Eberl probably already knew that the first game against his former club Borussia Mönchengladbach would be uncomfortable before the ink on his contract with RB Leipzig was completely dry. But that he was met with such hatred apparently surprised him too. In the years as a Gladbach official, Eberl has created a fall height that he is now feeling himself. However, accusing him of only faking his burnout illness in order to get out of his contract on the Lower Rhine more quickly shows only one thing: some Gladbachers have still not learned anything new when it comes to mental illness.

But first things first: Eberl was in the service of the foals for more than 20 years. As a player, youth coordinator and most recently as sports director. And Borussia loved him. On the field, maybe limited to football, he showed what is even more important to the fans of a traditional club than nice tricks and a game for the gallery: fight, will, commitment – Eberl wasn’t a ball artist, he was a role model.

When he became sports director in 2008, the once so successful Borussia was staggering through the Bundesliga. With Eberl, the club opened a new chapter. A success story began with the relegation in 2011 at the latest. The foals galloped again, Eberl rehabilitated the ailing club with proceeds from clever player transfers. Suddenly Borussia was a number again – nationally and internationally. Gladbach and Eberl – it was an almost cheesy love.

But he was not only appreciated by the fans for his work, but also for his attitude towards financially strong competitors – especially his new employer RB Leipzig. In 2016, he publicly criticized the “pushing of players” between the sister clubs in Leipzig and Salzburg. Strictly speaking, Red Bull has two teams and does not have to pay attention to the money, so the accusation. Eberl played the tradition card, as did many before and after him: We the underdogs who have to work hard for everything. You, the soulless advertising constructs who can throw the money out of the window with full hands.

A folklore as true as insidious. At times one had the feeling that Eberl would grow old in Gladbach. It’s these football romantic stories that fans love so much. But the relationship ended: quickly, painfully, without anyone being able to help it. Eberl was too exhausted to continue. In January 2022, he announced his departure in tears. “I have no more strength,” Eberl said at the time. It was a sentence so honest, so open that no one could literally twist a rope out of it. Mönchengladbach was a valley of tears, somewhere between dismay and gratitude. Eberl gave everything for the club, risked his health, sacrificed himself – to the point of total exhaustion.

Eberl disappeared for months. Until the first headlines hit like a bomb: Eberl goes to RB Leipzig. Ironically to RB! Ironically, to this shower club! Ironically, the mortal enemy of all football traditionalists in Germany! A high treason to football culture.

The anger of the fans is quite understandable. Eberl himself played the folklore keyboard so wonderfully over the years in Gladbach. He himself dug the pit into which he is now falling. It is the story of an unrequited love that torments the people of Gladbach. And as it is in love: whoever you feel for the most hurts the most.

But what happened in Leipzig over the weekend has nothing to do with disappointment or lovesickness. Some fans obviously make the mistake of lumping Eberl’s move and his illness together.

Anyone who has ever had contact with people who have suffered from an illness similar to Eberl’s knows that it can be treated well with therapy. Anyone who thinks that after eight months they will definitely not be able to return to work should find out more about mental illnesses as soon as possible.

Yes, a change to a marketing construct like RB Leipzig may not be the fine English way, especially not when you have railed against it for so long. But to accuse Max Eberl that he recovered too quickly from his illness or even made it up in order to have an excuse to go to Leipzig is so disrespectful that words fail you.