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Mario Gotze's situation recalls Kalle Del'Haye's nightmare Bayern career

More than 10 years ago, a musician named Marcus Wiebusch, later with German indie darlings Kettcar, put out an acoustic solo release. The second track on the tape was called "Erinnert sich jemand an Kalle 'del Haye" -- "Does anyone remember Kalle 'del Haye?"

It's fair to say that even then, barely eight years after the former West German international had finished his Bundesliga career with Fortuna Dusseldorf, few people did. It says much that Wiebusch decided to honour him in song -- and then misspelled his name. It should be Del'Haye.

The song uses the player as a symbol for how easily dreams can be shattered. Indeed, there are few better examples for the vagaries of football life than Karl "Kalle" Del'Haye.

At 24 years of age, he was a member of the West German squad that won the 1980 European Championship and had just become one of the most expensive Bundesliga players in history. Bayern Munich parted with 1.26 million Marks (at the time the equivalent of £300,000) to sign him from Borussia Monchengladbach, then a club record.

Five years later, Del'Haye spent an entire Bundesliga season in the stands or on the bench. Even though he was healthy and fit, the coach didn't give him a single minute of league football. No wonder he was soon forgotten.

Or not quite. In July, I was attending a birthday party in a garden in Dortmund. As the sun set, talk turned to Ilkay Gundogan and why his move to Bayern broke down. Somebody suggested he might have been put off by what happened to Mario Gotze.

Suddenly, a seasoned football fan named Siggi muttered: "Kalle Del'Haye," to which most people above a certain age solemnly nodded their heads. Nothing more had to be said.

Only a few weeks later, in early August, I came across Del'Haye's name again -- and in the same context. The website of the Bavarian broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk ran a piece about Gotze's situation at Bayern and the headline read: "The Life of Mario Del'Haye".

Del'Haye, you see, may be forgotten as a player, but his name is still often evoked to describe a certain situation. In much the same way in which "Edsel" now stands for a massive failure, "Del'Haye" stands for a certain kind of transfer. As the Bayerischer Rundfunk piece says, "Gotze's situation is reminiscent of Karl Del'Haye's, who 35 years ago was the first strategic transfer made by the Munich club to weaken a competitor."

The idea that Bayern would use their financial clout to sign players not necessarily because they needed or wanted them but rather to hurt a rival is very old. In the 1980s, Nuremberg fans sensed a conspiracy when Bayern lured Norbert Eder, Hans Dorfner, Stefan Reuter, Roland Grahammer and Manfred Schwabl away. In the following decade, people in Karlsruhe said it couldn't be a coincidence that Michael Sternkopf, Oliver Kreuzer, Mehmet Scholl, Oliver Kahn, Michael Tarnat and Thorsten Fink all joined Bayern.

This suspicion originates with Del'Haye's move to Bayern in 1980. Nearly three years ago, using almost the same words as Bayerischer Rundfunk, Die Welt newspaper called it "the mother of all strategic transfers, completed to undermine a rival."

According to this widespread theory, the story went like this.

Del'Haye -- who comes from Aachen, near the Dutch and Belgian borders, hence the unusual surname -- had just won his first cap and was about to be named the best right winger in the Bundesliga by kicker magazine when Bayern courted him. He left UEFA Cup finalists Gladbach and joined reigning league champions Bayern because Uli Hoeness assured him during the contract negotiations he would be used in his preferred position on the right wing.

However, when the young man reported for duty in Munich, he found that this position didn't exist in the system of coach Pal Csernai, who preferred two strikers up front: Dieter Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Csernai tried to remodel Del'Haye into a defensive midfielder and asked him to cover for Paul Breitner. When this attempt failed, the club lost interest in their new signing.

Kicker magazine asked: "Is this the most cynical transfer of the year?" hinting Del'Haye had been signed for the bench. Soon, he felt marginalised as a player and also ostracised as a person. Del'Haye's daughter died a few months after her birth, and the fact that he appeared unfocused on the training pitch and withdrawn in the dressing room during this time isolated him in the team.

In his first two years, Del'Haye made only 21 league appearances, 14 of them as a sub. He said: "At Bayern, a human being means nothing as long as he isn't sacrosanct on the pitch." He never won another cap for Germany and was finally, as Der Spiegel put it, "flogged for 150,000 Marks as a shelf-warmer."

