Bayern Munich have been crowned champions of Germany for a 30th time, and for the eighth time in the past eight seasons. The numbers could lead one to conclude that this was simply a routine matter, but a closer look at the season shows that this campaign was anything but. It was a season that saw the end of the Uli Hoeness era, a coaching change and, last but not least, a title clinched behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hoeness era ends
The biggest change at Bayern this past season had to be the emotional farewell of Hoeness after almost five decades at the club. Having had his playing career cut short by injury, Hoeness moved up to the front office, first as an executive, then for many years as club president. Although he stepped down as president last November, Hoeness hasn’t left completely as he will remain a member of the supervisory board until 2023.
His successor is former Adidas CEO and Hoeness’ friend Herbert Hainer. In his first speech as Bayern president, Hainer spoke of “huge shoes” to fill, but also pledged to “maintain the balance between sporting success, strong numbers and our Bavarian roots.”
A few weeks later, the club made a long-expected change in its sporting management. Oliver Kahn, the club’s first-choice goalkeeper from 1994 to 2008, was welcomed onto the board of directors in January. The plan is for the former Germany No. 1 to succeed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as CEO in January 2022.
Although Kahn was officially to use the next couple of years to learn the ropes, he was among those who had a hand in the contract extensions of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, forward Thomas Müller and coach Hansi Flick. All three are set to remain at the club until at least 2023.
The dawn of a ‘Flick era at Bayern?’
Kahn has even gone as far as to allude to the start of the “Hansi Flick era” at Bayern.
“He knows that Bayern Munich are measured by maximum success,” Kahn said after Flick put pen to paper.
It was also back in November that the board concluded that achieving this “maximum success” simply wasn’t possible with Niko Kovac at the helm – with the final straw coming in the form of a 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. Kovac, who had led Bayern to the double in 2018-19, seemingly never really enjoyed the board’s unqualified support. It seems they felt better about Flick.
The new coach’s league debut was spectacular – an emphatic 4-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund, the closest thing to a threat in the Bundesliga for the mighty Bayern. Flick then stumbled slightly, losing two out of his next three Bundesliga matches at the helm but as they clinched the title this Tuesday evening, Bayern’s undefeated run stretched back as far as December 7, 2019. Flick has done a great job winning games, but also developing an integrating young players, such as Alphonso Davies.
Playing behind closed doors has done nothing to slow down Robert Lewandowski, Alphonso Davies or the rest of Bayern
Coronavirus pandemic not a hindrance
Not even having to play matches behind closed doors after the restart amid the coronavirus pandemic could throw the Bavarians off their game. Since the restart, one clear trend has emerged – that the team with the better technical quality usually comes out on top – and this just happens to be Bayern, no matter who they face in the Bundesliga.
Financially too, the Bavarians head into the transfer window with a major advantage over most of their competitors. Unlike many, Bayern have a tidy nest egg tucked away in a fixed-term deposit account – unlike clubs that are completely dependent upon television revenue. Of those, many will have already spent or earmarked all of those funds before they arrive – in the hope of buying more sporting success.
Rummenigge may be trying to counter the image of the “rich Bavarians” when he claims that “Bayern Munich too are facing great economic challenges and will have to tighten their belt…the fixed-term deposit account is not unlimited.”
However, these words may also have been uttered with a view to lowering transfer-fee expectations – there’s nothing worse than negotiating a purchase with someone who knows just how much more you can actually afford.
Bayern’s summer-transfer-window target No. 1: Germany Manchester City and Germany forward Leroy Sane
Could the future be golden?
Bayern fans need not worry about their club’s future though. This team is excellent and the on-field challenges seen earlier in the season have been resolved, with the head coach and many of the stars locked up long term. The axis of Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba, Niklas Süle, Leon Goretzka, Thiago, Müller, Robert Lewandowski and others all have Bayern in their DNA.
Leroy Sané, of Manchester City, is one of Germany’s best attackers and that Bayern are looking to sign him is an open secret. Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz could well also be on their list – but even without him, Bayern promise to remain extremely hard to beat next season.
Bayern will be going for their ninth consecutive Bundesliga title in 2020-21, but expect the Champions League to be a bigger priority, assuming they don’t still go on to win it – in whatever format it is played out – this season. After all, their last Champions League title came seven years ago, and their sporting and economic prowess have seldom been stronger.