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BFW Commentary: Bayern Munich isn’t always right when it comes to player management

It was not all that long ago that Bayern Munich tried to push out Thomas Müller — not once, but twice!

VfL Wolfsburg v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

The debate about how Bayern Munich handled Niklas Süle will eventually devolve from surprise to resignment, but this is not the first time a bit of internal arrogance about the club’s stature has affected players on the team.

People tend to fast forward through recent history because of Bayern Munich’s track record of success over the years, but its handling of Toni Kroos turned out to be a huge gaffe and more recently, the unspoken ambition to replace Thomas Müller often gets overlooked by fans and pundits alike.

It should be noted that Bayern Munich did not just try to oust Müller once, but twice in the span of three seasons — the prime years of his career where he should have been helping carry the squad to greater heights.

Liverpool v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
James Rodriguez was bumped ahead of Thomas Müller and it subsequently took a coaching change to right the ship.
Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

Instead, James Rodriguez was brought in, given every chance to usurp Müller’s position, failed, became a distraction with locker room outbursts and complaints about the weather, and ultimately did nothing more than prevent the team from reaching its potential — while alienating Müller in the process.

Those Carlo Ancelotti days were, indeed, a mess.

If not for a late cameo form Jupp Heynckes that pushed Müller back to the forefront of the squad, we could have seen the Raumdeuter feeling just as underappreciated and passed over as Süle.

Even after Müller displayed his worth and talent, Bayern Munich went out — again! — and tried to replace him with Philippe Coutinho.

Coutinho, while talented, saw his game stunted and his form knocked out of whack with FC Barcelona after a controversial move from Liverpool. While Coutinho showed flashes of his talent with Bayern Munich, he was often pushed ahead of Müller — and again, given every chance to take Müller’s starting job.

This time, it was Niko Kovac being tasked with pulling the strings for management and pushing Coutinho ahead of Müller, which drew ire from many, including Müller’s wife, Lisa. Even Robert Lewandowski — who has benefitted immensely from Müller’s playmaking ability — wholeheartedly endorsed the Coutinho move as something that the club needed.

No one is comparing Lewandowski to Brutus, but that...was a bad look.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Philippe Coutinho was a total professional at Bayern Munich, but pushing him ahead of Thomas Müller proved to be a big mistake.
Photo by A. Hassenstein/Getty Images for FC Bayern

After the James Rodriguez diss, the Coutinho move was a deep cut that had to annoy and frustrate Müller. We know now that Müller was, indeed, exploring his options to move on at the time, but once again Bayern Munich was bailed out by coaching change. And once more, it was the new coach that unlocked Müller, trusted him in a starting role.

Hansi Flick made the move to reinstate Müller, which was one of the key drivers for the club’s sextuple-winning showing in 2019/20/21. With all of that success, a collective amnesia has formed to gloss over the early days of the 2019/20 campaign where Bayern Munich morphed into team turmoil.

Whether or not Bayern Munich every examines its stance with Süle remains to be seen, but ask yourself this: If Süle felt underappreciated and Müller felt passed over, how would Robert Lewandowski react to Erling Haaland being brought in? How would Joshua Kimmich view thew arrival of N’Golo Kante? What about Frenkie de Jong coming in to compete with Leon Goretzka?

Having a big, deep squad is great, but star players often suffer from the same insecurities as the rest of us. No matter how confident a player is or what his track record might be, Bayern Munich has shown that anyone can or will be replaced at a moment’s notice.

Is that the right way to do business in the modern game? Maybe. Is it the best way to forge loyalty among a roster full of big egos? Probably not.

Players do not reach the level of being at Bayern Munich without at least a little sense of entitlement. That entitlement is to money, playing time, and trophies. Weakening that sense to a player’s ego almost never goes over well and this time it cost Bayern Munich a good defender in Süle.

Can the front office learn from that — or will this become the new standard for doing business?

Only time will tell, but it won’t be Süle’s problem to ponder any longer.


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