Coaches came and went, but simon rolfes remained the captain at bayer leverkusen. In 2005, the then head coach michael skibbe appointed him team leader, and bruno labbadia and jupp heynckes also appreciated his role as a link and figurehead of the team.
"Simon is an important part of the team and a role model in training," said current bayer coach sami hyypia, praising the midfielder, who has been in top form for weeks now. "He shows what others should do."In all estimation, the primus inter pares does not enjoy any special rights or privileges with the finnish player, with whom he played for two years in the works team. At the beginning of the season he loved the now 31-year-old rolfes often stew on the bench and appear only for short appearances. "At the beginning, simon wasn’t happy, but he took his chance, is playing well and has earned his place in the team," hyypia said.
Like hyypia, who played ten years for liverpool and only ended his career at the age of 38, rolfes could become a perennial favorite. "He’s a good pro, keeps fit. That’s a good basis for a long career," said hyypia. In march, bayers "sechser" extended his contract until july 2015 – when he will be 33 years old.
"My goal is to stop at a top level," rolfes said in an interview with the sports magazine "kicker". "I don’t have to end up playing in qatar again". Even alemannia from aachen, where he began his professional career and which has slipped into the regional league, is not in such a position "that I would say: I’ll hang on for another year". That’s why bayer was allowed to be the last stop: "i’m going on that assumption."
Bayer sports director rudi voller, however, is happy to have secured rolfes’ services for another two years. "He has special strategic skills and has made a decisive contribution to our team’s good performance over the past few years," he said recently about his manager, who, for all his conciliation and prudence, by no means says yes and amen to everything.
When voller railed after the 5-0 champions league defeat by manchester united that the bayer team lacked "guys who fight back," the captain of the bundesliga runners-up countered: "I don’t think so. If you look at the way we’ve played in the last 18 months, we’ve won a lot of close games."
While the most senior bayer professional has become a cornerstone in leverkusen in nine years, with 246 first league appearances, 27 cup games and over 60 european cup games, he no longer seems to have a chance in the national team. He made 26 appearances in the DFB kit and was runner-up in the european championships in 2008. After three knee operations in the 2009/10 season and almost a year off, rolfes played only one international match on 15. November 2011 against the netherlands.
"Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect," said rolfes, commenting on his slim chances of making the squad for the 2014 world cup in brazil. He added: "my fitness levels are better than they were three years ago." His coach won’t weigh in on the question of whether rolfes deserved a comeback to the national team. "The question is put to the wrong person," hyypia said. "For me, it’s enough if he plays consistently for us"."