Two months later, on the day before he officially joined Bayern’s executive board, vaunted PSG talent Tanguy Kouassi was in Munich for his medical check before signing and news broke that Manchester City had agreed to a transfer of Leroy Sané for a fee of around €50 million. Mission accomplished.
As the calendar changed from June 30 to July 1, Salihamidzic has now officially joined Bayern Munich’s executive board alongside Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Jan-Christian Dreesen, Andreas Jung, Jörg Wacker, and Oliver Kahn.
Salihamidzic gave a timely in-depth interview to kicker and fielded several questions about his leadership style, the players he has signed, and what he looks for in new signings.
In his everyday work at Bayern, Salihamidzic says, “The interpersonal dimension is extremely important. It makes up a considerable part of my job. You need to have a good touch. You have to try to have an open ear for everyone.”
Salihamidzic acknowledged that he does not visit the locker room “every day.” “You have to find a healthy mixture of closeness and distance,” he said. “Mutual respect is important; I have to pay attention to that. I work for FC Bayern, and the players, whom I try to support and understand in everything, have to know that, too.”
It has been a steep learning curve for the erstwhile club ambassador who was promoted to sporting director in 2017. It was not least on account of incessant media criticism of Salihamidzic that club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and then-president Uli Hoeness defended the new sporting director.
Since then, Salihamidzic has navigated the media more successfully. “I’m not sure whether you change as a person,” he said, “but in my life I have always kept learning. Learning, evolving is a basic prerequisite to working successfully. So: have I developed? Yes. Have I become calmer? Yes.”
Salihamidzic’s transfer balance is looking better than ever. “The boys who have come in the past three years are mostly doing well and have reinforced the team. Some still have not hit their ceiling,” he said.
Alphonso Davies, the Bundesliga’s “Rookie of the Year,” is obviously Salihamidzic’s greatest coup so far. He said, “It’s wonderful that Alphonso has gone from 0 to 100. We have trusted him with a position in our team. But you have to watch out that the youngsters stay grounded. And we’re doing that. Alphonso trains incredibly hard; he has big goals and wants to constantly improve.”
Salihamidzic also defended Bayern’s record-signing under his auspices, Frenchman Lucas Hernandez: “We have not yet seen him in top form,” Salihamidzic said. “He had a difficult start with his injuries. That obviously got in his way. People always connect him with the high transfer fee, but I’m confident that Lucas will show his qualities to the utmost and prove valuable to the team. I have complete confidence in him. He’s a really good guy with a straightforward character. He’s a winner.”
Finally, Salihamidzic talked about his efforts to reinforce Bayern’s roster in the post-Ribery-and-Robben era. “Because our game is based precisely on strong outside positions. The challenge year for year remains, however, to continue to supplement, strengthen, develop this team. That is no easy task,” he said.
“You have to spend many hours thinking, many hours watching soccer, many hours analyzing the market. The team changes constantly from season to season. Now we have a core again, a basis, but you can’t rest on that.”
Not just any talented player can make it at Bayern. “We generally have little space in the game,” Salihamidzic says, citing the midfielders or strikers for example. “Then it’s always good if a player has the ability to get through in a tight space under pressure with technical ability. That is very important.”
The personality of the players counts for a lot at Bayern, as well. “Also very important: he must have a good character,” Salihamidzic says. “We pay close attention to that. They have to be the kind who would go through fire for FC Bayern. It’s nicest when I sense from the first moment that a player absolutely would like to play for FC Bayern.”