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Hoeness: Bayern Munich is not too old

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The president addressed criticism of Bayern’s aging roster and several other topics, including the prospect of signing a Chinese player.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Paris St. Germain - UEFA Women's Champions League Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images,

At a “Meet the President” dinner in Liechtenstein, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness gave extensive, candid remarks on a variety of topics (reported by Blick), including the increasingly heard criticism that Bayern Munich’s team is too old to compete against Champions League caliber teams.

Hoeness did not mince words in rejecting that claim:

The media make a stink as if we had a nursing home. Every time Ribery has to come off after 70 minutes, he calls me that evening and says, “I’ve finally had enough, I’m done!” We have a team that’s getting up there in years a bit, but for me there are no old or young teams; there are only good and bad teams. Look at the defense of Juventus Turin - no one there is under 33. And, as far as I can tell, they will probably be the Champions League winners this year, who’ll beat Real. Nobody is asking either whether they’re too old now. If Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben play like they played for most of this year, then I couldn’t care less how old they are.

While, as kicker notes, two of Juventus’s defenders are actually 30 and 32, Juve is indeed the oldest team in the Champions League this year.

The fact that Robben and Ribery’s run of form poses a problem for the development of Bayern’s youngsters is also not lost on Hoeness. He candidly addressed the dilemma:

The problem for the young players is that they don’t get a chance at the moment. We now have to find a way so that the youngsters can grow in the shadow of these players, get a chance at the right time, and be there on the day when the others quit. That’s the trick.

With a late-season duel against second-place RB Leipzig on the horizon, pitting the oldest team in the Bundesliga against the youngest (average age of 28 vs 24), Hoeness jokingly remarked that he told Leipzig’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz,

My dear Mr. Mateschitz, if you now also start to sign older players, you’ll be an opponent we will definitely have to take seriously.

While at least Joshua Kimmich will make the leap to the first team, it will be interesting to see whether Hoeness can persuade Carlo Ancelotti to find more minutes for youngsters like Renato Sanches and Kingsley Coman in the season ahead.

Also of note: China

One of the more interesting topics Hoeness touched on was China. Hoeness anticipates a boom in soccer in the most populous nation on earth,

Because the new president [Xi Jinping] has decided that soccer will be the number 1 sport in this gigantic country. We have built three or four soccer schools in China.

That boom represents a massive opportunity for the club and makes signing one of the future products of these Chinese soccer academies all the more attractive:

My idea is: a Chinese player will eventually play for Bayern Munich. And when this Chinese player plays for us, he will generate crazy demand. If we then play probably at 2pm on a Saturday so that it can be broadcast live at prime time in Shanghai or Beijing, [and] then 300 million Chinese press their iPone and pay a euro each - then you can imagine where it will lead.

[Editorial note: On Xi Jinping’s soccer ambitions for China, see this New York Times article.]

See the link to Blick above for Hoeness’s remarks on several other topics (in German), ranging from his decision to serve his prison sentence for tax evasion to his Bayern’s financial methods, merchandising, player salaries, a hypothetical European superleague, and the significance of ending the season with one title.