Mailbag Roundtable: May 2020

Marc Separator May 14, 2020

Question 1

What are your opinions on the permanent appointment of Hansi Flick and Miroslav Klose as his assistant? What do you make of the player extensions?

Daniel: Giving Hansi Flick a contract-extension was a must. When the games stopped there might’ve been some arguments to be made against him from a pure sporting-perspective but as things stood, this was far beyond just your typical run-of-the-mill contract-situation. Football was standing still but future decisions on other contracts were still coming up. So of course Neuer, Thiago, Müller and Alaba wanted to know who they’d work with in the coming years, plus all the alternatives to Flick were in the same boat together. You can’t sign a Ten Hag when Bayern and Ajax are still likely to have games in July.

The length of the contract is more interesting to me, they could’ve given him a two-year-deal but an extension until 2023 shows true commitment to Flick, I very much like that.

Klose is a fascinating figure. I didn’t think much of him when he first turned to a career in coaching but various interviews and that biography from Ronald Reng revealed a true football-enigma. I am now very curious where he’ll end up and I especially like how he is very cautious to only take one step at a time as a coach. Less and less ex-world-class players become great coaches but there will always be some exceptions, Klose just might be one of them.

Hansi Flick received the support of the board and was named the permenant manager till 2023.
(Image: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

As for the players, I am happy with all of those extensions and am eagerly awaiting Thiago and Alaba’s.

Maurice: There was no real alternative to extending Hansi Flick, especially given the current situation. However, he also might have been the best alternative on the market anyways. His record at Bayern so far is superb with 18 victories in 21 matches and no loss since September. The team showed improvement in various areas including counter pressure and positional play. There is still lots of room left for further enhancements and Flick will tackle those with a full summer to prepare. 

The addition of Miroslav Klose makes a lot of sense. Flick and Klose have obviously been close ever since the 2014 World Cup and the head coach knows about the expertise of his assistant and how to use him best. For Klose this will likewise be a rewarding position as he can learn from an experienced coach, while working on his coaching license.

As for the players the extension of Davies was very important and overdue. It is a nice gesture of the club to recognize the value of their players and adjust contracts early to reflect that. The extension also serves as a warning sign for other suitors: Davies is one of the building blocks of Bayern’s future. It will also be very crucial to extend Thiago. The Spaniard is the centerpiece in the well oiled machine that is Bayern’s positional play. Flick knows his value and has hopefully made the board aware that losing Thiago would be a huge blow for any title aspirations.

Alex: I agree with Daniel. The permanent appointment of Hansi Flick was a must. Since the emergence of coronavirus, Bayern has had to deal with much more important issues than a potential replacement of a coach whose track record to date has been quite formidable. Even in a non-coronavirus environment, he would have been the front runner for me. I had been skeptical about him at one point because I thought that he did perhaps not have the charisma and the stellar name that would befit a club aiming to attract a global audience, but I have since changed my mind. Within weeks, he has turned the team upside down. They consistently play successful football and, most importantly, he seems to have established an excellent rapport with virtually all of his players. Big names are not born big, big names are made. Why should he not be able to do so too?

I think the very same applies for the players as well. In times of coronavirus, every good sporting executive worth his salt would be well advised to keep his squad together and perhaps just get rid of a few players who have been on their way out anyway. I therefore think that the contract extensions with Thomas Müller and Alphonso Davies especially were absolute no-brainers, and I am actually quite surprised that things have been dragging on for so long with Thiago, Alaba, and Neuer. I am sure that this is in no small part due to the players themselves (save for Thiago perhaps). From their perspective as well, I’m flabbergasted that in times like these they would apparently rather keep haggling over a few Euros and maybe a year more than reaching certainty for their future.

Miroslav Klose was appointed as Hansi Flicks assistant starting this summer.
(Image: Bayern Munich/AFP/Getty Images)

I cannot say a lot about Miroslav Klose. I know him as a player of course, but I have not closely followed his career as a coach since he hung up his boots. From what I hear and read, most people who know him better than I do or have dealt with him in recent years are quite excited about him as a person and his development as a coach. I only hear good things about him, and I am not in a position to doubt any of it. I see Klose as Flick’s assistant as a huge chance both for him personally and for FC Bayern. Two thumbs up from me on his appointment!

Question 2

How do you feel about Leroy Sané? Is he a good fit at Bayern given the discussions of his personality?

Daniel: I’m always weary with tabloid-media grouping people into certain personality types. They’re deciding that one group is truly committed to their sport, while others are more glamorous and I find all of that to be total rubbish and, frankly, in many cases to be a tad bit racist.

I did certainly raise an eyebrow when I saw that Sané got a tattoo of his own self on his back and I did make fun of his tic-tac-toe hair-style just like everyone else did. But I don’t know the guy, I only know that he’s an excellent football player. Bayern desperately needs another winger. Someone who can start on the wings in the toughest matches without you scratching your head beforehand (no offense to Perišić and Müller). Someone who can be subbed on and turn a game around, I will never forget our squad being so thin, Jupp Heynckes had to bring on Javi Martínez on left-wing in the Bernabeu. I don’t think signing an injured player is usually a good idea, but looking at the alternatives and the market-situation as a whole given the virus, Sané is in all likelihood the best winger on the market.

