Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidžić, no name sparks greater controversy within the Bayern fanbase. Invoking his name, or even the mere thought of him can flood the senses with a mixture of emotions, ranging from anger to disappointment, to confusion and maybe (rarely) even a slight sense of satisfaction. It can be said with a certain level of certainty that this man has singularly enjoyed more (usually negative) attention from the media and fans than anyone else in Bayern’s front office.
As sporting director, he is responsible for club-player relations, academy development, liaising between the players and the coach, and above all transfer operations. It therefore is understandable that he should be one of the “faces” for the media to target.
But why is the media always quick to undermine his public image? Why is so much controversy and spite from fans and the media aimed at this one man? One way to approach this question is to take a look at the “Brazzo era” changes.
Since the start of the 2017/18 season (directly following Brazzo’s appointment), Bayern Munich has seen four different head coaches manage the team (five, if you count Willy Sagnol was interim coach). That is more than one coach per season on average, which brings us to the question — why so much uncertainty? What has caused so many errors with the coaching situation?
Of course, pointing fingers is easy. Yes, head coaches are chosen after consultation with the club hierarchy (CEO, president, supervisory board) but with closer analysis, we may spot a recurring theme. Both Carlo Ancelotti and Niko Kovac followed surprisingly similar paths of demise (although some may feel Ancelotti was worse on many counts): a satisfactory first season showing signs of promise followed by a second season collapse, opposition from players, locker-room disgruntlement, public fallings-out with certain players and, finally, total collapse in a game that proved to be the last nail in the coffin.
We can all agree that the 3-0 loss to PSG under Ancelotti and the 5-1 mauling by Eintracht earlier this season were two of the worst matches for Bayern fans in recent memory, not because of how good the opposition was, but because of the complete lack of confidence, will or even an interest in fighting on the pitch. What led to the disagreements and unrest between the players and the coach? Did Brazzo step up at these instances?
Fast forward to the present, and we have this “Rock vs Steve Austin” type rivalry on our hands — that between Brazzo and coach Flick. Obviously, as head coach, you would want some freedom to bolster your squad with quality signings, especially if your team is almost always injury-ridden and you’ve been extended by your club for another 3 years. But the alleged reason behind the rift between the two is coach Flick’s demands. For some reason, Brazzo is not very keen on bringing in high-quality TRUE wingers, and now that the team needs defensive signings too, we see none of that coming to fruition.
One could argue that even this season no Bayern signings (aside from Ivan Perisic) have made an impact on the team greater than what players already present could do. Bayern have needed another quality winger for ages, but Coutinho, an expensive attacking midfielder, was brought on loan instead. Bayern needed a quality right-back, and we signed Alvaro Odriozola. One thing adds up to another, and we come to the question of whether we might have had all these problems in the first place if the club had signed the players required at the right time.
If the current transfer situation persists, and if a harmony between the players and the club management is not mediated by the sporting director, we may not be able to witness much improvement in terms of sporting success at Bayern.
Relations with the coaches have already been discussed above, and in the case of Ancelotti and Kovac, the fallout has been pretty public. If miscommunication was a cause, then Salihamidžić obviously had a role to play which he didn’t successfully carry out.
That is not all, however. Players, past and present, have claimed to have felt a “lack of protection” from the Bayern administration. Lewandowski was the supposed victim in 2018 and now it’s captain Manuel Neuer. Lewandowski obviously couldn’t have expected KHR and Uli Hoeness to walk over to him and show him their support and backing and do the same with the media, but one can only wonder if the scenario would have been different if Brazzo had given him his confidence both personally and publicly.
Fast forward to the current scenario, and we have Neuer saying things like, “I’d like to feel trust,” and his agent pitching in too — “Manuel is interested above all in one thing: appreciation!” So, does Manuel Neuer not feel trust at Bayern? Is he not appreciated enough? He’s been one of Bayern’s longest serving players and an integral cog in Bayern’s first team, so it is only right he gets the aforementioned things. But, hey, isn’t that the role of the sporting director?
Neuer also stated that the terms of his contract discussions were not being safeguarded: implying a possible mole or a source of information leaks to the media inside Bayern’s office. Neuer said,
What irritates me: all the talks that I have had here since  were always conducted very confidentially. Nothing ever leaked outside. Now, though, details from the current talks are constantly to be found in the media, and they often are not even right.
It is true that Neuer need not be worried if the “leaks” weren’t even correct in the first place, but the fact that he’s talking about it to Bild makes us think - what if some of the information leaked was indeed correct? He clearly wouldn’t want anyone to know, and possibly tried to guise it from the public via such comments. Again, if players feel private discussions are being leaked, then there is both a serious lack of trust that needs rectifying, and a source that needs to be dealt with.
Maybe the fact that Neuer does not want to accuse anyone directly or cites earlier times at Bayern as an example of how things should be points in the direction of Brazzo. That is presumably why the media puts two and two together and paints him in a bad picture. There’s no saying who the real culprit is, but the media needs someone controversial AND plausible, and there you have it — Brazzo!
This is not to say that club-player relations are uncertain overall. Promising talks are ongoing with veterans like Alaba and Thiago for contract extensions, and Alphonso Davies just extended his contract till 2025. But perhaps after all this chaos and confusion, Brazzo should find ways to approach these situations better.
The silver lining and the way forward
None of this may look promising, but Brazzo has also been involved in several transfer triumphs for Bayern, which certainly cannot be overlooked. The acquisitions of Leon Goretzka (for free) and our favourite Alphonso Davies will always be considered among the greatest transfer coups in recent memory. If he also had a hand in Gnabry’s transfer, suddenly his resumé doesn’t look all that bad.
Bayern Munich is also enjoying and bathing in the sunshine that is coach Flick’s permanent appointment, and if Brazzo played a role in the contract talks and discussions with the club management, this also deserves praise. Not to forget Müller’s contract extension, and ongoing talks with other club veterans. Brazzo has held his own during this turbulent time, after all. His image could be further strengthened with some shrewd signings in the summer window.
Salihamidžić looks set to be Bayern’s media scapegoat for the foreseeable future, and that is understandable. He is the “go to” man for any slip up or problem that Bayern faces. He’s had a turbulent time at the club, due in no small part to some questionable decisions.
Maybe he will ally with Flick for his own good. Maybe he will clear things up with players with personal meetings and a show of trust. Maybe he will clear the air regarding Neuer’s situation and make the player feel more appreciated. Maybe he will apologize to Hoffenheim for summoning Sieb to Munich unannounced. Maybe he will brainstorm the transfers of Sané and/or Werner and Dest to Bayern and build our confidence in him. Or maybe not.
But either way, his rise to the top or his demise are both in his hands, and if the latter occurs, the media will be ready to swoop in like vultures to feed on the carcasses.
Bonus: Have you ever wondered why Hasan Salihamidžić is referred to as “Brazzo”?
Well, here’s your answer. Brazzo comes from the Bosnian word Braco meaning “little brother.” He was the younger of two siblings: his older sister and him, and hence his parents gave him the nickname.