Along with Bulgarian ace Krassimir Balakov and Brazilian Giovane Elber, Fredi Bobic is fondly remembered for the stunning football conjured up by Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart’s 'magic triangle' of the mid-1990s. After 14 years in the professional game, Bobic finally hung up his boots in 2006.
FIFA.com spoke to the former striker about his career and his life after football. He agreed with the widely-held belief that footballers make only a few real friendships during their nomadic careers. "Even now I’m still in touch with a number of former team-mates, although they’re scattered across the globe these days. I still maintain very close contact with Giovane Elber and Krassimir Balakov," he said.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, in what is now the Slovenian town of Maribor, Bobic grew up in Swabia in the vicinity of Stuttgart. After starting out with Ditzingen and Stuttgarter Kickers, Bobic made the big time with Stuttgart, where he collected his sole honour at club level, the 1997 DFB German Cup.
This period included the best and worst moments of his career.
"I’ll never forget my first Bundesliga appearance (19 August 1994) for VfB Stuttgart, when I scored a last-minute winner against Hamburg. Definitely the worst moment was losing the European Cup Winners’ Cup final to Chelsea in 1998, although nowadays I’d say taking part in the final was one of the highlights of my career," he added.
Bobic left Stuttgart for Borussia Dortmund (1999-2002), Bolton Wanderers (2002), Hannover (2002-03), Hertha BSC Berlin (2003-05) and Rijeka, where he hung up his boots in summer 2006. "I have a real fondness for all my former clubs. I’m still really interested in how they’re getting on, although the strongest attachment was always to VfB Stuttgart, and that’s not changed at all," he declared.
Bobic also looks back on a ten-year international career with Germany between 1994 and 2004, including a winners’ medal from UEFA EURO 1996 in England. However, Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival as Germany coach prompted Bobic’s retirement from the international scene. "Jurgen Klinsmann called me and we had a very good conversation, characterised by great mutual respect. During our chat, I acknowledged the consequences of the course he intended to pursue. He set off in exactly the right direction with the national team," Bobic explained.
The former goal-getter is convinced Germany can follow up third place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and second at EURO 2008 by impressing at South Africa 2010. "The team is developing nicely and will definitely be among the favourites in South Africa. We have very good youngsters, and very experienced senior players. Will it be enough for the trophy? It’s much too early to make predictions. Two years are an eternity in football!"
At the present time, Fredi Bobic is busy and successful as a studio expert for a variety of broadcasters, a role he is thoroughly enjoying. "Following the football scene from the media perspective is really interesting and something you can never appreciate as a player. The way a live broadcast works is really impressive. Team play is just as important as it is on the field of play. Just like the game, the playmaker can’t win it on his own," he said.
Bobic still puts aside plenty of time for his family. "I’m always on the move, just like before, but my three girls have never had it any other way. So just as I did in the past, I try and set aside every free minute I have for the family. You don’t get anywhere without them!"
A number of his former team-mates have resurfaced as coaches, but Bobic categorically rules out a life on the touchlines. "I can’t see myself in the job, although I have plenty of experience after playing under so many different coaches. But Fredi Bobic in the dug-out? It’s not going to happen. My mid-term goal is to work somewhere in club management set-up."
Bobic cannot name a specific personal goal he has yet to realise, as he has already fulfilled his childhood dreams: "I was a professional footballer. Everything else is just an encore."
Facts and figures
37 full international caps, 10 goals
1996 European championship winner
1992-94: Stuttgarter Kickers
1999-2002: Borussia Dortmund
2002: Bolton Wanderers
2003-05: Hertha Berlin
285 Bundesliga appearances, 108 goals
15 Premier League appearances, 4 goals
1997 DFB German Cup winner
Bundesliga leading scorer 1996