How Bayern Munich can get back to the top of European football.
Bringing Back Bavaria: How Bayern Munich can get back to the top of Europe.
The circular notion of life exists everywhere, even in football. A fact that previous Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac will be all too familiar with in light of his recent tenure in charge coming to a close. It was after all, a loss to Kovac’s old side Eintracht Frankfurt which cost him his job. Even more peculiarly is the fact that it was a win against Bayern in the 2018 DFB-Pokal final in which Kovac was in charge of Frankfurt which landed him the Bayern job in the first place. It’s facts like this that make us wonder whether football really is unpredictable or if there is something else entirely pulling the strings.
But enough about superstition, supernatural or even the superficial as it will mean little to the Bayern Munich board who now have the mammoth task of choosing the next man to take the reins and guide them back to European success. The last time Bayern won a European competition was back in 2013 when they were victorious over their bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund. That win sealed the treble (a league, domestic cup and European cup victory) a feat which has only been completed by one other team since. A mesmerising Barcelona side during the 2014/15 season. Since Arjen Robben scored the late winner on that Saturday evening back in May 2013, Bayern Munich have only managed to reach the champions league semi-finals, a fact which club president Uli Hoeneß will be painfully aware of. Domestic success is now expected for the Bavarian giants as they have won the last seven Bundesliga titles in a row. Winning the league no longer guarantees job security. Niko Kovac will not need reminding. Names such as Jose Mourinho, Ralf Rangnick, Erik Ten Hag and Massimiliano Allegri have all been touted as being the next permanent boss. But which of these men are adaptable enough to bring a somewhat disgruntled squad together and push on from Bayern’s impressive start to the 2019/20 champions league campaign?
Under Kovac, Bayern primarily set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kovac regularly tinkering his side. This started to build unrest, with more senior players being frustrated with their lack of game time. One such player was Thomas Müller, a player adored by Bayern fans, but one whom Kovac didn’t seem to share the same exuberance for. He exacerbated the situation in the press by suggesting that the German was only used when Bayern were “short of options.” It’s clear that the next man in charge will need to have exceptional man-management skills in order to keep the squad, and the egos that exist within it, content. Jose Mourinho was once a man praised for his ability to manage the needs of all his players individually. Those that played under him often would follow him into battle if only he’d asked them. FIFA Ballon D’or finalist Wesley Sneijder described Mourinho as being the best he’d ever worked with, going on to say: “He formed a spirit among the team that was formidable.” A formidable team spirit could be all Bayern need to turn their undoubtably talented players into Europe’s elite. Whilst it’s fair to say that the chosen one’s stock has fallen somewhat after his turbulent tenure in charge of Manchester United, this could be the perfect chance for him to reaffirm himself as one of football’s most elite coaches. Mourinho is one of the only coachers being considered by Bayern who has one the treble. In the Portuguese’s case, the feat was achieved twice with two different clubs: Porto 2003/04 and Inter Milan 2009/10. After the Manchester United job, a humbled, hungry José Mourinho with a point to prove should strike fear into the hearts even the biggest clubs in Europe.
This is not to say that the squad is only full of future world beaters, within the current squad there exist some of the finest talents in world football who are in the peak of their powers. One man who knows how to deal with ageing players whose talents have already been fully developed is Massimiliano Allegri. The Italian coach has spent the last five years coaching Juventus. Within this time frame Juventus have seen stars such as: Andrea Pirlo, Dani Alves, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo all pass through the Old Lady’s gates. Whilst playing for Juventus, these players were already in their prime, it was Allegri’s job to help guide them and pass on their expertise to younger players whilst essentially leaving them alone to create magic on the pitch. This was a job Allegri excelled at. He won four consecutive doubles during his time in Turin, becoming the first manager in Europe’s top five leagues to achieve this. There is no doubt that Allegri could squeeze every ounce of talent out of an already talented Bayern squad. Robert Lewandowski on current form would walk into any team in the world. These are sentiments echoed by many sports presenters and writers during the end of 2019 and it is extremely hard to argue with. Robert Lewandowski is also thirty-one. An Allegri-Lewandowski combination would be formidable to say the very least. The former Dortmund striker has currently scored fourteen goals in only 873 minutes during the 2019/20 season. This is, on average, a goal every 62.2 minutes. This figure is genuinely quite extra-ordinary. To put it into context, Cristiano Ronaldo: widely regarded as one of the best footballers to have ever lived is currently averaging a goal every 162 minutes. The statements about Lewandowski’s ability to walk into any team suddenly don’t seem as far-fetched.
One of the major criticisms of Kovac’s management was his inability to begin to oversee the squad rejuvenation. The likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben needed to be replaced and younger talents blooded into the squad. Unfortunately for Kovac, this wasn’t for the lack of trying. Serge Gnabry and Alphonso Davies both were brought in under Kovac with the former returning from a fruitful loan spell at TSG Hoffenheim. These 2 young wingers along with the support of Kingsley Coman and Phillipe Coutinho, were supposed to take over from the loyal service Robben and Ribery had given Bayern. However, clearly the Bayern board did not trust Kovac to coach the younger players in such a way as to help them fulfil their very high potential. If this reason was a major influence in Kovac’s sacking, then an ideal candidate to employ would be Erik Ten Hag. Ten Hag’s admirable Ajax side captured the hearts of football fans around the world during their 2018/19 champions league run. A run that saw them beat the like of Real Madrid and Juventus and draw both home and away to Bayern in the group stages. Ten Hag oversaw the explosive growth of talents such as: Matthijs De Ligt, Frenkie De Jong and David Neres. De Ligt and De Jong both have become household names the former before his 20th birthday. Under Ten Hag’s supervision, they both earned big money moves to Juventus and Barcelona respectively. Bayern have a plethora of young talent coming through and under a manager like Ten Hag they could build a dynasty that will dominate Europe for years to come. It’s worth mentioning that prior to his work at Ajax, Ten Hag spent 2 years coaching Bayern’s reserve side meaning he already understands the culture of the club and many of the players he coached at youth and reserve level may still be there. The Bayern board have expressed strong interested in the Dutchman and it’s hard to see why not. In a recent interview, Ten Hag expressed gratitude to be considered so highly for the position however he did add that he was going to be staying at Ajax for at least the remainder of the season. It feels to me like, Bayern should trust in Hans-Dieter Flick, the current interim manager, to lead them through the rest of the 2019/20 campaign. The Bayern board could also consider bringing back club icon Jupp Heynckes, a man that has been in charge on 4 previous occasions. Heynckes is currently retired but came out of retirement to oversee the 2017/18 campaign after Carlo Ancelotti had been sacked and there is nothing to say he wouldn’t do it again for the club he holds so dearly in his heart. It was Heynckes who lead Bayern to their historic treble in the 2012/13 season and he would be the perfect man to steady the ship until Ten Hag becomes available at the end of the season.
Only the Bayern board know who they will select at the end of the day, but it’s safe to say there is a top talent pool for them to dip into. For me the obvious choice in Ten Hag and if he can reach a bona-fide agreement with Ajax then we could be seeing Bayern dominate for years to come. If not, Allegri stands at 14/1, surely worth a punt?