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Soccer-Freiburg paying the price of success

Reuters

Sept 12 (Reuters) - Unfashionable Bundesliga outfit Freiburg have found themselves paying the almost inevitable price for success this season as they struggle near the bottom of the table after selling off the core of their team.

The team from the Black Forest region finished fifth last term, their second best performance in the Bundesliga, and only missed out on a Champions League qualifying round place on the final day of the season.

But, while the big guns such as Bayern Munich were able to build on success with more lavish signings, Freiburg's reward was to have their team ripped apart as players took advantage of contract release clauses.

The result has been that Freiburg, who visit Augsburg on Saturday, have yet to win in four outings and find themselves languishing in 16th place in the 18-team table.

Freiburg's team began to unravel barely two weeks after the season had finished when Congolese midfielder Cedric Makiadi, a vital cog in midfield for the previous four seasons, was sold to Werder Bremen for an estimated 3 million euros ($3.99 million).

Max Kruse, joint topscorer with 11 goals, departed for Borussia Moenchengladback for 2.5 million euros and midfielder Daniel Caligiuri was snapped by VfL Wolfsburg for 2.8 million.

The writing had been on the wall well before the end of last season with striker Jan Rosenthal agreeing terms in March for a summer move to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Coach Christian Streich had warned in April that further success this season was unlikely.

"We're in for a tough time, we might even go down," he said. "It would have been nice to have carried on with the team as it is and to strengthen it."

DOUBLE WHAMMY

Qualifying for the Europa League, in combination with the loss of their best players, has proved to be something of a double whammy.

"Our weekly schedule has always consisted of playing on a Saturday, recovering on a Sunday and then analysing the game and working on things in training throughout the week," Streich told Bundesliga's official website (www.bundesliga.com) before the start of the season.

"We used to have Wednesday off, but now we'll be playing on Thursday so how are we going to do that?"

"We're going to be coming back on Friday, tired after playing, so we're not going to be able to do too much on that day to prepare for our next opponents."

Streich's fears were confirmed as Freiburg began this season with defeats against Mainz 05 and Bayer Leverkusen, followed by more encouraging draws against Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich.

There was some good news on Wednesday when Jonathan Schmid, who also scored 11 goals last season, signed a contract extension for an undisclosed length of time.

The new signings, including 22-year-old French midfielder Francis Coquelin on loan from Arsenal, and the experienced Mike Hanke from Borussia Moenchengladbach are still settling.

At the other end of the table, Borussia Dortmund, who host erratic Hamburger SV (Saturday, 1630), are the only side who have taken maximum points from their opening four games.

Second-placed Bayern, who dropped their first two points at Freiburg and are the other unbeaten side, host third-placed Hanover 96, who are one point behind the Bavarians.

At the bottom, promoted Eintracht Braunschweig and Nuremberg, the only other teams without a win, clash on Sunday (1530). ($1 = 0.7518 euros) (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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