It’s a stunning late summer season’s day at Sabener Strasse. There are freshly buttered-up pretzels on the desk, everybody’s in an excellent temper, and the one criticism isn’t actually a criticism: the solar is shining into Hasan Salihamidzic’s workplace at Bayern Munich’s coaching floor, making it just a little toasty inside.
That’s the factor about Munich: issues can nearly be too good. Town — inexperienced, protected, rich, near the Alps, the lakes and Italy — has grow to be the costliest place in Germany lately. The extra well-known of its two soccer golf equipment has been grappling with an excessive amount of (home) success of late, successful the Bundesliga 10 instances in a row to make the championship really feel much less like an achievement than a forgone conclusion earlier than a ball is kicked.
A number of days earlier than The Athletic sits down with Bayern’s sporting director, his crew destroyed Bochum 7-0 and will have simply simply scored twice as many, all with out their most essential goalscorer in fashionable instances (you understand who), who has moved on to Barcelona. All of which begs the plain query: isn’t Salihamidzic apprehensive that his membership will finally outgrow the league?
“I’m not,” he smiles. “I’d be apprehensive if it was the opposite manner round (laughs). We now have an fascinating league, now we have a superb crew. We’ve began rather well. I’m not apprehensive that the Bundesliga gained’t be fascinating — fascinating beneath us (within the desk), I hope. That’s an important factor. I can’t be apprehensive on behalf of others.”
It’s not a stunning view contemplating the teenage refugee from Bosnia has labored his manner up inside a membership that treats each poor outcome as an unforgivable betrayal of its mission assertion.
A draw looks like a defeat and a defeat like a catastrophe, so there’s no alternative however to win. Sure, there’s “a hazard” to the Bundesliga on an entire if Bayern have been to monopolise championships “for one more 10 or 15 years” straight Salihamidzic concedes, however he however hopes that would be the case. “I wouldn’t thoughts a season the place we win all the things, a season with out stress for me.” The choice doesn’t bear fascinated about.
“For us, it’s essential that our crew is put collectively to make for enticing soccer, soccer that will get folks into the stadium,” the 45-year-old provides. “I get pleasure from it after we’re this good. It’s enjoyable to look at. Our supporters are completely happy. In fact I hope that the Bundesliga can be aggressive on the prime however not as a result of we’re shedding. It must be as a result of others are successful, too. I’d want that.
“When Borussia Dortmund lose at house (to Werder Bremen), Leipzig lose (at Union Berlin) and Leverkusen at house (to Hoffenheim), as they did final weekend (on August 20-21)… that’s not all the way down to us being too robust. If others have been to win extra, we’d have a title race with two or three groups. It’s their downside in the event that they don’t.”
Simply stated when your turnover, roughly €700million (£606m, $709m) this season, is greater than 50 per cent greater than Dortmund, your nearest rival, however then once more, Bayern have by no means been ashamed of their self-made riches.
The final word smug arrivistes, they weren’t thought-about essential sufficient for inclusion when the Bundesliga was based 40 years in the past and have been near chapter within the mid-’80s, however have since developed right into a persistently worthwhile, self-sustainable behemoth, whose fortunes are based upon sporting success reasonably than the opposite manner round.
Nonetheless majority-owned by its members and topic to democratic management, they embody the German soccer dream however have grown so huge that everybody else’s desires are likely to wilt of their shadow.
Can or ought to they do something about it? It’s laborious to see how. Even a voluntary self-imposed ban on shopping for the most effective gamers and coaches from the groups beneath them wouldn’t alter the equation. They will simply go and decide up worldwide stars corresponding to Sadio Mane or Pep Guardiola, and maintain on to their expertise whereas everyone seems to be pressured to promote their key employees earlier than later.
Salihamdizic cautions that it’s nonetheless early within the season, simply three league video games performed, and because it quickly seems, he’s proper: Bayern unexpectedly go on to attract their subsequent three league video games after our interview, rendering the Sabener Strasse microclimate significantly much less sunny earlier than Barcelona’s go to on Tuesday night time.
Preparing for #FCBFCB 💪#FCBayern #UCL pic.twitter.com/5IloIRDY1A
— FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernEN) September 12, 2022
Barring an unlikely whole breakdown between Julian Nagelsmann and his crew, the energy of the squad is such that they need to win the league regardless, although, as they certainly did when Niko Kovac was fired in November 2019.
Lifting the European Cup and all of the secondary trophies that include it underneath Hansi Flick in 2020 noticed the membership’s greatest itch totally scratched, however an unpleasant civil warfare between the coach and the sporting director, two males who wouldn’t take “nein” for a solution, led to Flick’s acrimonious departure the next summer season.
Because the official who had successfully misplaced Bayern’s most profitable coach since Jupp Heynckes, Salihamidzic felt the fallout like no different member of the management. There have been loads of ugly insults on social media and lots of extra measured observers merely felt the relative novice at this degree lacked the required gravitas and nous for his very important function.
An appointee of the outdated Uli Hoeness/Karl-Heinz Rummenigge duopoly that had led the membership in tandem for 20 years, he had typically tried to please either side and didn’t develop a pointy profile of his personal.
On prime of that, the previous Bayern and Juventus midfielder was blamed for an uninspired switch coverage throughout the pandemic when Bayern tried to complement their squad’s core unit with comparatively low cost imports that largely flopped.
