Ilzer vs. Klauß: “Spy Gate” shelved before the Cup final

Ilzer vs. Klauß: “Spy Gate” shelved before the Cup final
Sturm coach Christian Ilzer and his counterpart from Rapid, Robert Klauß

Christian Ilzer and Robert Klauß will probably no longer be best friends. The “spy gate” brings additional explosiveness to the ÖFB Cup final between Sturm Graz and Rapid. However, the handshake that was last refused will be given again before the final on Wednesday (5 p.m./live ORF 1), as the coaches of the finalists indicated.

  • Also read: Why Sturm Graz sports director Schicker looks enviously to Upper Austria

There are similarities. Both Ilzer and Klauss entered the coaching business early on without any big names. Klagenfurt. “For me, the issue is settled. From my side, I will strive for a normal relationship between Klauss and myself,” emphasized the Styrian before the reunion in Klagenfurt. Less than a week before, Ilzer’s emotions had spilled over after Sturm’s 3-1 win in Vienna. There was talk of “paranoia” after Klauß reported spies from Graz at Rapid’s training sessions. Ilzer said on Monday that he was only reacting to the allegations. He now wanted to show the finale “enough respect that, in my opinion, I would declare this issue to be over.” Shortly before, Klauss had remarked that he no longer wanted to pay any attention to the matter. A handshake is “part of it,” said the German. “I don’t have a problem with him.”

For the 46-year-old Ilzer and Klauß, who is seven years younger, the Cup final can bring the next step on the career ladder. The Styrian was able to celebrate the trophy with a storm last year. An “absolute highlight” on a fantastic evening of football, as he said in retrospect. “Now it’s the repeat. To make it there again is an honor. It was a rocky, hard road back to the final. Winning that would mean everything to us again.”

“The Greatest Game”

Klauß is still waiting to win the title as chief supervisor. As assistant coach to Ralf Rangnick, he was in the 2019 DFB Cup final with RB Leipzig, which was lost to Bayern Munich. “As head coach, it’s the biggest game to date. I’m really looking forward to having the chance to win a title after six months. It makes me proud,” said the German, who has been working in Vienna since last November. Like Ilzer, the father of two began his path to becoming a coach at a young age.

Ilzer put an end to his dream of becoming a professional soccer player as a striker for SC Weiz after two cruciate ligament tears and started working as a youth coach at the age of 17. From the depths of Styrian football, the trained electrical engineer made his way to the top as an assistant coach, video analyst and fitness coach at TSV Hartberg. Ilzer completed his studies in sports science and, after being rejected twice due to his lack of a professional career, managed to get into the ÖFB’s UEFA Pro license course and sat in on industry greats such as Jupp Heynckes and Arsene Wenger. His path ultimately took him from Eastern Styria via Wolfsberg to the Bundesliga.

After a difficult one-year interlude at Wiener Austria, Ilzer returned to Styria in 2020. He left Vienna at his own request for Sturm and formed his team together with Andreas Schicker, who had only recently been appointed as the new sports director. Sturm finished the season sixth in the championship group without competing in the European Cup – a year later they were third. The now regulars Jon Gorenc Stankovic, Jusuf Gazibegovic and Gregory Wüthrich brought Ilzer to the club in 2020, Alexander Prass, Manprit Sarkaria and David Affengruber followed a year later. The success has so far proven the path chosen.

Assistant to Nagelsmann

Klauß was on the pitch for a year from October 2022 – for SSV Markranstädt in the sixth German league. The East German, who was born in Eberswalde, northeast of Berlin, returned to the Saxony League after his stint at 1. FC Nürnberg ended. The trained center forward had already played for Markranstädt as a 22-year-old before the club handed over its men’s division to Red Bull, which meant that Klauß also stormed for Leipzig from then on. At the age of 25, he started working as an assistant coach for the Leipzig U14 team. In 2014 he took over the U14 full-time, a year later the U17 and another season after that the U23 of the “Red Bulls”.

It is also documented that Klauß completed the football teacher course in 2018 as the best in his class with an average grade of 1.0. In addition to Rangnick, the teacher was also Julian Nagelsmann, under whom he also worked as an assistant at RB. In his first position as “boss” he worked in Nuremberg. Curious: Even during his time with the Franconians, Klauß insisted on playing for Markranstädt in the state cup.

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