Frohes neues Jahr! 2019 is here, and we bid farewell to 2018! It has been a massive year for Bavarian Football Works and for me personally. It was almost a year ago, in fact, that I first became managing editor here. The very first “Daily Schmankerl” debuted on January 8, 2018. I took over completely from Jason toward the end of the month.
Transfer sagas, Besiktas Cat, and the Klassiker that wasn’t
Last January, Bayern Munich was in the midst of a stunning turnaround after the club had summoned Jupp Heynckes to save the season. Bayern’s search for a successor was in full swing, and the other story updated every few days was Leon Goretzka. Would he, wouldn’t he commit to Bayern? He finally did on January 19th.
James Rodriguez was lighting up the Bundesliga, but by February Robert Lewandowski was already showing signs of restlessness (see Chuck’s “Working the Pole”). Bayern duly visited its training camp in Qatar, inspiring a critical look at their relationship shortly before the club doubled down.
Bayern crushed Besiktas, but then Kingsley Coman was ruled out for virtually the rest of the season, and Lewandowski made his intentions all too clear by hiring super-agent Pini Zahavi. Soon afterward, “Bavarian Fight Club” was born of a training-pitch confrontation between Lewandowski and Mats Hummels. Believe it or not, this was our BIGGEST story of the year: 36,597 views as of this writing!
Bayern cruised on victorious. We met Besiktas cat in March and the Internet was never the same.
Bayern drew Sevilla in the Champions League, but lost to Leipzig in the Bundesliga. “Beaten by speed,” we wrote at the time — perhaps presciently. Bayern cruised on while Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer worked to recover from injury. The team utterly crushed a dispirited Borussia Dortmund 6-0 at the end of the month.
April was the critical month — and the cruelest, as the poem goes. The big sagas dragged on: Lewy to Madrid? Tuchel, Wenger, Nagelsmann to coach Bayern? And the injuries. When Bayern clinched its sixth Bundesliga championship in early April, it seemed like an anticlimax.
Bayern duly drew Real Madrid for semifinals of the Champions League, and the club named Niko Kovac Jupp’s successor on the same day. Then news broke that Vidal would be out for the rest of the season after surgery on his knee. Then David Alaba was also ruled out just before the first leg.
Bayern played valiantly, but the team lost away 2-1. Jerome Boateng, To make matters worse, Arjen Robben, and Javi Martinez all left injured. For Boateng and Robben, the season was over. Bayern took the game to Real in the second leg, but costly mistakes allowed Real to advanced on aggregate 4-3.
A dismal end to the 2017-2018 season
The Champions League exit left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. The team’s performances slumped. Lewandowski won the Torjägerkanone but fell just short of 30 goals in Bayern’s pathetic 4-1 loss to Stuttgart, ending the regular season on a sour note. Then to cap it all of, Niko Kovac’s Eintracht beat Bayern in the DFB Pokal.
Silly season and the 2018 World Cup
No sooner was the regular season over than silly season began. Lewandowski informed Bayern he wanted out while Zahavi tried to engineer a transfer. Bayern’s negotiating strategy was simple: simply refuse to answer the phone when Zahavi called!
Germany meanwhile limped to the World Cup, losing 2-1 to Austria (much to David Alaba’s amusement) and beating Saudi Arabia just 2-1.
The World Cup kicked off on June 14th, and Germany played Mexico on the 17th, spectacularly losing 1-0, while looking far, far worse. Germany stunned Sweden 2-1 at the last minute, thanks to Toni Kroos’s incredible free kick goal, but the mighty truly fell as Germany was knocked out by South Korea, paying the price for the arrogance and complacency of head coach Joachim Löw.
The Özil affair and summer moves
The worst was yet to come, as Mesut Özil ignited a firestorm of commentary and criticism by publicly announcing his retirement from the German national team and accusing the head of the DFB, Reinhard Grindel, of racism. Bayern front office waded into the affair as well.
