Rudi Völler cheered the whole evening with both Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma. And when the duel between his two heart clubs in the semi-finals of the Europa League was perfect at 11.44 p.m., the sports director of the DFB had to smile. "The inevitable happened," said Völler of the German Press Agency: "These will definitely be two wonderful games."
Both of which Völler will experience in the stadium. In the evening he signaled to Bayer Leverkusen's club boss Fernando Carro and Simon Rolfes, his successor as head of sport since last summer, that he will also travel to AS Roma for the first leg on May 11th.
At Leverkusen's home games, Völler, who has described himself as "half a Roman" for five years as a Roma striker from 1987 to 1992, usually sits in the stands anyway. This was also the case in the 1-1 quarter-final first leg against Union Saint-Gilloise on his 63rd birthday.
"Two 50-50 games"
And his sympathies will be clearly distributed. "With all my proximity to Rome, it's clear that my heart beats for Bayer Leverkusen," he said: "This is my club, where I will return to the supervisory board after my time in the DFB." The games against Rome are "two 50:50 games in which the day's form will decide". Coach José Mourinho "ignited great euphoria" in Roma.
But the strong performance of Leverkusen in the 4-1 second leg gives Völler courage that Bayer can win their first title since winning the DFB Cup in 1993. "We just deserved to win a title again," he said - and deliberately used the word "we". "Three years ago we were in the quarter-finals and unfortunately failed at Inter Milan," said the 1990 world champion, who worked for Bayer for almost three decades: "Now you have this run, the team has already played wonderful football in the last few weeks ."
Germany's last title hope
And so Bayer is Germany's last title hope after the end of FC Bayern and the other six Bundesliga clubs in the three European Cups. Captain Lukas Hradecky therefore spoke of a "great adventure" with sparkling eyes. And Rolfes is hoping for the support of all clubs and fans on the way to the title. "Nobody has to thank us. But it would be nice if everyone supported us," said the ex-national player: "We hope that everyone is behind us nationally so that we can win the next round."
After Eintracht Frankfurt last year, a German club can triumph again in the competition. When asked how real the dream of the title was, defender Jonathan Tah, who had been outstanding for weeks, answered succinctly and confidently: "I don't think it gets any more real than it is now."
In any case, Leverkusen are now dreaming of the final on May 31 in Budapest. "The goal is very clear, to reach the final," Rolfes clarified. And Hradecky, at 33 one of the experienced and already a participant in the European Championship and winner of the DFB Cup with Frankfurt, answered the question of where he would rate the success of his career so far with a laugh: "Ask me again in Budapest."
"This opportunity is great"
First of all, the first semi-final entry in Europe for 21 years was extensively celebrated on the three-hour bus ride home. "Xabi is very relaxed there. He was also a player once," Hradecky said when asked about the permitted beer consumption: "Everyone has to know how much they can drink. But five are definitely allowed." Alonso, who took over the team in October as the penultimate player in the Bundesliga and has not lost twelve competitive games in a row, has not yet spoken about the final. "Now we still have a journey ahead of us. We'll see where it takes us," he said. "But this chance is great."
Hradexcky also thought of Alonso's predecessor Gerardo Seoane, because "I'm still sorry that Gerardo had to go. But I said to Jona earlier: Rewind six months to where we were and how the team developed." That is also thanks to Alonso: "It's not just the coach. But Xabi did a very good job."