Lack of depth was one of many most-cited the explanation why Bayern had a disappointing season within the Champions League in 2021-22, crashing out to Villarreal within the quarter-finals, however Salihamidzic thinks mentality, not high quality, was lacking.
“We didn’t have the precise perspective going into the Villarreal (away) match,” he says. “Maybe we felt just a little too assured. It was like, ‘We’ll be OK. There’s all the time the second leg in Munich’.
“However you may’t win a recreation within the Champions League, nor within the Bundesliga, with 85 per cent. You see now how good our crew could be once they’re decided and aggressive from the get-go. We now have loads of footballing high quality however neglect it — first, you need to struggle your manner right into a match and win the 50-50s. If we do this, we are able to beat anybody with our high quality. With out the fundamentals, no crew on this planet are any good.”
Shopping for Mane and handful of different prime gamers (Matthijs de Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch, Noussair Mazraoui and Mathys Tel) wasn’t simply the overdue post-COVID strengthening of the squad.
“We couldn’t spend cash we didn’t have earlier than. We don’t do loopy issues at this membership,” he insists. However in a acutely aware ramping-up of inner competitors, Bayern additionally made their squad smaller, with 20 outfield gamers, to stoke an depth that may, in all honesty, be typically lacking within the league. “We don’t have that sense of there being a set first XI,” Salihamdizic says, pointing to the window. “Once I take a look at the coaching and it’s 10 vs 10, I’m unsure which of them are the starters. That’s cool.”
Unusually for Bayern, this summer season’s €137.5m outlay for brand new recruits was largely financed by a €104m sale of fringe gamers — amongst them, most of the failures of the previous two seasons. “For us, it was clear throughout the pandemic that we might purchase gamers who gave us the choice to promote them if it didn’t work out for them,” Salihamidzic says.
“A participant like Marc Roca won’t have made it right here however he’s nonetheless an excellent and fascinating participant, a starter for Leeds United, who helps them beat Chelsea. Producing these gross sales allowed us to get in some prime gamers in and put collectively a squad that’s deep sufficient for everybody to play a component.”
The important thing recruit was Mane, a ready-made star who immediately modified the widespread notion that Bayern had misplaced their contact within the switch market and had grow to be much less enticing to huge names.
His signing massively strengthened Salihamidzic’s place contained in the membership in a few methods. First, the comparatively fast and easy conclusion of the deal confirmed him as a shrewd operator, a marked enchancment on the messy and unsuccessful pursuit of Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi and the bungled contract extension of David Alaba in the summertime of 2021.
Second, signing the Liverpool ahead early within the window allowed Salihamidzic to play hardball over the sale of Lewandowski to Barcelona, and it helped him to emancipate himself from his mentor Hoeness.
Whereas the honorary president had publicly urged Bayern to maintain the Poland striker towards his will if needed, Salihamidzic knew promoting the 34-year-old was the higher possibility in gentle of dressing-room rumblings and the variety of new choices in assault for Nagelsmann — supplied the Catalans paid up.
“The plan was to make loads of adjustments, to depart these two pandemic years behind us, however we had alternative ways of implementing it. It was apparent that (Lewandowski) was fascinated about a transfer however with out having prime replacements out there, we wouldn’t have agreed (to let him go).”
There had been hypothesis Bayern have been in peril of shedding that particular household ambiance that Hoeness had so efficiently fostered now Salihamidzic and government chairman Oliver Kahn are answerable for the membership. However based on the person overlooking this summer season’s recruitment drive, the Bayern model has retained its appreciable enchantment.
De Ligt, for instance, “left some huge cash on the desk coming to us (from Juventus),” he says. “He wished to go to Bayern in any respect prices. He stated, ‘I really feel at house right here’. Three years in the past, earlier than he went to Juve, we had talked with him and (his then-agent) Mino Raiola. We saved in contact, we knew one another, and I knew, if it was in any respect attainable sooner or later, that the participant undoubtedly wished to go to Bayern.
“He couldn’t play soccer the best way he wished to in Italy. I knew he’d undoubtedly come if we discovered an answer (with Juventus). That reveals you the way keen he was to achieve success for this membership, and the way he considered the possibilities of doing so.”
Homely vibes apart, gamers of such high quality are much less involved with funds than the crew’s competitiveness, Salihamidzic believes, including that their willingness to maneuver to Bavaria spoke volumes in that regard.
“The core of our group is of their mid-20s. We now have just a few children and never too many over-30s within the squad,” he says. “We now have an excellent age construction. That makes us attractive for most of the gamers who we tried to get on the switch market. They assume by way of the following three-to-five years. They check out the best way the squad is put collectively, by way of high quality, mentality, positional flexibility, and age construction.”
That is longhand for: this crew is able to win now and the close to future. The supervisory board evidently agreed with that evaluation. They renewed Salihamidzic’s contract till 2026 on the finish of August. There’s an argument that he’s been the most important winner in German soccer this summer season, contemplating his weak beginning place.
The choice to maneuver on Lewandowski may but come again to hang-out him and the membership momentarily, however by public consensus, Salihamidzic has carried out a fairly good job, which has shifted the stress firmly onto Nagelsmann.
Like each supervisor since Heynckes earlier than him, the 35-year-old can be judged by a handful of video games within the knockout phases within the Champions League.
It is going to be instructive to see if Salihamidzic’s newfound serenity — “I’ve realized to be lots calmer now,” he says — will survive till spring time. The climate in Munich may properly be much more unsettled by then.
(Prime picture: Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/Getty Pictures)