How time flies!
It’s been almost exactly a year since Matthias Sammer officially resigned from his position as sporting director and club board member, after suffering a minor stroke. The position has been vacant ever since, and many have blamed that vacancy for the club’s “poor” showing last season, especially in the Champions League, arguing that the club needs someone to mediate between the players and management, someone who is unafraid to point out things that aren’t working.
According to Uli Hoeness in a media session today, that position will finally be filled. Pressed by a reporter for a timeline, the club president gave an estimate of about six weeks, which puts us in early September. The president said he had “spent a lot of time in the car” with club CEO Karl Heinz Rummenigge discussing the situation, and they had come to an agreement.
Let’s take a quick look back
When Sammer announced his resignation last summer, it was originally assumed that he was stepping down due to his health. But Sammer soon contradicted this interpretation, claiming that he had been given a clean bill of health, but just didn’t have the energy to continue.
Many speculated that Uli Hoeness’ imminent return to the club presidency at the time played a large part in Sammer’s decision, since Hoeness’s return would have meant less power for the sporting director. In the meantime, repeated attempts to hire a new person have failed, but not for a lack of trying.
Who was offered the job?
The two front runners for Sammer’s replacement over the past year were Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Max Eberl, who currently holds the same position there, and retiring captain Philipp Lahm.
Eberl is a former Bayern player who maintains a close relationship to Hoeness. Although both sides denied any discussions, it was rumored that Eberl would be on his way to Munich as soon as Bayern paid a “transfer fee” to terminate his existing contract. But, after months of speculation, Eberl signed a contract extension with Gladbach, thereby taking his name out of consideration.
Lahm seemed to be the next logical candidate. Despite having no experience in management, he was highly respected by both the club hierarchy and the players. Attempts to persuade him to take the job, however, came up against the captain’s insistence that he have the same responsibilities as Sammer, which would have included a position on the club board.
Hoeness and Rummenigge were unwilling to go that far. Lahm thus retired completely from soccer, albeit leaving the door open to a future role with the club.
Who else was in the running?
Continuing the “big name” approach, reports surfaced that Bayern were pursuing former captains and fan favorites Oliver Kahn and Mark van Bommel. However, Kahn denied interest months ago, preferring to continue as a TV soccer analyst and pundit, and reiterated that disinterest recently.
Van Bommel also seems unlikely to join the club. His father-in-law, former Dutch national team coach Bert van Marwijk, stated today that Mark was very happy in his role as U19 coach at PSV Eindhoven, and that there had been no contact between him and Bayern.
So, who does that leave?
The latest candidates that are being bandied about are also former Bayern players, but with considerably less name recognition: Thomas Linke and Stefan Reuter.
Linke, active at Bayern from 1998 to 2005 and Champions League winner in 2001, has been sporting director at RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig and has been employed by Bayern's Bavarian neighbors FC Ingolstadt in the same capacity since 2011.
Reuter, who played for Die Roten from 1988 to 1991 and won the World Cup with Germany in 1990 is currently the business manager in charge of sport - essentially sporting director - at FC Augsburg, where he has been since 2012 after a stint at local Munich rival TSV 1860.
Neither of these candidates carries the flashy name of a Kahn or Lahm, but, in contrast to their more famous colleagues, they each bring significant managerial experience to the table.
We’ll know more by September
If we believe Hoeness, the club will hire someone soon. Who that will be, and how much responsibility he will have remains to be seen. But, everyone from club management to fans agree that something needs to be done. A repeat of last season, when the club went without a sporting director entirely, needs to be avoided at all costs.