First of all, the decision to reactivate Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt as a team doctor is understandable. Having a local doctor, who still has the confidence of international sports stars and for whose expertise, for example, a Usain Bolt flew all the way to Europe, is a luxury that many other clubs would wish for. Since Müller-Wohlfahrt is also supposed to lead a staff of younger doctors from his clinic, one could think that the club has succeeded in making a future-oriented coup.
However, the reactivation of Müller-Wohlfahrts is part of a series of personnel decisions that could be summed up as a kind of roll-back. Let’s recall the personnel situation of FCB at the time of his (most) recent resignation in April 2015: Pep Guardiola was coach, Mathias Sammer was head of sports, Michael Reschke technical director, Karl Hopfner was president. Only Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was then and now in office, but had already announced his gradual and orderly withdrawal, first from the ECA chairmanship and later from the office of Chairman of the Board of Management of FC Bayern. It can be said that at that point in time, when the personnel changes at management level, which must inevitably also represent an emancipation of Uli Hoeneß, were at least already underway, if not already to a large extent implemented. With Müller-Wohlfahrt, one of the last representatives of Hoeneß era FC Bayern left the club; a new generation was at the helm, whose outstanding feature was the expertise, not the history at the club.
Only two and a half years later, no one from this generation is left. It seems like a journey back in time, as if the Guardiola years had never existed at all. Uli Hoeneß is president, Jupp Heynckes coach, Hermann Gerland assistant coach & youth coordinator and Müller-Wohlfahrt is now returning. The overall impression remains problematic, especially as Uli Hoeneß said that one of the main reasons for his return was to settle the succession and hand over the club in top condition to good hands.
If this is indeed his driving force, then Uli Hoeneß must have made a disastrous judgment of the responsible management personnel during his absence, otherwise the attempt to turn back time can hardly be explained. For the radical change he has declared as his goal seems to be farther away than ever at this point in time. He seems to give priority to bringing the club back into top form and only then, in a second step, to consider handing it over to the next generation. An interpretation of the past few years, which is admittedly contrary to my own assessment.
We can now object that Salihamidzic, a representative of this next generation, has already been put in charge. This may be true in terms of age, but more important than age itself and, in my opinion, much more sustainable would be to install such a high-profile staff who would pursue their own ideas even if Hoeneß & Co. are no longer around. And a Salihamidzic, for example, does not give the impression of having a really independent profile, especially when compared to the formerly responsible persons such as Sammer or Reschke.
But that’s the most important thing about succession: That the new generation not only manages a legacy and looks into all eternity in the “What would Uli do” handbook, but in all the challenges that FCB will face in times of heavy investors, develops a concept that sets the club apart from the competition in terms of quality, even if its financial strength decreases. This does not mean breaking with the Hoeneß generation and demonizing their way of running the club. Particularly with regard to the parameters “financial rationality/solidity” and “FCB as a family”, Uli Hoeneß has given the club a profile that should be worth keeping.
In order to ensure that the club does not act in a time after Uli Hoeneß without any real thought and planning, it would be important if the responsibility were to be distributed step by step to different shoulders and if they were to be given an independent role. Uli Hoeneß must allow the club to emancipate itself from him; however, the club is currently further away from this than in April 2015; the reactivation of Müller-Wohlfahrts also has to be seen against this background.
Hopefully, Müller-Wohlfahrt will be able to better understand how to overcome his sole responsibility and use his second comeback to instruct the doctors of his clinic in such a way that they will be able to guarantee top-level medical care for the club in the medium term without him. Then this step backwards would indeed have been a first step forward.