Bayern Munich will have a new coach next season. For now, everyone is happy. But, as Karsten Blaas reports, the club’s relations with Jürgen Klinsmann haven’t always been cordial

Bayern Munich are always big news in Germany. Thanks to Franz Beckenbauer’s and Oliver Kahn’s womanising, Mario Basler’s drinking and Stefan Effenberg’s obnoxiousness, the club did their best to earn the nickname FC Hollywood. But when they announced that Jürgen Klinsmann would be their new coach – a two-year contract starts in July – the public response verged on the lunatic, even by Bayern standards. Half-a-dozen TV stations rescheduled programmes in order to cover the press conference and the broadsheets commented in their politics sections. Even chancellor Angela Merkel stated how happy she was about the return of the prodigal son.

Bayern needed a new coach because the board had harassed and unnerved the incumbent, Ottmar Hitzfeld, until he announced he would leave when his contract expires. The last straw for Hitzfeld was an interview by CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after Bayern’s disappointing 2-2 UEFA Cup draw with Bolton. Rummenigge said Hitzfeld should understand that “football is not mathematics”, a reference to team rotation. This was obviously meant to insult Hitzfeld, a qualified maths teacher.

Dismantling coaches’ authority is something of a pastime for the collection of former champions in Bayern’s upper ranks, including Beckenbauer, Rummenigge, financial manager Uli Hoeness and club consultant Paul Breitner. In the past two decades, they have driven away German coaches such as Otto Rehhagel, Felix Magath and Jupp Heynckes, as well as Europe’s most successful club boss, Giovanni Trapattoni.

Having used up the national market, it was expected that Bayern would contact an international big shot such as José Mourinho, Marcello Lippi or Guus Hiddink. After all, the club view themselves as one of the continent’s leading teams. This season they invested €70 million (£52m) on players including Luca Toni, Franck Ribéry and Miroslav Klose. But working in Germany, with comparatively low earnings and high taxes, is apparently not attractive for the management elite.

As a consequence, the Bayern bosses had to pull a rabbit from their hat – and came up with Klinsmann. It looked like an act of desperation to turn to the man whose past relations with the club have been difficult, to say the least. When Klinsmann left Bayern, Hoeness, renowned as a tough negotiator, moaned that he was the hardest employee he ever dealt with. Allegedly, the striker had a starting place written into his contract. The atmosphere deteriorated further when Klinsmann took over the national team.

Klinsmann blamed the Bundesliga clubs’ allegedly old-fashioned training methods for the poor performance of the national team and brought in half-a-dozen US physios and mental coaches. Hoeness was unimpressed by this reformatory fervour: “The powers are against him and 80 million people are against him.” He also took exception to the fact that Klinsmann still lived in LA, only flying to Germany for matches: “He shouldn’t hang around in California and let us deal with the shit he left us with.” Bayern’s top brass were further infuriated when Klinsmann decided to drop Kahn in favour of Jens Lehmann. Sepp Maier, goalkeeping coach for Bayern and the national side, called Klinsmann “hideous” – and got the sack.

However, the Bayern bosses have recently changed their tune. Curiously, the same qualities they condemned two years ago now seem to qualify Klinsmann for the job. “We were looking for a man with new and unusual ideas and we are very proud that Jürgen has decided to join us,” Hoeness said. Beckenbauer added: “With his new methods, Klinsmann was very successful with the national team, and I’m sure he will be just as successful with FC Bayern.”

The hugs and smiles will be forgotten, however, when Bayern come home with a draw from Bochum or Wolfsburg and the bosses return to publicly venting frustrations about their coach. But Klinsmann seems to be up to the challenge – ten years living on the outskirts of LA must have been a perfect ­preparation for FC Hollywood.

From WSC 253 March 2008

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