FC Bayern München are hardly going through a crisis by 99% of football clubs’ terms. However, a spoiled organisation and fanbase are soul-searching at present, and failing to find answers in their quest for glory. Four calamities hamper their efforts.
You don’t need to be as smart as Albert Einstein to understand that FC Bayern are in a rebuilding phase. The generation headed by Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben has faded away. It takes years to compose a powerful outfit after losing players of that caliber in a sport which requires an alignment of the planets to win trophies.
Were the club to fail at this task – they are off to a slow start – a German expression would be a perfect fit to describe the situation. Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf. It translates into “the fish stinks from the head”, wording that is commonly used to criticise managers’ decision-making.
Are the top dogs at Bayern making horrendous decisions? Not necessarily. Rather, their failing is outlining a clear rebuilding strategy.
Executives have done too little squad planning to replace big names since Pep Guardiola’s departure. They have done “just enough” to maintain a team that can win the Bundesliga and qualify for the Champions League. Some of their plans, such as Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman on the wings, have had mixed results. Others (James Rodríguez) have backfired.
Traditionally, a lively youth academy would have filled gaps but promotions have been few and far between. Prospects get no playing time, and we can’t figure out who may have what it takes for top flight football. Young signings sometimes go straight to the Amateure side, and never come back.
In few words, we know that FC Bayern bosses stand for good management, but we don’t know where they are taking the team.
Is there a pilot in the cabin?
Another major hurdle on the path to wholesome success is instability in the dugout.
When Carlo Ancelotti joined in 2016, FCB had a known name on board. He preached balance between attack and defense, but never got his way. The players still favoured total possession, and they did what they wanted. Early into his second season, Carlo was so pissed at his players that he left stars on the bench for a fateful loss against Paris Saint-Germain.
Niko Kovač succeeded him as “permanent” coach. He came in with a certain disregard for tactical details, but required a dogfight in every game. After a short honeymoon, the players dragged their feet in reaction to his poor man-management. They kept going for stale ball possession, without sufficient defensive pressing or attacking creativity.
Public backing by management forced the squad to rally behind Kovač and win a double, but that success was short-lived. Dogged by the same old problems, the Croatian-German coach didn’t even make it past November this season.
Both trainers received little support from the clubhouse, which left them at the players’ mercy. There was little time to reinvent the team’s rusty ways by laying down a long-term vision, and transfers were limited. No wonder why Bayern have been inconsistent in the last three seasons.
If the suits at Säbener Straße don’t realise this, and keep managing for the short term, they will eventually see their luck run out. They won’t always be fortunate enough to have a visionary such as Louis van Gaal to prop them up, followed by Jupp Heynckes to show a touch of genius as he’s getting pushed out the door in favour of another icon.
Had FC Liverpool been managed the way the Bavarians have handled their coaches since 2015, Jürgen Klopp would never have brought them the Champions League trophy. He did so in his fourth season on the job, precisely when people said he had won nothing. Today, his team is the gold standard in Europe.
It takes years to develop a mean footballing machine. Impatience brings instability, and it slows down progression. Put the right man in the dugout and let him do his job.
I have choice words for the players as well. They were surely inspired for a handful of games when Hansi Flick took over coaching duties after Niko Kovač’s departure. Two straight defeats in the Bundesliga shows that they are taking their foot off the gas again.
Short bursts of awesomeness are the norm every time a new man is on the job. Then, the players get careless. Shall we ask FC Bayern’s executives to change the coach every 10 matches to keep the divas motivated?
Well, no. I’d rather like the next sporting director to give the players a swift kick in the ass every now and then. That is Matthias Sammer did in his tenure.
It should be made clear that when you sign a contract with FC Bayern München, you join one of the biggest football clubs in the world. You adopt the Mia San Mia mentality: we are who we are and we don’t care what you think of us. We fight for every ball and every point. We never effing quit; we’d rather go out on our shield.
Not happy with those terms? You can always play for Schalke.
Last, and least, I have a bone to pick with many Bayern fans.
Droves of bandwagon jumpers will only respect star power in the dugout, as if no one besides Pep Guardiola or Jupp Heynckes is qualified to coach the Reds. Bitching about Ancelotti and Kovač contributed to a toxic environment, feeding the kind of short-term thinking that kills any attempt to play the long game.
The same “fans” demand expensive deals in every effing transfer window, as if the point is to match Real Madrid’s spending on the market.
Ivan Perišić’s signing was heavily derided last summer since people expected Leroy Sané to join the team. The Croatian performs reliably as “super substitute” today, making his transfer essential to squad depth. Players of this stature are crucial for teams that aspire to fight for multiple titles every season. See Rafinha for details.
Fan obsession with names, reputations and money comes at the expense of long-term thinking. The media happily relay the dumb criticism, which indirectly affects the way executives behave. However, football-savvy directors can find deals in the transfer market’s bargain bin. See Joshua Kimmich for details.
Making short-term sacrifices for enduring success is as appealing as being told: “you must eat well and exercise to be healthy.” It’s never fun, but it’s always right. If Bayern executives want their team to be the “kings of Europe” again, they will have to bruise player egos, ignore fans and tell the media to piss off as they rebuild.
Do they have the courage to do it?