After suffering a minor stroke last season, Matthias Sammer decided last week that he couldn't continue the 24/7 grind that is required to be the sport director of one of the biggest football clubs in the world, and surprised his bosses by asking to be let out of his contract - to which the club obliged.
Karl Heinz Rummenigge, the club CEO, admitted that the club did not have a contingency plan in place, but explained that the sporting director responsibilities would continue to be spread among multiple people, just as they had during Sammer's absence after his incident. However, the search for a successor has already begun, and the media has reported on three potential candidates, all with significant Bayern ties.
The current sporting director of Bundesliga rival Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bavarian-born Max Eberl started his footballing career in the FC Bayern youth system, at the tender age of six. After running through all the youth teams at the club, including winning the U-17 German championship in 1989, he spent three seasons with the Bayern reserves. During that time, he was officially part of the senior team roster (in the 1991/92 season), but only made one appearance for the Rekordmeister.
He left the club after the 1993/94 season, playing for VfL Bochum and SpVgg Greuther Fürth in both the first and second divisions, before having his longest stint as a professional with Gladbach, spending six years at his current employer. He became the sporting director at the club in 2008.
During his time in charge of player personnel, the club added recognizable names like Marco Reus, Dante, Granit Xhaka, and Christoph Kramer, while also promoting their own youth with notable players like Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Patrick Herrmann.
Among his accomplishments, Eberl was named Manager of the Year in 2014/15, by the German football magazine 11 Freunde.
Another candidate rumored for the spot is another former Bayern player, Stefan Reuter. Reuter accomplished absolutely everything as a player, winning five German championships (twice with Bayern, three times with Dortmund), the Champions League (with Dortmund in 1997), a European championship (in 1996) and a World Cup (in 1990) with Germany.
After moving into the front office at Dortmund upon his retirement, he took over as General Manager for Bayern's cross-town rival, TSV 1860 Munich, in 2006, two years after they had dropped into the second division. He was hired in December 2012 by FC Augsburg as the General Manager for Sport, with the club wallowing in 17th place with only nine points to their credit. Augsburg managed to turn around their season by escaping the relegation spots completely, in part due to Reuter's moves of bringing in Andre Hahn, Alexander Manninger and Daniel Baier.
Reuter has managed to keep his club in the Bundesliga in his entire time in charge, despite a tiny budget and experts' expectations of a return to the lower league. The team even managed a fifth-place finish in 2014/15, which qualified them for the Europa League the next season, in which they reached the knockout rounds.
Wait, what? Lahm, the current captain of FC Bayern? It does seem incredibly premature, considering that he is still an active player with two years left on his contract, but pretty much everyone expects Lahm to seamlessly move from the football field to the front office once he hangs up his cleats at the end of the 2017/18 season. And who embodies the Bayern gene more than the Munich-born skipper, who worked his way through the entire youth system, and led his teams to Champions League and World Cup glory?
The captain has also shown his business acumen, by getting involved in several business ventures while still being an active player.
Who will it be?
Although all of these candidates have some appeal, and their respective drawbacks, which one of the three is the most likely candidate to take over Sammer's seat, which, don't forget, includes a spot on the governing board of the club?
Reuter has done a fabulous job of keeping a minnow in the top flight, by finding hidden gems on the transfer market for relative peanuts, but could he manage a giant club like Bayern, where finding bargains for passable Bundesliga players is not going to cut it?
Would Bayern really keep the Sporting Director position open for two more seasons, and hand over the reins to a complete management novice, as smart and popular as Lahm might be? Highly doubtful.
The favorite among the rumored candidates appears to be Max Eberl. He has the internal knowledge of the club, having spent many years with the Bayern organization, and has shown that he can lead one of the bigger clubs in Germany, simultaneously dealing with trying to keep up with league giant Bayern, while also juggling regular appearances in Champions and Europa Leagues.
Only time will tell which way Bayern will go, and we can believe Rummenigge that they won't rush into a decision. But, the club could do a lot, lot worse than Max Eberl. Who knows, maybe Eberl takes over in the near future, only to get a new apprentice in the summer of 2018.