Werder Bremen parts company with coach Schaaf

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BREMEN, Germany (AP) -- Werder Bremen has parted company with Thomas Schaaf, the longest-serving coach in the Bundesliga who spent 14 years with the club.

Werder said Wednesday that the 52-year-old Schaaf was leaving "by mutual agreement" with immediate effect. It didn't immediately announce a replacement.

The announcement follows a lackluster season in which Werder secured its top-flight status only last weekend, with one match left to play.

"Over the past few days we've analyzed our sporting development and we've come to the conclusion that we want a new beginning," sports director Thomas Eichin said.

Eichin said that Schaaf had asked not to be with the team at its last match of the season in Nuremberg, where assistant coaches Wolfgang Rolff and Matthias Hoenerbach will guide the side.

Werder won the 2004 Bundesliga title under Schaaf and was the German Cup winner in 1999, 2004 and 2009. But the team has not qualified for a European competition for three straight seasons.

Schaaf still had a year on his contract. By leaving early, he fell short of equaling the record of Otto Rehhagel, who spent 14 years and two months in charge of the northern German team. Schaaf's 14th anniversary was on May 10.

"I've had an exceptional time here, linked with many positive experiences and great successes," Schaaf said in a statement.

Although the announcement spoke of "mutual agreement," Schaaf had indicated recently that he wanted to stay with the club where he began as a youth player in 1972 and never played or coached anywhere else.

Schaaf had a down-to-earth approach and dry sense of humor and preferred understatement to flamboyancy.

His partnership with sports director Klaus Allofs was one of the most successful in the Bundesliga but it fell apart when Allofs decided to move to the better-paying Wolfsburg in November.

For years under Allofs and Schaaf, Werder invested wisely and groomed players it later sold for profit, while managing to stay at the top of the Bundesliga despite limited means.