On a happy note, news broke in July that Bayern were close to signing Alphonso Davies. And more moves soon followed: Vidal’s son Alonso broke the news of his father’s transfer to Barcelona on his Youtube channel. Juan Bernat departed for PSG, and Sebastian Rudy for Schalke, while Boateng’s transfer to PSG fell through. But Bayern made no other big signings during the summer, contenting itself with the arrival of Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry.
Kovac’s hot start to 2018-2019
Niko Kovac’s tenure at Bayern got off to a hot start: the team crushed Eintracht 5-0 in the DFL Supercup. More wins followed, but at a high cost: Kingsley Coman reinjured his foot in the season opener and Corentin Tolisso tore his ACL in September, ending his season.
In the midst of all that, Bayern enjoyed a real season highlight in hosting the best testimonial match I have ever seen to give Bastian Schweinsteiger a proper sendoff. Basti scored a stunning volley to end his Bayern career officially with a goal — and BFW was there!
Back in the real world, though, there was griping over Kovac’s rotation policy: James Rodriguez was displeased, and Mats Hummels half-heartedly supported his own benching. At least, Bayern’s Champions League debut went fabulously, as Renato Sanches received a standing ovation after scoring against his former team in Lisbon.
After Bayern beat Schalke 2-0, we asked, in all seriousness, “Can anyone beat Bayern Munich by the international break?” I predicted Hertha Berlin, and regrettably I was right. After a 1-1 draw against Augsburg (Felix Götze’s revenge!), Hertha handed Kovac his first loss 2-0. Kovac promised a reaction, but Bayern conceded a 1-1 draw to Ajax and rumors of locker-room unrest proliferated.
Then the next setback: an embarrassing 0-3 loss to Gladbach at home, leaving Kovac and the players at a loss for answers. The intervening international break brought its own problems, as Germany lost 0-3 to a very young Netherlands in much the same way Bayern had struggled against faster, younger teams. Even I took the unusual step (for me) of calling for Löw to step down.
The press conference and aftermath
In the midst of all this criticism of Bayern Munich’s president, chairman, and sporting director held a highly anticipated press conference. The press was treated to an aggressive attack over media criticism of Bayern players, Jogi Löw, and more. Fortunately Bayern won its next game, against Wolfsburg, but then Bayern drew against Freiburg 1-1, and rumors of unrest blossomed again. Bayern still played admirably in a 3-2 loss to first-place Dortmund,
Kovac’s crisis then peaked in an infuriating 3-3 draw against bottom-feeders Fortuna Düsseldorf, leading Hoeness to call ominously for internal discussion. Kovac reportedly gave the players a piece of his mind in the locker room, and then Bayern crushed Benfica 5-1 and hasn’t looked back.
November to today
There, of course, has been no shortage of stories since. Ribery slapped a reporter in the aftermath of Bayern’s loss against Dortmund and later apologized. We speculated why James Rodriguez was benched against Dortmund. Was he injured? Not fit? In disfavor? But then he suffered a knee injury and the point was moot. The trend now is that he will leave Bayern, but no one really knows.
Hoeness and Rummenigge promised a squad upheaval promised in the summer, but that did not prevent Hoeness from being booed at the annual general assembly, both over the team’s standing and his “performance” at the infamous press conference. We called out Bild for their hostile coverage late November.
Meanwhile, Kovac gave us a glimpse of a counter-attacking Bayern in an exciting 3-3 rematch against Ajax, advancing to the knockout round of the Champions League.
And now we find ourselves wondering whether Bayern may jump at a winter transfer after all. Bayern drew Liverpool as their next opponent, and the club has been reportedly pursuing Lucas Hernandez and Callum Hodson-Odoi.
And here we are. It has been an incredible year, both for Bayern Munich and for Bavarian Football Works. 2018 was our biggest year ever, by a very large margin. By the later stages of the Champions League and the World Cup, it seemed like BFW had taken a massive step forward. Our community is bigger and more vibrant than ever, and we remain a bastion of civility on the Internet. While the German national team and Bayern’s season may have had more drama than we might have cared for in an abstract sense, it has been a thrilling ride, and I’m looking ahead to what 2019 holds.
Have a Happy New Year!