After one former player had a few words to say about team selection, two more have taken their turn to crawl out of the woodwork this week. It feels like FC Hollywood again. Time for another ramble rant.
The transfer window has just closed. Gott sei dank. Time to get on with the simple business of talking and writing about football.
Hmm. Not so simple.
Bayern have just lost a Bundesliga match, meaning that some people out there feel the need to prise open the door to FC Hollywood hell. Gossip-mongering from former players. Media spin. Fear of an impending collapse in Munich. Talk of machinations within the club that do not actually exist.
Apart from the catastrophic 0:2 defeat against TSG Hoffenheim this past weekend, the biggest story of the week concerns Robert Lewandowski, and his interview with Der Spiegel. (Note: the defeat was not that catastrophic, though many are looking at it that way. We just played badly against a team that had our number and executed a perfect throw-in routine. That is football. It happens sometimes).
Reading the rather melodramatic headlines, one could end up believing that the Polish striker is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. For some, he has served up little more than a gentle critique. For others, he has launched into an all-out attack on the temple of FC Bayern München. Cue a former player to pipe up.
A few rambles ago, I laid into Lothar Matthäus for his (unwanted) expert pundit comments. Today, it is the turn of Stefan Effenberg.
I will say much the same thing again. Effe, you were a great player. Well, at least during your second spell at Bayern when you were not sporting that ridiculous peroxide blond mullet. When you were not a big FC Hollywood star suggesting that other teams were too stupid to win the Bundesliga.
I, and many other Bayern fans, are eternally grateful for your strong character and fantastic leadership that took us to our fourth Champions League title in 2001.
But please. Wind your neck back in. Easy, Tiger.
Measured and controlled
Picking his favourite bits from Lewandowski’s extensive interview, Effenberg has arrived at the cockeyed conclusion that Bayern should sell the Polish striker. He even goes so far as to recommended Paris and Barcelona as suitable destinations.
It all looks rather dramatic. But if one chooses to read the Spiegel interview properly, it quickly becomes clear that it is both measured and controlled. Unlike much of the reaction, there is little or no hyperbole. It cannot in any sense be described as an “attack”. Lewandowski addresses not just the transfer question, but a number of other issues that have annoyed and irritated the fans.
Effenberg speaks about turning Bayern back into a German team. Well, this is something most supporters will agree with. I myself have always believed in the concept of a German core, which is good for Bayern, good for the Bundesliga, and good for the national team.
Common sense policy
It has always been the club’s philosophy to look at home first. If an affordable German player can do just as well or better than an international star, the club will always make the most practical decision. Just look at Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle, two excellent home-based signings.
The same principle has also driven the club’s international transfer policy. Get a good end-of-contract deal, like with Lewandowski himself. Or look for talent that doesn’t make too many banner headlines. Over the years, some fantastic players have made their way to Munich. Giovane Elber, Claudio Pizarro, Roy Makaay. This practical, frugal, common sense policy has continued with more recent signings like Javi Martínez and Corentin Tolisso.
There is nothing in Lewandowski’s interview that contradicts this approach, and at no point does he suggest that Bayern should look to match these obscene sums. Instead, he makes the obvious point that the club need to find a way to compete, and that they need to be a little more creative. Bayern muss sich etwas einfallen lassen und kreativ sein. He states, pretty categorically, that money is not the only factor.
That is it. Yes, really. Nothing controversial there at all. Many of the other factors are almost unique to Bayern. The sporting perspective. The team. The city. The environment. Further on, Lewandowski makes it clear that the overgrowth of the market is not a good thing. That tougher rules are needed to protect both the game and the fans.
As for attacking his colleagues, there is no actual evidence of this in the interview. Yes, Lewandowski makes it clear that he wants to win the Champions League. Which player would not want this, especially one who has come so close so often? In comparing Bayern with PSG, this is what he actually has to say:
“You are on the pitch and always want to compete with the best in the world. Paris has bought a world-class squad. Whether it is also a world class team, one must wait. Bayern Munich is a team, we have already experienced a lot together. I’m sure we can compete against Paris. In football, it is fortunate that not always the ones with the most money wins.”
