Comment: FC Bayern have a leadership problem – champions without dignity

Justin Separator June 2, 2023

The game in Cologne has just ended. The Bayern players are standing in a circle on the pitch, variously looking at smartphones. In Dortmund, the game is still going on. Dortmund had been trailing 0-2 against Mainz 05, but managed to get one back in the second half and then, very late on, score the equalizer through Niklas Süle. A few seconds are left, perhaps enough time for one last attack. All of Dortmund were hoping for a miracle.

It failed to materialise, and the Bayern players rejoiced. Winning the title at the last minute was a conciliatory end to a turbulent season. But what will remain of this season is not this title, but the impression of chaos, especially in management. Even while the game in Cologne was still on, rumours started spreading that Oliver Kahn would be sacked.

The titan did not travel with the team. At first it was said that he was ill. Later he wrote on social media that the club had forbidden him to travel to Cologne. In the second half, and especially after Cologne’s equaliser, there was suddenly talk that Hasan Salihamidzic would also have to leave.

FC Bayern: champions? Perhaps, but definitely in the news

Since the final whistle blew, hardly anyone at Bayern has talked about the title. The eruptions in the boardroom are dominating the headlines. They wanted to put the football first, said Herbert Hainer in Cologne. That is why the decision, which had already been taken the day before, was only announced on the final matchday. But it is precisely this football that is once again being pushed into the background.

FC Bayern is a communications train wreck. It is not the first time that those in charge have failed to successfully communicate and afterwards moderate the public discussion about a far-reaching decision. This was already the case with Julian Nagelsmann. His dismissal was followed by weeks of debate simply because the bosses failed to close the issue.

Salihamidzic and Kahn are jointly responsible for this. For this reason alone, criticism is justified. After a season like this, a club like FC Bayern has to turn over every stone and analyse every little detail of the season. The sporting director and the CEO have taken two big gambles. First last summer in the transfer market and later with the decision to replace Nagelsmann. This almost led to the team from Munich incredibly remaining titleless.

FC Bayern: the management culture is broken

So on the one hand, the decision to relieve Kahn and Salihamidžić of their duties may be right. On the other hand, however, the way it was done is further evidence that something is wrong with the leadership culture within the club. Even if it may seem difficult to communicate a decision of this magnitude in a respectful and graceful manner, it is not impossible.

However, FC Bayern have been lacking style for some time now – and this also applies to Kahn and Salihamidžić. Recently, the two passed up no opportunity to criticise and almost attack the team. Only rarely did they themselves take responsibility, only rarely did they protect the team and the club.

The hallmark of good leaders is that they lead the way in times of crisis and stand back in times of success. Instead, crisis management at Bayern was often noisy and chaotic. Sometimes the strategies of the protagonists were outright contradictory. “FC Bayern AHEAD”, but apparently without a goal – what communications spearheaded was ultimately also seen on the pitch.

In this respect, it cannot be the dismissal per se that is causing the commotion. Kahn and Salihamidžić have played their part in this change. Now they get a taste of their own medicine. We witness an FC Bayern that has become cold in its dealings with its employees in many places.

FC Bayern: Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have to share the blame too

This is a worrying development. It is hardly surprising that there are always people who leak information. The dismissal of Kahn and Salihamidžić will not be able to root out this bad habit on its own.

Especially since with Herbert Hainer there is someone with a lot of power at the club who has proved often enough, especially in his dealings with fans, that such issues are not important to him. For many fans, he is the face for the loss of “Mia san mia” in recent years. Someone you can’t really nail down, whose interviews are often cool, emotionless, sometimes even meaningless. What does Hainer stand for and what positive things has he achieved during his tenure? It is a difficult question to answer.

Now it looks as if Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeneß will return. Hoeneß, for one, would not have to. Even after his supposed retirement, the patriarch has always had the last word at FC Bayern. That, too, is part of the problem. “The most important task of all managers is to find their successors, accompany them and then let them go,” commentator Jonas Friedrich wrote on Twitter: “Uli Hoeneß and KHR have failed in this. It is ultimately their failure.”

That, too, is part of the truth, of the record champion’s leadership problem. The German championship could have covered that up to some extent. But even in the only moment of triumph this season, Bayern manage to document their state of disarray.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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