Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate today! Today, of course, is the day we celebrate in the United States. (Belated Thanksgiving greetings to all our Canadians!) Before I sign off for the day to be with family and to prepare myself for a turkey feast, I thought I’d share some thoughts about what I’m thankful for about our favorite team. Without further ado, here are five things to be thankful for about Bayern Munich:
Yes, I’m sincerely thankful to our former coach, Niko Kovac. Kovac was always a misfit tactically at Bayern Munich, and he just never really gelled with the team psychologically. It is what it is. Despite those factors, he still managed to win a domestic double with Bayern for the first time since Pep Guardiola. That’s no mean accomplishment.
What separates Kovac from all other coaches I can think of, is the professionality and grace with which he handled his own exit. All the FC Hollywood in this case actually came from outside. Kovac himself was calm and determined to fight on, until Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made clear to him at their fateful meeting that he was responsible for the team’s slumping performance. he surprised both Rummenigge and Hasan Salihamidzic, and all of us, really, by accepting that responsibility and offering his resignation.
It was abrupt and graceful, and that was it. He came as promised before the next training session to say goodbye to the team in person and then went his way. His wife even came before kickoff to Bayern’s next match against Dortmund to deliver twenty bags with Christmas presents for the players’ wives.
Several people speculated that Hansi Flick might be the ideal caretaker coach should Bayern part ways with Niko Kovac, and that is exactly what has happened. What no one could have predicted, though, is how wildly successful Flick would be in the role. He is no stranger to high-pressure situations, having been Jogi Löw’s assistant on their successful 2014 World Cup campaign.
Since taking the reins, Flick has guided Bayern from one victory to the next and has apparently won over the entire team. He adjusted the team’s tactics where he saw need, benched the players who needed a new start, and most importantly returned the team to winning ways — emphatically.
It’s difficult to predict how things might continue under Flick. The “new coach bump” is a known phenomenon, and Bayern has yet to weather a setback. But we are all thankful for Flick’s steady management that has brought Bayern through a string of dominant performances.
A sober front office
Say what you will about Uli Hoeness’ antics, but where it counts, Bayern’s front office is a model of managerial sobriety across the board. We have just witnessed a major transfer of power: Hoeness has departed as club president, and his successor Herbert Hainer has taken the reins. I still am not used to seeing Hainer seated by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the stands at every Bayern game, but there he is: that tradition, like most others apparently, will continue. The club president is always there.
And more change is on the horizon that the club will handle with the same grace: Rummenigge’s own successor, Oliver Kahn will soon officially join the executive board, and Salihamidzic will also rise to become board director of sport. The two seem perfect for guiding Bayern to future success. Despite the turmoil surrounding the coaching situation and questions about the squad (Leroy Sané’s transfer and so on...), the front office has radiated a sense of calm.
Holy cow, what a season by Robert Lewandowski! The man is incredible. Four goals against Red Star is just his latest feat in a historic season.
His four goals in 14 minutes was the fastest quadruple in Champions League history, and only Messi has scored four (or more) goals in two Champions League matches. Across competitions, he’s played 20 games and scored 27 (!) goals. That’s 16 in the Bundesliga, 10 in the Champions League, and 1 lonely goal in the DFB-Pokal — a mark he will no doubt soon improve.
What makes me most thankful for Lewandowski, though, is his commitment to Bayern. We all went through the “Lewy Saga” when he did his utmost to secure a transfer to Real Madrid. Bayern held firm, and ultimately Lewandowski conceded that a move would not happen. What happened next could not have been foreseen: one of Kovac’s innovations was to elevate Lewandowski advanced to a senior player on the team whose word counted for as much as Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, and Thiago. Lewandowski changed: he made Bayern his club more than ever before. He even signed a contract extension. In a recent interview, he shared stories that Rummenigge and Hoeness had told him about Gerd Müller and defended Ribery’s grievance over the 2013 Ballon d’Or. That’s the Lewandowski I’m thankful for.
You: Bavarian Football Works!
I’m very thankful for all of you, our lively community at BFW! You are the reason we are all here, ultimately. SB Nation is first and foremost about the fan community. It all started as a place to talk about sports, and that’s what we do. We don’t always see eye to eye, but on the whole BFW is a special place where we can discuss Bayern without looking like the nastier places of the Internet. That’s not to be taken for granted. Thank you all for being such a well-informed, sincere, and nice group of fans.
And I’m thankful for our team of writers. We have people from Hong Kong all the way to Seattle spending their time to cover Bayern and to share their views about the team.
Thanks to all of you reading, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!