The two most, erm, exciting things to come out of a very pedestrian 1-1 draw?
Luca Toni hopping in his RM-license-plated Audi at halftime and leaving the Allianz Arena after being subbed for Arjen Robben. And the bombshell interview that Philipp Lahm gave to the Sueddeutsche Zeittung. Both are serious breaches to the bosses at Bayern, and both players were fined heavily for their transgressions.
Both were acts of frustration, certainly. But while Luca’s act comes off like a petulant five-year old who is taking his ball and going home, Lahm’s interview gives a face, and a reason, to the slow melt-down that’s been Bayern Munich’s fate since winning the Champions League in 2001.
He begins the interview with his decision to stay at Bayern when he was given a chance to go to Barcelona in 2008, stating that he doesn’t regret his choice. “And why should I go, when I believe can have it here, at home, at my club in which I grew up? But one has to analyze the position critically.”
Then asked about the teams possible “untimely exit” from Champions League competition, he compares Bayern to the other top teams in the Champions League, stating that we lack a game philosophy when compared to Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United, and saying that a game philosophy has got to be in the mind of the club.
The paper then says that Bayern has massively invested in the transfer market, to which Mr. Lahm retorts, “But I do believe that, in the past, transfers did not always pan out well. Surely the reason may have been during the last few years we’ve had trainers with different ideas. But one has to be quite clear: Teams like Manchester or Barcelona create a system--- and then personnel is bought for this system. For instance, we got Arjen Robben because he is a very good international player. But we didn’t get him because we said: In future, we’ll play 4-3-3. This doesn’t exist with us.”
“One can not simply buy players because they are good”, he states, “And again, the example of FC Barcelona: They could’ve stayed with Ibrahimovic and Eto’o. But they didn’t because they clearly knew--- In our team, Henry and Ibrahimovic play in front, and a third player of this caliber causes only anger when he’s constantly sitting on the bench.”
Then he goes on to commend Christian Nerlinger, Bayern’s new Director of Sport, saying, “As far as the players are concerned, they are pretty much in agreement with him. We have discussed a lot with him. The question will be how his position is seen by the Board of Directors.”
When asked if Louis van Gaal is responsible for the crisis, Lahm says, “I do believe we have to play better, and it is up to the players to state that clearly… …He has a good idea of what is missing. His experiments and different placements show that… …I do believe that now we have a trainer that can manage the creation of a team.”
And when asked about van Gaal’s harsh manners? “He is a totally different trainer than those that were here before. He sets a high value on discipline, accuracy, and is perhaps sometimes a little difficult to deal with for many players. But, he is certainly not a brute; he does not demand impossible things from us. It will take time, but I am convinced he’s a good trainer. Certainly, he has his own ways, but he is a cordial man, even if one doesn’t always get it!”
On the players’ fear of van Gaal: “Many still have a mixture of respect and fear… …For instance, now we make an analysis after every game. What have we done well? What not? Some players can not deal with being criticized in front of the whole team. Why did you play that pass? Why did you make that decision? I find this good, and totally normal.”
Compared to Juergen Klinsmann last season? “Nothing like this ever existed, nothing was ever mentioned. Therefore, what we have now is a great change… …The trainer always tells us criticisms only so that the player can make it better. And we want to get better! Everything has to get better.”
“It is clear that one has to have success with Bayern”, Philipp says when asked about an early van Gaal exit, “The trainer knows that, too. In the Champions League, it looks crammed now, in the DFB Cup, we’re in the quarter-final, and in the Bundesliga, we will certainly be decisive, whether we’ll soon be in front, or not… …Compared to last year, I have hope because I can recognize the structure. But, of course, some things have to change.”
The change? “We have to play more offensively again. What happens in the front third is too little.”
What happens if nothing changes? “I am an individual, I feel very good, and FC Bayern is in my heart--- that is why I speak so openly about our situation… …But when I sense that nothing is happening, something is getting lost, then I will intervene and address unpleasant truths. You can never know if you can win the Champions League, that is difficult. But you must recognize a development. You must see that you are able to compete.”
Finally, about the 2010 World Cup: “We’ve succeeded in qualification, and I believe we did a great job in Russia. Not outstanding, but orderly. But what matters there, matters here: We have to improve our game. We have enormous problems against lesser teams. We can not separate a team--- That is the problem for the national team as well as FC Bayern.”
I’ve provided a paraphrased account of the Sueddeutsche Zeittung article, so English-speaking readers could have a notion of what was actually said. All the news I found only stated that Philipp Lahm criticized the team publicly, and that he got in a lot of trouble for it. 30,000 Euro worth.
What do you take away from this? Philipp Lahm, to me, is passionate about his club. It was a well-spoken, articulate critique of the present state of Bayern Munich football. Should the big bosses, Rummenigge, Beckenbauer, Hoeness, et al. have been upset? Absolutely. Should this have come to public light? Absolutely, as well.
Not that most of this is a big surprise, mind you. Even the people around me that are not Bayern fans are cognizant of our troubles. Although, they usually cane me with glee at my misfortune. Sigh. Such is the way of football fanaticism…
All is not lost, Lahm seems to say. And with grasping hope, I believe him.