Some Bundesliga fans remember the entertaining years. Back when Bayern Munich wasn’t unbeatable, and was known as “FC Hollywood” because of the tabloid stories the players elicited during their time off the pitch.
The president of the club in those years was Franz Beckenbauer, a man who was right on principle, even when he wasn’t right. In 1996, the situation was such that Beckenbauer, seen as the “shining light of German football”, even took over as coach for a few months.
German champions at the time were Borussia Dortmund.
Two days later in the fan store
The fans of today’s stupendously successful Bayern side would object to anyone referring to the FC Hollywood days as “water under the bridge.” The club is now such a seemingly well-oiled machine. The “9” t-shirts worn by the players after confirming the ninth straight title were available in the fan store just two days later. They cost €24.95 and for female fans also came in black. A bargain.
Which brings us to the delicate topic at hand: Bayern and its love of money. As with many other perceived standards of success today, the club’s oft-cited savings account dates back to honorary president Uli Hoeneß. Both Hoeneß and current club boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have emphasised repeatedly over the years they do no want to play the big-money game for players and coaches that is played in, for example, the Premier League and fueled by billionaires.
Still, Bayern do sometimes relax the purse strings. Take Leroy Sane, for example, whose transfer fee was reported to be between €49 and 60 million ($59-72 million). Even for a club like Manchester City, that isn’t just loose change.
Would they have done the same with Klopp?
And now, with Julian Nagelsmann taking over, they are making the most expensive coaching purchase of all time. The reported €25 to 30 million ($30-36 million) in transfer fees to league rival RB Leipzig – even as the league claims financial hardship – requires a stretch of the imagination to believe Bayern is steering clear of the sport’s biggest-money negotiations.
Further signs of danger were apparent with the rift earlier this season between Bayern’s current coach, Hansi Flick, and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. Bayern fans might question whether the club should have given more thought to retaining the wildly-successful Flick, who is much-respected by his players.
Now, one could argue that there was danger ahead in view of the rift between Flick and Salihamidzic. But it would have been possible to give more thought to retaining and upgrading coach Flick, who has been immensely successful and is highly respected by the team – or at least to patch up the understanding. Question: If Jürgen Klopp were Bayern’s coach, would they let him go so easily as a result of such discord at Säbener Strasse? Probably not.
Speaking of the “discord,” we need to go back to the now classic exclamation by Hoeneß at 2007’s club general meeting: “Your s****y mood is your responsibility, not ours,” he shouted in the Paulaner Brewery ballroom at his own fans. They had been grumbling about the club’s policies. Since then, it’s been more than some supporters in Munich who have become grumpy, but football fans all over Germany: The league has simply become boring because of Bayern’s dominance. And as soon as a club like RB Leipzig comes close in the standings, the Munich team buys up, for example, the coach.
The Partner in Qatar
To try to avoid the impression Bayern is preaching water and drinking wine, there is Qatar Airways, a major club sponsor whose name can be found readily on the German record titleholder’s kit. Sponsorship income is vital to club success. But the airline may soon become a politically incorrect partner for a club that also preaches sustainability. Statements from club bosses about regular trips to Qatar, it should be noted, do not become more convincing the more often such trips are made.
The bottom line is that Bayern can by no means be blamed for its success. And the club – if you exclude the Flick/Salihamidzic case – has professional structures as strong as any in football. But if there’s one thing a football fan could wish for, it would be this: more dominance without the double standards.
The current president, ex-Adidas boss Herbert Hainer, is actually just the right man for the job. And the fact that the nonsensical Super League failed, in part, because of the clever perseverance of Germany’s flagship club was a really good sign. Bayern’s title-winning exploits aren’t the only ones worthy of congratulations.