So much for criticising his colleagues, and that money is everything. Hardly the words of a player wants to up sticks and play in St. Denis.
Kalle weighs in
Robert Lewandowski reveals himself to be astute, knowledgeable about the game, and more importantly a realist. If Effenberg needs to have a swing at anybody, it should be Karl-Heinz Rummenigge over his comments regarding the possible removal of 50+1.
Interestingly, Rummenigge has since had a shot at Lewandowski in Bild. Rather than discussing transfer policy, Kalle chose to focus on the player’s particularly sharp criticism of the pre-season shenanigans in Asia.
“If Lewandowski has any problem with our trip to Asia, he should keep in mind that his dream club Real Madrid spent 24 days travelling in the heat, double the amount of time that we did.”
Sorry Kalle, but I am with Lewy on this one. What is perhaps worse is that Rummenigge is being economical with the truth, just to make a pretty weak point. I have no idea where he gets his details on Real Madrid’s summer schedule from, but as far as I can see they only played four matches in just under a fortnight. In the hot but dry United States, as opposed to the smoggy and humid Far East.
The “dream club” comment is also pretty facile. Lewandowski came to Bayern on a free transfer. He could have gone anywhere. He wanted to come to Munich. If he wanted to go to Madrid, he would have gone there. At the end of last year, he extended his contract to the end of the 2020-21 season. There are the facts, folks.
Gently-bubbling Bavarian Eintopf
Yes, Lewandowski could have been advised to not agree to an interview. But the reaction has been completely out of proportion and petty. While Stefan Effenberg will always be Stefan Effenberg, I have to admit that I am slightly disappointed that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge chose to respond the way he did, and in Germany’s crappiest yellow press tabloid at that. I never thought that I would have to be so critical of a player I loved so much in my days as a young fan of Die Roten.
If just to add a little extra spice to this gently-bubbling Bavarian Eintopf, none other than Uli Hoeneß has stepped in to defend Lewandowski:
“I read the whole article and it was not so bad at all. I always find it good when a player worries about his club. But more importantly, if he cares about what is more important to him: his performance, and if that is better, then we will also achieve our goals.”
One can sense something of a disagreement between the club’s two head honchos here, but Hoeneß makes an effort not to create a divide. Adopting the wisdom of Solomon, he turns his ire towards Lewandowski’s agent Maik Barthel instead. Given that I do not have much time for agents, I can happily run with that.
I think most Bayern fans could run with that, too. The last thing we want is another unwanted schism at the club. The Louis van Gaal saga was bad enough.
Like Philipp Lahm in 2009, Lewandowski’s comments are refreshingly frank. It is disappointing that his passing remarks on transfer policy have been twisted into a number of mass-tweeted articles. I say this because elsewhere in his Spiegel interview, he opines on a number of issues that will resonate heavily with FC Bayern fans.
Among other things, Lewy discusses the packed summer schedule and remains sceptical about foreign tours. He discusses globalisation, and the possible alienation of long-time and home-based supporters. He has time to criticise Weissbier GoPros. He is not massively keen on half-time shows, but adopts a philosophical approach by admitting that this sort of commercialisation is probably unstoppable.
In all honesty, there is not much to disagree with.
Stefan Effenberg is not the only former player to raise his head above the parapet this week. Following Bayern’s weekend defeat in Hoffenheim, Mario Basler revealed that Carlo Ancelotti is on his way to China in the new year. According to Basler’s “reliable source”, the Bayern coach has already signed a contract.
Sometimes, one has to wonder what drives this nonsense. Basler has a serious job as director of sport at fourth-tier Lokomotive Leipzig, but one has to wonder where he found his “reliable source”.
My first thought was that the original Super Mario might have been after some media exposure as part of a plan to find a new job. Lok are not doing too badly at the moment though, so it is probably safe to say that he is just talking bollocks.