Pál Dárdai
BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 16: head coach Pal Dardai of Hertha BSC Berlin looks on prior to the Bundesliga match between Hertha BSC and Borussia Dortmund at Olympiastadion on March 16, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Appointed manager in 2015, Pál Dárdai has stabilised a young Hertha Berlin team. Taking over a club which had been relegated twice since 2010, the intense Hungarian has since led the team to three top 10 finishes in a row. Making significant progress, the 43-year-old is on track to achieve his fourth consecutive top 10 finish.

Successfully integrating a team of youthful up and coming talents, as well as some Bundesliga veterans, Dárdai has found a good balance of young and old. Playing for Hertha for 14 years, his relationship with the club has always been a good one. Becoming the clubs longest-serving player in 2009, Dárdai’s coaching career began in 2012.

Taking over Berlin’s under-15’s team, he managed at youth level for three years. On the verge of relegation when he took charge, his impact has been invaluable.

Pál Dárdai Has Hertha Berlin Heading in the Right Direction

The Season So Far

Experiencing a good start to the season, Hertha sat second after matchday four. One of the more tactically flexible teams in the Bundesliga, Dárdai regularly made changes. The team deployed six different formations before the winter break. This was confusing for opposition teams. But they weren’t the only ones that were confused.

Dárdai was struggling to settle on a formation, but the team was benefitting. Heading into the winter break, Hertha’s form dropped, with Dárdai’s team sitting eighth in the table. Relying on the likes of Ondrej Duda, Vedad Ibisevic and Davie Selke to deliver the goals, Hertha also benefitted from surprise contributions from Marko Grujic and Javairô Dilrosun.

On the other side of the winter break, the team remained competitive. However, injuries to key players held the team back. As Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen climbed the table, Hertha’s drop in form was untimely. Now 10th in the table, the team has dropped out of the race for Europe.

Once of the verge of securing Europa League qualification, Hertha needs some good fortune to play European football next season. Pál Dárdai has his young team playing competitive football on a weekly basis, with the team’s relegation fears in the rearview mirror.

Young Prospects

Similar to Leverkusen and RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin is stacked with young talent. Austrian wing-back Valentino Lazaro has been impressive this season. Playing three different roles, the 22-year-old has made contributions at right-back, wing-back and right midfield.

German centre-back Niklas Stark has also made a good impression. Playing his way into his national team, Stark has been one of the Bundesliga’s best defenders this season. Linked with Bayern Munich, Stark has a bright future, but Hertha will face a battle to keep him. If the talented German does move on, the club will look to Jordan Torunarigha and Florian Baak to fill the void.

One of the best midfield prospects in Europe, Germany’s Arne Maier has been a key player this season. Linked with a move to the Premier League, Maier was given a chance by Dárdai and Hertha have seen the player make great progress. A well rounded, deep-lying midfielder, the 20-year-old has quickly become a vital member of the Hertha midfield.

On loan from Liverpool, Marko Grujic has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. Struggling with minor injuries all season, Grujic was nominated for the Bundesliga’s rookie of the month award in December and January.

Signed from Manchester City last summer, Javairô Dilrosun is yet another player who was given an unexpected opportunity by Dárdai. Playing just 10 games this season due to injury, Dilrosun started the season in fine form. The 20-year-old scored two goals and contributed three assists, leading to his first call-up to the Dutch national team.

Since leaving RB Leipzig, striker Davie Selke has benefitted greatly from playing under Dárdai. Given more chances in Berlin, Dárdai’s faith in the talented German has been repaid. Scoring four goals in all competitions, Selke has also contributed a superb nine assists this season.

Patience Will be Key

Clubs like Hertha Berlin must enjoy their players while they can. A small budget club, keeping these talented youngsters will be impossible moving forward. As clubs like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund look to sign the best Bundesliga talent, teams like Hertha will eventually fall victim.

Berlin consistently sells more than they buy. Operating under a strict budget, it’s difficult for clubs like Hertha to succeed in the modern market. The clubs average player wage per year is just €965,000. In comparison, reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich pay their players an average of €7.4 million per year. A staggering difference, Berlin rank 12th in average player wage amongst Bundesliga clubs.

Pál Dárdai has this young Hertha Berlin team heading in the right direction. Creating a balance between young and old, stabilising a club which looked destined to struggle and most importantly, he’s building a competitive team that looks set to thrive in the future.

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