The arrival of a one Jurgen Klinsmann to coach Bayern Munich for the 2008-2009 season could only be a great sign to all German and Bayern soccer fans at that time. After all, this man is considered legendary not just by fans and peers, but by the ultimate legend himself; Klinsmann had his name etched in “Pele’s List Of Greatest Players.”
A German superstar and former Bayern striker that has racked up numerous awards, and showcased world-class performances throughout his career globally (including German Football Manager Of The Year), this could only mark a monumental season for Bavaria’s sails; as the commander of Bayern’s football fleet will be coursing through the 2008-2009 terrain, wearing an exceptional uniform decorated with historical reputation and success.
So how did this wave of excitement come to a turbulent end, which saw the Bavarian ship crash and tumble through rough waters, washing up on the shores of humiliation, where the defeated commander was given his instructions to make a lonely walk towards exile, leaving behind a crew of confused players and frustrated fans? How did a reputable and beloved coach, a legend in his own right, end up taking the blame for a failed season at Bayern, and seeing his contract ending abruptly?
When speaking to fans whether they are either short-sited or lacking credible memory, or perhaps fans that hadn’t been paying enough attention, you will often hear that Klinsmann was simply “not the right coach for Bayern.” This is sometimes followed by an immediate praise for Luis Van Gaal (the Dutchman that coached the Bavarians’ following season.) Part of that praise, you will typically hear credit cited with regards to Van Gaal’s supposed discovery of the young rising star Thomas Muller.
Let it be pointed out that Thomas Muller’s involvement with the first team as well as his discovery, must be accredited to Klinsmann; if one were to pull up Bayern’s match against Sporting CP during the 2009 Champions League, you will see the former Bayern midfield anchor (Bastian Schweinsteiger) subbed out for a strapping young lad in Thomas Muller. This marked the first time for Bayern fans to see Thomas Muller play for them. And the brazen aspect of this substitution was that Muller’s debut was during a Champions League match. An immediate and naturally talented performance saw Muller’s first goal during his first match ever for Bayern, on the Champions League stage.
But that’s just scratching the surface when we discuss Klinsmann’s reign at Bayern.
The truth is, Klinsmann’s downfall ought to be blamed on a fickle Bayern management. Bayern fans can attest to how exceptionally rare it is to see “the bosses” spending the type of money that teams such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Man City (among numerous others) get to splurge with.
For some of us however, we are happy to be fans of a team that’s not platformed onto a spoiled and bandwagon’esq [SIC] club. However, Bayern fans recognize the agony of always purchasing mediocrity, and bandaging the Bavarian wounds, as opposed to undergoing a tactical surgery of getting the absolute world-class players that ‘FIFA Ultimate Team’ gamers seek to purchase while enjoying their EA endeavors.
So the question remains: Was Klinsmann given the proper tools/players to succeed?
The answer: An absolute NO. Not even close.
Let’s look at some facts, which shed light on just how ridiculous of a position this man was in:
Captain Oliver Kahn, one of the best if not arguably THE best goal keeper of all time had just retired. Reserve keeper Michael Rensing was the main keeper, while 2nd reserve keeper Bernd Dreher also retired and was replaced by amateur Thomas Kraft. Reserve strikers Jan Schlaudraff and Sandro Wagner, as well as midfielder Julio Dos Santos (among others) all left the club that year. The team would receive Tim Borowski, and it was announced that no more changes were to be made. No big purchases, no major loans, no superstar transfers; nothing.
Bayern management had felt that the previous seasons’ acquisitions of Frank Ribery, Miroslav Klose, and Luca Toni, were believed to be adequate for the term being.
It’s important to note that during training for that particular season, several players were also on vacation due to Euro 2008. Adding to that, their superstar Frank Ribery was out due to injury. Needless to say, Klinsmann was facing a crude hardship, an almost impossible task; his starting lineup would often consist of Massimo Oddo, Christian Lell, and Andreas Ottl whom are far from what a Bayern-caliber fleet ought to consist of. Not to mention the overwhelming senior-citizen combination of what was considered to be their “stars” together averaged an age range that sits well above 30. All in all, Klinsmann would be launching his first season with a very rocky start.