Maurice: As Daniel mentioned it does not do a player justice to speculate on his personality. In the past extravagant personalities have also fit into Bayern’s locker room, where experienced players act as a role model. One might even think of Alaba or Gnabry right now. 

For the player Leroy Sané I am nothing but excited. He could be the one piece Bayern needs. Although some, including Spielverlagerung author Constantin Eckner, have raised the concern that Sané is at his best in counter heavy football and struggles in positional play – as witnessed in his last two seasons at the Etihad. However, I still think he would be a great addition. His skills in taking on other players one on one are remarkable and he has a certain it-factor on the pitch, where one action can decide a match. Next to Gnabry he would present a more traditional winger, who at the same time is more dangerous in front of the goal than Coman.

Leroy Sané could be the difference maker that Bayern have been missing.
(Image: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images)

Alex: The point about Sané’s personality is a pertinent one. Without the shadow of a doubt, in terms of skill and talent he is one of the most exciting young players German football has produced in years. But football is a team sport, not a “collection of individuals” sport. When it comes to the last few percentage points of team performance, it is not just important that the players as individuals are up to the task, but also that they harmonize as a group. I am convinced that for a team to turn out top performances on a consistent basis, it is not just enough that the players have a basic level of harmony in their professional work environment, but also in their private lives. A rotten apple can spoil the whole cart. If there is a player with whom the others really do not get along or who constantly ruffles their feathers with something irritating he says or does, they will struggle to harmonize on the pitch as well.

Leroy Sané has the reputation of being a difficult character. There has been openly voiced criticism of him by his fellow players in the past, and I suppose we all know that Jogi Löw did not decide to leave him home for the 2018 World Cup for sporting reasons. There must also be a reason why Pep Guardiola never quite appeared completely convinced by him although Sané with his skillset seems like the perfect archetype of a Guardiola player.

Nevertheless, he is an outstanding footballer. Bayern and Manchester City seem to be on the verge of reaching a deal. I can only hope that Oliver Kahn, who has said that he intended to give greater weight to a player’s character in the evaluation of potential future signings, has already begun to do so.

Question 3

What are your expectations for the restart of the league both for Bayern and as a whole?

Daniel: The league is dedicated to finish by their deadline on June 30. La Liga, the Premier League and possibly Serie A are also looking for a potential return in June thus making finishing the Bundesliga-season on said day not that much of a priority because they will most definitely not finish their leagues in June. All in all I’m expecting the Bundesliga to finish in mid-July.

As for the games, I’m expecting lots and lots of muscle injuries. Two or three weeks of training aren’t enough to prepare the players to play every three days. With many injuries and some inevitable SARS-CoV-2 infections, I’m expecting that a major talking-point will be if relegation really is fair given these circumstances.

With top-teams all showing consistently strong performances even in hostile away-games over the years I wonder if they will also cope with a complete lack of supporters better than mid-table teams. Either way, it’s going to be wild at first. I do think we’ll all somewhat get used to football without fans, but that won’t come until much later.

Hansi is attempting to get the squad back into match shape for the restart, but it’s a difficult task given the time restraints and health concerns.
(Image: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

Maurice: My expectations are not very high. There is a possibility that the season cannot be finished due to infections in squads. However, I am still excited, even though the lack of fans will be something to get used to. The title race is the closest it has been in years. After all those years of rather boring season finishes, we enter a real thriller. It will be interesting to see how different teams cope with the new situation: Will there still be a home field advantage? Will we see the same level of play as some players might be out of shape?

All things considered, while the Bundesliga is Europe’s (or maybe the Western world’s) guinea pig, it also serves as a great chance. The whole world will be watching and the German league (with its highly debated health concept) could serve as a blueprint for other sports leagues around the globe. However, should it all go south within a few weeks we might be wondering whether it was necessary to restart football altogether. Only time will tell, if the Bundesliga was brave and visionary or just in over its head.

Alex: My expectations for the restart are fairly limited, to say the least. It is not just that there is the Damocles’ sword of a coronavirus-induced abandonment constantly hanging over the league, it is much more that I feel no real excitement whatsoever about the prospect of watching football again in a few days time. The whole competition (or what is left of it) feels totally warped to me. There are no crowds in the stadia, no team has really had any proper training, the players are definitely not match fit in the common sense of the word, and then, worst of all, there is this constant sense of gloom and “let’s just get it over with” thinking that lies like a dark shadow over the whole affair and is completely inimical to the exciting football fun fest we ordinarily look forward to from matchday to matchday. 

If abandoning the league were not associated with such grave economic consequences for apparently a whole host of clubs, for my money, it need not have come back.

As always, thank you for your questions. We look forward to hearing from more of you in the future so be on the lookout for posts on social media or leave any questions you might have in the comments. Hopefully everything goes smoothly with the restart and, though it will obviously feel very different, provide something fun and entertaining to watch for the first time in months.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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