With the very public airing of the details of David Alaba’s contract negotiations by first Uli Hoeness and now Herbert Hainer, Bayern Munich has moved into full FC Hollywood mode (also sometimes referred to on the BFW Slack channel as “The Real Housewives of Munich”).
Everyone, including club executives and former club greats have cast aside whatever filters they may have had and expressed themselves on just why the negotiations have not produced a result and who is at fault. But as has been said many a time: “just wait until your father gets home.” According to reporting from The Athletic, Papa Flick has spoken and he is not happy.
Raphael Honigstein, in an article that is well worth the read, reports on Flick’s response when asked about the recent developments in the Alaba contract situation and characterized his annoyed and stern responses as breaking “ranks in more extreme fashion.” His analysis goes on to suggest that his discontent lies in more than just the poor timing of Hainer’s comments but lies in larger, growing conflicts.
When asked about his thoughts on chairman Hainer’s announcement the usually affable and calm Flick did not pull any punches saying, “I’m honestly not happy at all that we have to deal with this issue in this week, when we’re facing two difficult games away to Salzburg and Dortmund.”
The coach did not stop there and, as Honigstein characterized it, “he followed up that implied rebuke of his superior with effusive praise for Alaba.” And it was not just a defense of Alaba as a player on his squad, it included a defense as Alaba as a person. Flick took pains to make sure everyone understood that he believed that the long serving Austrian was “an absolutely top player and great human being, very important for the team, popular within the club and the dressing room.” He went on to indicate that he would be very happy if the defender were to stay with the club.
Honigstein’s article goes on to analyze the challenging economics of paying Alaba a large salary, although he seems to express the belief that the distance between the club and the player is only about €3 million per year, and that the Bayern offer may be €17 million euros a year, without any mention of bonuses.
Honigstein recounts some of the history of the club’s grandstanding in past negotiations (Karl-Heinz Rummenigge announcing at an AGM that the club had withdrawn Michael Ballack’s extension offer which saw him go to Chelsea on a free). Other public outbursts from the club executives spring easily to mind.
But beyond the business issues Honigstein deftly discusses some of the problems of the egos on the Bayern board and posits that they seem not capable of effectively dealing with issues they cannot maintain control of, and that Bayern’s executive suite had been “unnerved” by Zahavi’s quiet tactics and being unable to force the player to make the move they wanted. He describes emotional issues playing a large factor in what should be a business decision.
Besides simply laying out where Flick stands on the Alaba issue, the article illuminates two other important issues.
Firstly, it shows us that Flick is slowing beginning to grow in confidence and take on a larger role in the direction of the club. He could have easily avoided this issue with grace but chose to rebuke Hainer and speak out passionately to back the player the club is now treating roughly. Honigstein suggests that this is an extension of the conflict between the executives and Flick, with origins in the disagreement when Flick wanted Timo Werner but the club delivered him Leroy Sane instead.
With each conflict, and success, Flick seems to be growing in confidence and willingness to publicly speak out on controversial issues. He is not afraid of delivering a verbal back-hand to club legends either, with his recent spirited defense of Jogi Low and comments that certain thin-skinned players who had not had the ball at their feet for decades were not helping the cause of German football (looking at you Lothar...).
These actions reveal a confident and powerful man, fully in command of this thoughts and fearless in his approach. Over the months we have had the privilege of enjoying him as our coach you can almost see him getting comfortable with the mantle of authority, testing his limits, finding few, and pushing further, both on the pitch and in the executive suite. Flick is showing promising signs of growing into a well-rounded leader in the classic Jupp Heynckes mold. If he continues with this evolution it will look like Rummenigge will have chosen the right time to retire (he still has scars from certain legendary meetings with Jupp) and that Oliver Kahn had better upgrade to kevlar lederhosen to sit across the table from his coach.
Secondly, and this is the author’s opinion solely, is that the club’s negotiation strategy lacks a full set of tools and needs to be enhanced. Honigstein reports that the club was not able to properly cope with Zahavi’s silent and patient approach to the Alaba contract talks and thus resorted to an “unedifying and unnecessary” public display of a private dispute. Hopefully Kahn, trained in a modern classic-Austrian negotiating and management style, will be able to integrate his own skill set into the club culture to fill those gaps.
While public breakdowns like the current situation are few and far between, and don’t seem to have much impact on the success on the field, when they do happen, they are ugly and create rancor where there is no need for any. The knock-on effect on other players over time is hard to measure, but if Alaba is as popular in the locker room as Flick suggests, there will be some fall out.
On the recent Alaba eruption we will give the last word to Coach Flick, “I’m 100 per cent convinced David will a give a good answer on the pitch.”