Column: My Five Cents
The column represents my personal opinion to the topics covered. I would be more than happy to see your opinions, stimulating discussions and also constructive criticism in the comments.
In the comments section for our last podcast, the reader Pleitegeier threw up the question as to whether Hummels and Lewandowski can be counted among the greats even if they don’t end up winning the Champions League in their careers. Does a player need to have sat on the European throne once in the duration of his career?
Mats Hummels is a five-time German champion, German cup-winner, world champion, got 70 caps with the eagle on his chest, and contested 299 league games as well as 51 Champions League games for the two biggest German clubs in Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. But he’s never won the biggest European club competition.
Obviously the Champions League stands as the ultimate accolade for a player and a whole team. But without it, would Kahn and Effenberg or Lahm and Schweinsteiger be less in fans’ memories? Augenthaler and Matthäus never got to lift ol’ big ears above their heads, and in spite of that they still are among Bayern’s greatest.
The Champions League title completes a player’s career. It shows that a player is successful on an international level too. And yet without it you can still say that Lewandowski is one of the best five Bayern strikers of all time and that Hummels, probably ahead of Boateng even, is the best German centre-back of the century. Even without ol’ big ears.
In our internal Slack conversation, a conversation came up about the iconic moments of various past and present Bayern players. With Schweinsteiger several big moments occur straight away. With Robben too certain goals in important games fire directly into your mind. Lewandowski has his five-goal haul against Wolfsburg. But what about Monsieur Ribéry?
This summer, twelve years of Franck Ribéry in Munich come to an end. What moments from that period come to mind immediately upon hearing his name? What goals are linked to the Frenchman? What moments have burned themselves into the fans’ memories?
Obviously there are the moments from his first season in Munich: the Panenka against Brememn and in the cup derby against 1860 Munich, or the keepy-up trick against Schulz. The other 121 goals don’t come to mind so spontaneously.
Many situations off the pitch stick in mind: Ribéry the joker knocking over signs with the team bus in Dubai or emptying a water bucket over Kahn after training. Or the contract extension on the balcony of the town hall in 2010.
The big moments seem to be missing. An impression, however, that is only true at first sight. Robben’s beauty at Old Trafford in 2010? Ribéry assist. Robben’s Wembley goal for the 2013 treble? Ribéry assist.
Especially after Robben’s arrival, the Frenchman was no longer solely responsible for the glamourous moments in an ever-stronger Bayern team. Ribéry was then once more able to focus on what he does best: set up goals, lead dangerous moves and score regularly. Even if they weren’t always the glamourous ones.
Early last year in a round-up I applied the double-double statistic, which actually comes from basketball, to football. The expression refers to a season with ten goals and ten assists.
After no single player in the Bundesliga achieved that target last season, in the current season with one game to go no less than seven players have at least ten goals and the same number of assists.
At FC Bayern, Robert Lewandowski managed this statistical particularity this campaign. With 22 goals and 12 assists, the Pole leads the goalscoring charts for the league. His twelve assists meanwhile are a personal best for him. With 34 goal contributions he’s having his third-best season.
Bayern’s big chasers in Dortmund have in Sancho (11/18) and Reus (16/11) two players with a double-double. Lewandowski, Gladbach, and Frankfurt, all still fighting for European places, each have in Volland (14/11), Hazard (10/11) and Haller (14/10) a double-double in their squad. The final player to do so is Max Kruse (11/11), having a great season once again on the Weser river.
For this section, assist statistics from Kicker were used. Various data-sources vary in how they count assists.
The Kovač case seems to divide the Bayern bosses. While Hoeneß still swears his loyalty to the Croat, Rummenigge above all goes back on promises made. In the recent Sportstudio on Saturday, sporting director Salihamidžić strengthened that impression when, asked about the coach’s job security, answered with a guarded “We’ll see”.
That creates unnecessary roadblocks. What Kovač is delivering in his first season in the Munich shark tank is being unnecessarily belittled. After the 3-3 against Düsseldorf when everybody called for the Croat’s head, the Bayern bosses stayed quiet publicly and gave their coach a second chance. The 47-year-old has used that more than adequately.
With his team he’s overturned a nine-point deficit against Dortmund. The second-biggest comeback in 56 years of the Bundesliga. In the second half of the season he’s collected 39 points in 16 games. The team, clearly stabilised, has the strongest attack of the calendar year with 47 goals.
What can Kovač be reproached with? The spiritless Champions League showing. The lacking integration of young players. The somewhat outlandish positive statements about the team’s performance.
Certainly all valid points and yet I trust that Kovač can and wants to learn from it all. He should be given a season with complete preparation as well as a couple of sensible additions to the squad that he can have a say in, in order to ultimately evaluate him and not just hang everything on the championship and cup titles.
Lately the name Erik ten Hag is circulating around the Munich media landscape. The former amateur coach is currently leading a young Ajax team to the Dutch championship and fell just short in the literal last second in the Champions League semi-final. He’s seen as a tactical fox and a big developer of young players.
And yet I believe that Kovač should still be given next season. That’s only sensible, however, if he gets the backing from the leadership to go with that.
As became public this week, the Bayern stars aren’t able to go directly on holiday after the DFB Pokal final. Instead on Monday the 27th of May there will be a friendly at Betzenberg against 1. FC Kaiserslauten. The financially stricken club are to be supported by the income from ticket sales. It’s not Bayern’s first Retterspiel rodeo.
The first encounter that was so titled took place in 2003 at the Millerntor. FC St. Pauli, who two years previously had defeated the great FC Bayern under the floodlights and named themselves the “Conquerors of the World Cup winners”, had fallen into financial difficulties. In July, Bayern travelled to Hamburg and beat Pauli in front of over 20,000 spectators 1-0 with a goal from Guerrero. The revenue of €200,000 was used well by the Kiez club, relegated into the regional leagues. Now the Hamburg-based side is back in the second division fighting for promotion, just missing out on it this season.
Since then the list has added several other well-known traditional clubs. Whether north, south, east or west. Wherever a club has problems with money, a friendly against Bayern brings fresh money into the coffers. Union Berlin, Darmstadt 98, Alemannia Aachen, Hansa Rostock, Dynamo Dresden, Kickers Offenbach, and now FCK.
Previous rivalries or bust-ups play no role for the Rekordmeister. It’s nice to see that the club sees a duty there and in doing so expresses a strong acknowledgement to German football.