Having your first team squad going on strike is not the best preparation for the second Bundesliga weekend of the new season, but that is exactly what Mainz trainer Achim Beierlorzer has had to face up to this week after his players refused to train in support of action taken against striker Adam Szalai.
It all kicked off on Wednesday when the Hungarian striker was informed of his demotion to the U-23 side and told he should start looking for a new club. In solidarity for their colleague the first team squad refused to attend training on Wednesday leading to sporting director Rouwen Schröder having to face the press on Thursday and admit candidly that all was not well with the Nullfünfer.
“The team has undertaken a solidarity action for Adam. The Szalai issue has absolutely nothing to do with salary concerns. We already informed Adam in the summer how the sporting situation stands and that we could not guarantee him enough playing time; not even in light of the European Championship of 2021.”
Rumours has emerged that Szalai was a driving force in the players demands for deferred salaries from the Covid 19 lockdown to be paid to the players, while other rumours outline a complete breakdown in the relationship with coach Beierlorzer, who won’t give the player the game time he so desires.
“The fact that the team did not come to training is a very uncomfortable situation” Schröder explained. “It is definitely an escalation, no need to sugar coat things. But it happened and we have to deal with it. The issue of Adam Szalai was the reason the team did not train.”
Schroeder said the incident had already triggered consequences following a discussion on Thursday morning with the players’ council but did not provide any details. “The incidents are not gone instantly. We discussed the matter and issued the consequences. We need to keep working at it, but it is the wish of the team and the club to keep everything internal,” he added.
Can we consider the matter closed? Probably not and the wounds opened by the incident threaten to impact upon Mainz’s season start, which began with a 3-1 loss at RB Leipzig on matchday 1.
“Life does not always follow a straightforward and positive course,” Schröder told Thursday’s press conference. “What happened did not build up overnight. It is clear that what transpired will not be resolved immediately. We must continue to work intensively on these issues. It will be a longer process.”