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Hans-Joachim Watzke describes love/hate relationship with Hoeness, Rummenigge in new book

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Watzke shares some interesting details on his relationship with Bayern’s iconic front office duo throughout the years.

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In his new book entitled Echte Liebe. Ein Leben mit dem BVB, Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke shares some of the details on his love/hate relationship with Bayern Munich bosses Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Both Hoeness and Rummenigge have held front office positions at Bayern for as long as Watzke has been Dortmund CEO, and while they maintain a civil relationship in the Bundesliga, they still have, and have had, their fair share of disagreements (Bild+).

According to Watzke, his disputes with the Bayern bosses really started in 2012, after Dortmund had secured the domestic double with Jürgen Klopp. He was seated close to the pair inside the Olympiastadion where Dortmund defeated Bayern 5-2 in the DFB-Pokal final and it was then that he knew the Bayern bosses would do everything in their power to reclaim dominance in the Bundesliga and create a long-lasting rivalry between him and them:

Hoeness and Rummenigge sat five meters away from me during the game. You could see that this victory would have consequences, that they would strike back. I told my people that already that night. But I never suspected how massive it all would be...

Hoeness declined to comment on his relationship with Watzke when he was asked to contribute to the book by author Michael Horeni. While Watzke stated he has the utmost respect for what Hoeness has accomplished at Bayern, he said that their personalities are far too different for them ever to be friends:

We are both very, very different types. And we never were close. It’ll never be enough for friendship between us. We’re not even on familiar terms [i.e., addressing each other informally with Du]. And, to be honest, I never waited for that either. (...) What Hoeness has built at FC Bayern — and it was him first and foremost — we’re still suffering from it today. But it is first-rate, really first-rate. I have massive respect for that.

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Rummenigge also declined to comment at length on Hoeness’s relationship with Watzke, but he mention that he sometimes serves as a go-between when Watzke disagrees with something Hoeness has said or done:

I don’t want to say much about Uli’s relationship with Aki [Watzke]. But Uli is an incredibly emotional person. And he also fires off a barbed statement now and then that then also obviously reaches Dortmund. Then Aki always calls me and says, “Please tell him to stop that.” Then I discuss it with Uli.

Taking a stand against Bayern and their front office, Watzke said, always puts you at risk of being ostracized for doing so, especially with Bayern’s prestigious standing in the Bundesliga:

When you oppose FC Bayern and Uli Hoeness in any way — even for totally objective reasons — you also always risk getting completely plowed over. There’s something savage about it — but it’s also is very successful, as Uli Hoeness and Bayern show time and again. But we are probably so extremely fixated on our clubs that there’s no room for anything else between us.

“Fairy-tale uncle”

Hoeness apparently used to refer to Watzke as the “fairy-tale uncle.” More specifically, he coined this nickname for his rival when Dortmund beat out Bayern to the Meisterschale in 2012. During that time, Hoeness was critical of the loans that Dortmund were taking from Bayern, saying that they partly why Dortmund was able to beat Bayern in 2011 and 2012:

The self-assurance that Uli Hoeness radiates is overwhelming. Someone who comes from the Ruhr would already have problems with it. (...) I always knew: the closer we come to Bayern, the harder it would be. That’s just how it is. It started when we were on our way to our first championship, when Bayern also recognized that we now were suddenly there. That was his ploy back then, to tangle you up in verbal skirmishes. But people also noticed that it made no difference to me, that I confronted these things. I fought back then, too. I was always ready for a fight.

The 2013 Champions League final fallout

Lastly, Watzke highlighted how much his relationship with Hoeness and Rummenigge soured after the 2013 Champions League final in London, where Bayern beat Dortmund 2-1. Following that season, Bayern acquired several players from Dortmund’s squad, including Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze, and news of Götze’s imminent transfer came out just before the final. Had Bayern not poached some of their best players, Watzke feels that Dortmund could’ve won the Champions League after 2013:

We had a world-class team. And if the structure of this team had not been left in tatters, this team would have also won the Champions League. One hundred percent! We just barely lost the final in 2013. But the next years would have been our years, definitely! But then Mario left. Then Robert left. Then the whole shitstorm started.

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Rummenigge admitted that Bayern went out of their way to keep everything quiet regarding the Götze transfer at the request of Götze’s agent. They thus never contacted Dortmund before the transfer was completed. Rummenigge said,

In the case of the Götze transfer, I can understand why they were totally irate. We had not contacted them at all at the time, because that was the wish of Mario’s agent. Everything was supposed to be kept nicely on the down-low. The whole transfer was actually supposed to stay secret until the end of the season.

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