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Rummenigge: early Champions League exit damaged Bayern Munich’s finances and image

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Bayern Munich’s CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made very clear that another early exit next season under coach Niko Kovac will not be tolerated.

BREMEN, GERMANY - APRIL 24: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge CEO of FC Bayern AG looks on prior to the DFB Cup semi final match between Werder Bremen and FC Bayern Muenchen at Weserstadion on April 24, 2019 in Bremen, Germany. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

While club president Uli Hoeness has spoken out in defense of Bayern Munich’s head coach Niko Kovac on several occasions, the CEO of the soccer division, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, remains conspicuously cool. In a full-length interview with Bild am Sonntag, Rummenigge again gave a clinical critique of the team’s performance under Kovac.

In spite of Bayern’s very successful second half campaign — the most successful in Bayern’s history thus far — Rummenigge remains critical and has not forgotten the team’s slump in the fall:

We had to do that [in the Rückrunde], because we didn’t play a successful Hinrunde. It was necessary to get our act together after the critical months of October and November.

I don’t feel any euphoria because nothing has been won yet. We still have four difficult games in the Bundesliga and a Pokal final against a team that I’d describe as at least the third power in Germany. Leipzig has done very well especially in the Rückrunde.

Rummenigge’s displeasure with Kovac seems focused above all on Bayern’s Champions League performance. The specific reason why Kovac was seriously called into doubt in the fall, he revealed, was “The 3-3 at home against Düsseldorf, which upset all of us.” Rummenigge explained that the financial implications of that game for the club caused the front office to weigh their options:

After that game, we were fifth, and that’s a place on the table that FC Bayern can never afford. With our budgets, we continuously have to play in the Champions League. That 3-3 was a negative experience with the right consequences.

Rummenigge was cautiously optimistic that the Allianz Arena might be chosen again as the venue for the 2021 or 2022 Champions League final. “The question,” he added, “is whether Bayern Munich will be in the final again as in 2012.” For Kovac, success in the Champions League is mandatory:

I will put it this way: next year, we should not permit such an early [Champions League] exit as in this year. That was also a financial loss and did even bigger damage to our image — also the Bundesliga’s. That was a dent that happened. Next year, it must not happen again.

Despite the fact that Bayern might still win a domestic double, Rummenigge doubled down on his personal disappointment with Kovac’s performance in the Champions League.

What really rankled us was the early exit in the Champions League. We won this usable result in Liverpool with incredible effort — and then went into the second leg too cowardly and heartlessly. If we had played against Liverpool with the same spirit as at the 5-0 against Dortmund, we might now be playing in the semifinal against Barcelona.

Rummenigge declined to state whether Kovac would definitely see out his contract or even the next season. Asked whether Kovac would be the last coach in Rummenigge’s term as CEO, he responded,

My term in office lasts another two and a half years. All of us here have an interest in continuity in the coach’s position, because whenever we had that, those were also successful times. And that is what I wish him.

But Rummenigge would not commit to more than well-wishing. He reiterated his statement of a few weeks ago on Sky:

The duration of his [Kovac’s] contract is well-known [i.e. until 2021]. I very deliberately said this with Jörg Wontorra on Sky: everyone who works for Bayern Munich has to deliver here. Here pressure is the rule; it has always been that way at FC Bayern.