As always, though, there is another side to the story.

The player Bayern really wanted in the first half of 1980 was Arsenal's midfielder Liam Brady. It was only when that deal fell through in May and Brady signed for Juventus that Bayern returned to an earlier plan involving Del'Haye.

It was probably the impressive price tag that has given rise to the idea Del'Haye must have been this hugely promising talent. In fact, he wasn't. During his first five years in Gladbach, most of them under Udo Lattek, he had never managed to become a regular. He was fast and tricky, but he was not a goal-scoring threat and not a good crosser of the ball.

Del'Haye became a starting player only in October 1979, under Gladbach's new coach Jupp Heynckes. He played a fine season and was ranked the league's best right winger by kicker eight months later. However, the magazine also bemoaned the fact that there just weren't any right wingers of international class in Germany. Put differently, in his best season, he was decent but not great.

In the same issue, kicker wondered what Bayern were going to do with the player, as Csernai didn't use wingers and Del'Haye was certainly not going to win Rummenigge's place in the team. In other words, even before Del'Haye set foot in Munich, experts wondered if this player and this club were a good match.

So why did the transfer happen?

For Del'Haye, the prospect of an annual salary of 300,000 Marks (then the equivalent of £71,000) must have played a major role. Because as early as 1981, just one season into his three-year contract, Bayern were asking him to consider some of the offers that were coming in for him from other clubs, clubs where he could play -- but Del'Haye refused.

In regards to Bayern, it's preposterous to think they signed the young man only to hurt Gladbach. As the same kicker piece that called the transfer "cynical" pointed out: "Borussia are no longer Bayern's rivals." Losing Uli Stielike, Allan Simonsen and Rainer Bonhof to richer clubs and Berti Vogts to retirement had hurt Gladbach so thoroughly that the Del'Haye transfer was almost irrelevant. By 1980, Borussia had become a mid-table club.

Who knows, maybe Csernai saw something in Del'Haye, felt that he might become really useful if he adapted to another role and was then nonplussed or annoyed -- or both -- that the player baulked. Because what you rarely hear when the Del'Haye saga is told is that suddenly, in 1982-83, it all seemed to turn out well.

In August, Csernai said: "He went into the preseason preparations with a totally different attitude." And Del'Haye admitted as much: "I adapted myself. I wanted to play on the wing, like I did in Gladbach. That's not possible at Bayern. I've learned what this system is all about." Del'Haye did what he was told, and after two lost years became a regular. He started almost every game, often as one of the two strikers up front (with Rummenigge in a deep-lying role) or in midfield, sometimes even as a quasi-winger.

At the end of the season, his contract was extended -- just two years after Hoeness had almost begged him to accept one of the numerous offers and leave Bayern. It is, as they say, a funny old game.

But the last laugh was on Del'Haye. In the summer, Csernai left and was replaced by a coach the nippy winger knew all too well from his years in the wilderness at Gladbach: Lattek. For some reason, the two men didn't get along. In a 2009 interview with 11Freunde, Del'Haye curtly said: "In my last year at Bayern, I had problems with Udo Lattek."

That's putting it mildly. Lattek started Del'Haye for a few months, but by December 1983, he was nothing more than a sub. And then he wasn't even that. In 1983-84, Lattek gave him three outings against lowly opposition in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup but not a single minute of Bundesliga football. At the end of this dismal season, Del'Haye at last left the club.

Did the move to Bayern ruin his career? That's hard to say, because we don't know what would have happened had he stayed at Gladbach. Maybe he would have blossomed into a proper star or maybe he would have faded away regardless, exposed as a one-season wonder. After his time in Munich, he joined Dusseldorf, then a team in the bottom third of the table. Again, he quickly found himself on the bench. In 1987, shortly before his 32nd birthday, he retired from professional football.

Comparing Del'Haye to Gotze seems unfair to both men. If the comparison is made to suggest that Gotze will see his career derailed by the Bayern move, then it's unfair to him. The man has scored the winning goal in a World Cup final, so no song will ever be written called "Erinnert sich jemand an Mario Gotze."

If it's made to suggest Gotze was only bought by Bayern to weaken Borussia Dortmund, then it's unfair to Del'Haye, who was signed to help the team but then didn't want to or couldn't.

In any case, let's salute him, because Tuesday is his 60th birthday. Happy birthday, Kalle!