In Europe only second division
FC Bayern is frantically fighting the loss of control
By Stephan Uersfeld
04/13/2023 10:47 am
FC Bayern Munich is one of the absolute top international players. The German record champions are part of the elite super clubs. But the times have changed. In Europe, FCB are no longer favorites in the decisive phase of the season, just outsiders. Where does the path lead?
For years, Bayern Munich crushed the Bundesliga. After the Dortmund double in 2012, they left no stone unturned to cement their supremacy in German football. The record champion wins championship after championship and runs away from the national competition. FC Bayern pays salaries that other clubs in Germany can no longer even dream of. He is the flagship of the league and also sets international exclamation points again and again. But the nouveau riche, state-financed clubs in Europe are pushing the Munich team further and further back. The bankruptcy at Manchester City with all its consequences is symbolic of the loss of the radiance of the best German club. An all-time favorite becomes an outsider. In Europe, Bayern Munich is what Borussia Dortmund is in the Bundesliga.
Bayern’s descent from the peaks of European football is gradual, not crashing. They don’t fall, they shimmy down. Almost in desperation, they have to give up meter by meter. Your statements reflect the loss. Since the last high phase under Pep Guardiola from 2014 to 2016, there has rarely been any reason for euphoria. The Bundesliga had become too small for the Catalans after just three years. Although he had not achieved everything, he had consistently reached the semifinals in his three seasons.
Just as Jürgen Klopp’s shadow hung over Borussia Dortmund for far too long, memories of the great tactician Guardiola are now clouding a clear view of the future in Munich. For the brief moment of those three years, the southern star played perfect football. They were feared in Europe, the counter-proposal to the nouveau riche state clubs, which were pushing their way into the market with ever more power. However, as Bayern could keep the Bundesliga small with clever and targeted transfer policy, so they were soon to be the victims of the changing football economy at European level.
The erosion of the squad continues
Guardiola went to Manchester City, the club with billions from the Emirates. The club soon to come under scrutiny by UEFA and then the Premier League for financial irregularities. The club, which has so far gotten away scot-free. Guardiola went and Bayern panted after the dream. Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes again, Niko Kovac, Julian Nagelsmann and now Thomas Tuchel. Neither coach stayed long. In the Champions League, Heynckes, Ancelotti’s successor, made it to the semi-finals again, but since the 2018/2019 season the Munich team has not been in the European elite.
Sure: There was the victory in the Champions League in the summer of 2020. It’s a title that will stay with me forever. But it is also a title that takes on a different sporting value in the turmoil of the first phase of the pandemic. The coronavirus had changed the playing field. In this exceptional situation, Bayern managed the big coup, including the historic 8:2 humiliation of the dwarfed Catalan giants Barcelona. It was a success that Munich could not repeat. A year later, Hansi Flick, the successful trainer, left the company. Competence disputes with sports director Hasan Salihamidžić had worn him out. In terms of sport, the people of Munich had long since returned to the pre-pandemic level.
Meanwhile, the erosion of the squad, which was praised in the highest tones again and again every summer, progressed. Bayern invested heavily in defenders and players like David Alaba left the club on a free transfer. At the same time, the new sporting leadership went to the Dortmund level and invested in young players. But for every Alphonso Davies in recent years, all the Rocas, Gravenberchs, Dantas’, Cuisances and Arps have come. Young stars who didn’t want to make a breakthrough. At Mathys Tel, the jury is still in the decision-making process.
Bavaria’s new self-image
And so this April, after the accumulation of smaller and larger scandals and catastrophes since December 2022, Bayern are facing the shambles of recent years. The actions of the past few weeks give the impression of an increasingly panicked club that has lost control of its own future.
After next Wednesday, they are threatened with full concentration on the surprisingly close championship race. In the dressing room, the deep frustration is now exploding in fisticuffs. On the square, the first observers want to push the Tuchel revolution into the coming summer. The former Mainzer was there as a title guarantee for the here and now. After less than a month in office, all that remains for him is purposeful optimism and disruption.
“Today I’m in love with my team,” were Tuchel’s famous words after the 0: 3 at Manchester City. It was a defeat that cemented the new balance of power in Europe. In addition, it was a game after which Bayern sounded like those responsible at BVB usually sound when they have picked up their traditional gossip in the Allianz Arena. Then there is also talk of “70 good minutes”, then the positive sides are exaggerated and the negative downplayed. On Tuesday, Bayern found themselves at eye level for long stretches with “the best team in Europe”. These are statements that reflect the new self-image of the German record champions. Recently they look up to other clubs. You are no longer the favourite, just the outsider.
Just as the competition in the Bundesliga has tipped over in favor of Bayern for a long time due to the financial imbalance, the same people from Munich are now in the uncomfortable position of lagging behind in the Champions League. In doing so, they spend too much money on transfer flops like João Cancelo or Sadio Mané. The erratic coaching policy of recent years does the rest. In addition, key and identity players such as Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller will break away in the next few years.
On the other hand, there are the astronomical salary demands of potential newcomers and the constantly high transfer fees. Already this summer they are threatened with a similar problem in courting players like Napoli’s Victor Oshimen or Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Mouani. They are the most sought-after youngsters in Europe. The world is open to you. CEO Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić are facing enormous challenges. Mistakes are hardly allowed.
The other clubs just want it more
In the condensing field at the top of Europe, Bayern Munich is in danger of losing sight of the peaks. When they wooed Erling Haaland from Dortmund last spring, they suffered a bitter defeat. Norwegian joins Pep Guardiola “At least we talked,” said sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić about the failed move, but also said: “We didn’t have the wherewithal.” Haaland is a good boy. “I think he’s thought about it.”
And because they spoke to Haaland last summer, the goal monster Robert Lewandowski left. He no longer felt valued. Sadio Mané came. He was introduced in the Munich media landscape as “the nicest person in the world”. A thesis that, after the latest revelations about his dispute with Leroy Sané, may no longer be tenable. Mané disappointed. That’s for sure.
So the Bavarians are still staying on the high plateau. Personnel decisions this summer will determine whether they can launch a new assault on the summit. Thomas Tuchel, who had all the financial freedom at PSG and Chelsea, has to learn to work with a more modest budget again. The Bayern bosses can no longer afford failures like Sadio Mané and millionaires like Julian Nagelsmann. “With our fans and the special spirit in our stadium, anything is still possible. It’s not the moment to give up!” Thomas Müller wrote on Instagram after the defeat.
The biggest German club is running out of air. Far too often, the only hope left for Bayern is a miracle. What happened to the 17 other clubs in the Bundesliga is slowly becoming a bitter reality in Europe for the record champions. They too can no longer keep up with Premier League salaries. Like German football as a whole, you have to find ways to deal with this situation. Do they accept the role, do they defend themselves with sporting competence or do they fall back on well-known demands for “more money” in their struggle with the realities of football 2023? Further, always further, Oliver Kahn once demanded. That’s not enough anymore. The other clubs just want it more. You have completely different financial options.