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Brazzo: “I told Uli he was wrong.”

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Hasan Salihamidzic has established himself as the real wizard behind the curtain at Bayern Munich. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge revealed his role in signing Niko Kovac.

Bayern Muenchen Training And Press Conference Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

It was a first year on the job to make a “baptism by fire” seem like a pleasant alternative: sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic’s first months on the job witnessed the unraveling of Carlo Ancelotti’s regime at Bayern Munich and an unusually fraught search for a head coach to succeed interim (crisis-)manager Jupp Heynckes. Brazzo steered the club to safety through it all.

Where there’s smoke...

Speaking to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Salihamidzic looked back on his trying initiation to life as sporting director of the biggest club in Germany:

I came as a newcomer to a club that was in crisis for Bayern standards. That was a crash course for me right in the first few weeks.

As problems with Ancelotti and his team became apparent, Salihamidzic found himself in the awkward position of defending things publicly that he privately disapproved:

As an employee of the club, I had to defend things that I had not decided and in some cases did not consider good. I fell between two stools. I didn’t want to justify anything, but at the same time I had to act loyally.

Salihamidzic confessed that he felt as if he “couldn’t say anything right” during his first few months in office, but he nonetheless helped the club survive the tense weeks when Ancelotti was dismissed and Heynckes brought on board.

In light of the club’s experience with Ancelotti, Bayern will insist that incoming coaches adapt to the staff that is already in the club’s employ, rather than introduce an entirely new team:

We will pay very close attention to that in the future: that a new coach accepts the Bayern Munich setup and doesn’t come marking in with ten people of his own. That’s the lesson of the Guardiola and Ancelotti era.

Ancelotti’s notorious fitness coach, Giovanni Mauri, was naturally the foremost offender. Salihamidzic imposed a smoking ban as one of his first acts in office:

That’s totally unacceptable: a fitness coach who smokes on the balcony or even on the pitch. We’re playing sports here; we have to set an example. And besides that, the locker room stank.

Finding Niko Kovac

Salihamidzic was also instrumental behind the scenes in the signing of Frankfurt’s Niko Kovac. While Uli Hoeneß persisted in his attempts to persuade his friend Jupp Heynckes to stay at Bayern for a second year, Salihamidzic swiftly came to terms with the reality of Heynckes’s resolve to leave after a year as planned.

“I told Uli he was wrong,” Salihamidzic explained, as he accordingly tried to convince Hoeneß to evaluate other coaching candidates rather than badger Heynckes further. The effort eventually succeeded, and the front office set about exploring other options.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge revealed in an interview with the Münchner Merkur (reported by Sport Bild) how Salihamidzic was instrumental in signing Niko Kovac, who was not merely the “fourth-best option” after Heynckes. Salihamidzic had actually contacted Kovac, Ralph Hasenhüttl, and Thomas Tuchel simultaneously.

Rummenigge explained,

People don't know how it all went down. Hasan Salihamidzic had conducted—which was also his job—parallel informal discussions to get an impression. We can live with this talk of 1a, b, c and d solutions. Take a look at Stuttgart, how critically Tayfun Korkut was viewed there at first. Now he’s a hero. We’re convinced that Niko will do a very good job.

As for his impression of Salihamidzic's performance itself, Rummenigge stressed that Brazzo has impressed both within the club and without:

Hasan is a stroke of good fortune. He is the best sporting director that I’ve experienced here since Uli Hoeneß. That was just his first year; he’s doing a damn good job. Not only do we say that, but experts do too—including Günter Netzer, who I spoke to recently. He told me that Hasan is a really shrewd customer.