of 2021, sports director Fredi Bobic spoke of an “open, clear, very honest exchange”.

However, the club did not offer the vice-captain, whose salary is in the upper range at Hertha, and according to “Kicker” there will not be one either. Hertha is well manned in central defense, Stark is leaving the club on a free transfer at the end of the season. Where to, that is not yet certain. Time and again there had been reports of interest from England.

Stark has often led the way in the past when it came to trying to find an explanation for why things hadn’t worked out after games – although he often didn’t have a real explanation either. Even in this season, which was again very difficult for Hertha, he rarely made any major mistakes on the pitch and was mostly solid. But he never became the one who inspires others, who shows the way on the lawn.

That was just the first step, Stark said after the win against Hoffenheim. “But we are now approaching the next tasks with a better feeling.” If he plays like he did against TSG, Stark will still play a very important role for the Berliners until the end of the season. And if he plays all the outstanding games, he will then have a round number of 200 in terms of competitive games for Hertha BSC.

By Editor

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