This does not go without saying, that even then the squad was plagued by injuries, making an already difficult task even worse. Yet still, Klinsmann was able to take what should be considered a 3rd string team and remain amongst the very top of the Bundesliga bracket. He even placed 1st in the champions league group, undefeated. Klinsmann also moved forward with a record-breaking margin against Sporting CP which launched them into the quarterfinals.
Then came the ever so disastrous loss to FC Barcelona; “massive humiliation” and “taken apart” were among key terms used by the FC brass to describe this defeat. We must remember that Barcelona went on to become EUFA champions that year. Losing to the champions is typically considered less embarrassing. But let’s examine the 0-4 defeat to a star-studded champion team in Barcelona that year, which ultimately proved to be one of the final straws that broke Klinsmann’s back:
An injured combination of Miroslav Klose (their best striker and leading scorer that season), Philip Lahm (their best winger if not the best winger), and Lucio (their strongest center back and defensive anchor) had created major holes in their lines of offense, midfield, and defense. Add that to a newly appointed young keeper in Rensing, and you have a shadow of what’s considered an already weak team, facing one of the toughest teams to emerge during recent history. the Bavarians are left with the likes of a god-awful Breno (whom later went on to a failed career and an arson conviction), a sub-par Massimo Oddo, an exceptionally mediocre Christian Lell, and an almost amateur Andreas Ottl, to battle against a whopping combination of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, and a host of other world-class superstars.
Needless to say, it is a blessing that this poor squad managed to leave with only 4 goals conceded. It is also worth noting that once Philip Lahm and Lucio returned for the 2nd leg, Bayern saw a draw against Barca (1-1) even though the Catalonians assembled a very similar team as they did during the first draw.
Yet Bayern’s top management chose to use Klinsmann as a scapegoat and terminated his contract following one more loss in the Bundesliga. Stubborn as always, and too blinded by their pride, the bosses were far less than courageous enough to face the wrath of Bayern fans. So naturally, they shifted the focus onto an unjustly blamed Klinsmann, and pushed the truth farther than the eye can see.
Let us also mention that the following season was quite the recipe for the newly appointed coach Luis Van Gaal; him being the reason Lucio (captain of the Brazilian national team) left the squad and went on to Inter Milan, clinching the Champions League title that particular season. Van Gaal also refused to extend Ze Roberto’s contract past 2 years, citing club protocol for players over 30 (even though the player was decent caliber, and had retired from his national squad in order to focus only on Bayern), yet the Dutch coach broke protocol for a less than average Van Buyten. Furthermore, the FC brass allotted a splurge that year, purchasing a great deal in Arjen Robben, and a disastrous flop of an overpriced purchase of Mario Gomez. The club also signed Alexander Baumjohann, Edson Braafheid, Ivica Olić, Danijel Pranjić, and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. That season Bayern did manage to win the Bundesliga title, as well as the Pokal cup. They reached the finals of the Champions Leauge and lost to Inter Milan.
However, one thing should absolutely be acknowledged, and that is the fact that the Bayern management wanted to focus all finances on paying off the Allianz Arena. The hat must be tipped off to that, because in retrospect as we look back, it is evident that sound financial strategies have indeed placed Bayern on the playing field with Real Madrid and Manchester City monetarily (except that the Bavarians did it with sound fiscal planning as opposed to ownership wealth). So credit is given where it is due. But let us at least be fair to Jurgen then…
So with all that being said, admiration for Klinsmann remains as high as it ever was by many. As the legendary German went on to coach the US national team and take their entire soccer philosophy to new heights. He even extended it to their more successful women’s national team. Needless to say, Klinsmann is considered a great and successful coach in the US despite some critics; as evidenced by his performances since his arrival there: setting records back to back with the best winning percentage in US history, longest wining streak in program history, and record goals scored, among numerous other exceptional achievements.
With that, and when discussing possible future coaches for Bayern, it’s typically advocated that there be a German coach for a German club. And still there should be considerations however unlikely, that give Klinsmann a second chance; a real chance with a real Bayern squad alongside a few great purchases. In such circumstances (especially with the coaching experience Klinsmann’s demonstrated since 2009), perhaps the Bavarian team would enjoy lifting the Champions League cup, the Bundesliga trophy, and possibly the Pokal cup in a great spell, ala legendary Jupp Heynckes.
Author: Fadi Malkosh
Fadi Malkosh is the founder of Network Radio.