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Brazzo’s balancing act: healing the rift between Rummenigge and Hoeness

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The relationship that Hasan Salihamidžić was hired to mend is apparently not between the front office and Carlo Ancelotti, but between Bayern’s patriarchs in the front office itself.

FC Bayern Campus Opening Ceremony
Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge were al smiles at the opening ceremony for the FC Bayern Campus on August 21, 2017.
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Sport Bild’s Christian Falk has revealed that Hasan Salihamidžić was chosen as Bayern Munich’s new sporting director not primarily to facilitate relations between the front office - especially Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness - and head coach Carlo Ancelotti, but rather to reconcile the patriarchs themselves.

It was almost universally assumed that Bayern urgently needed a sporting director to facilitate relations between the front office and Ancelotti. When the club announced Salihamidžić as the new sporting director, many observers felt that the surprise choice was the result of the club’s failure to persuade a retiring Philipp Lahm or Mönchengladbach's Max Eberl to take the job.

That is only true in part - and hardly does justice to Salihamidžić.

Now the context of Brazzo’s hiring is clearer: the successor to Sammer was in fact one of several points of contention between Rummenigge and Hoeness, whose relationship had simmered behind the scenes since Hoeness’s release from prison and reintegration into the club, culminating in his re-election as president in 2016.

Hoeness recently emphasized in an interview with Eurosport that he and Rummenigge “were and are friends,” but he described the period since his release from prison as a reconciliation process:

During this time - it’s as if there had been a divorce. You have to get back together again. This process is now taking place. In my opinion, we are making great progress.

During Hoeness’s incarceration, Rummenigge ran the club alone. As Bayern won two championships and the DFB-Pokal, and the contracts of its most valuable players were extended, it was felt that life indeed could go on without Hoeness.

But Hoeness was critical after returning to the fold. He reportedly argued that neither Pep Guardiola nor Matthias Sammer would have left the club if he had been in charge.

The two men embody Bayern Munich but represent distinct aspects of the club’s complex identity. Rummenigge has embraced internationalization and promoted Bayern’s global market, while Hoeness has doubled down on efforts to revamp Bayern’s youth system and prioritizes the club’s traditions and success on the field before everything else.

The difference between the two could not have emerged more clearly than in their assessment of Bayern’s recent Asia Tour, which Rummenigge declared a resounding success and Hoeness roundly criticized.

FC Bayern Muenchen Unveils New Director Sports Photo by Alexandra Beier/Bongarts/Getty Images

In Salihamidžić both bosses have a trusted ally and friend that brings both of them to the table, as he did symbolically at his announcement in China, and Brazzo has also already made a significant impact on the players. Hoeness may have originally courted Eberl, while Rummenigge wanted Lahm, but when Rummenigge proposed Brazzo, Hoeness literally slept on it for a night and promptly agreed. The rest is history.