It became official over the weekend: Norwegian football coach Ståle Solbakken has opted to become head coach of German club FC Köln (Cologne) instead of the national team in his native Norway. That means Solbakken has broken a contract he signed to coach the Norwegians, and he admits that may be viewed as “morally problematic.”
Solbakken, who’s most recently had great success coaching the Danish club FC København (Copenhagen), came home to Oslo on Sunday to face some tough questioning by Norwegian reporters. Many wanted to know whether he understood that he’d let Norway down by choosing to coach the German club instead of his own national squad.
“I have full understanding that many think this is controversial, that it can be morally problematic what I’ve done,” Solbakken admitted to newspaper Aftenposten. “But I would have regretted for the rest of my life if I hadn’t taken this opportunity.”
Solbakken had signed a deal with the Norwegian football (soccer) foundation to take over for highly respected coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen when the 69-year-old Olsen’s contract expires next year. But then the proverbial better offer came along, when FC Köln sought Solbakken’s services. At stake was a chance to coach in the Bundesliga for a lot more money than the Norwegians could pay. German media have reported that Solbakken will get the equivalent of NOK 10 million plus bonus, compared to NOK 3 million plus bonus in Norway.
Solbakken said he’d be lying “if I don’t say that (the salary) was a part of the conclusion,” but he insists it wasn’t critical. Rather, he claims he was mostly lured by the challenge of coaching a major club, and thinks it’s difficult to compare the two jobs.
The Norwegian national team (called landslaget) “plays eight or nine matches during the year, where three or four are important, and then you have championships if you get thar far,” Solbakken told Aftenposten. At FC Köln, “you live from week to week,” where every single match is important, he said.
Solbakken also stressed that his decision to break his contract with the Norwegians means they will receive compensation of a reported NOK 5 million-6 million, more if Solbakken does well in Köln. And Solbakken noted that the Norwegian football officials still have adequate time to find a replacement for Drillo, and himself.
Calls are already going out for Drillo to simply continue as Norway’s popular and respected head coach. Solbakken added that others will decide what’s best, “but there’s no doubt Norway already has someone who’s firmly in control. He (Drillo) has proven that for a long, long time.”