Just for a couple of weeks, things seemed to be returning to normal at Bayern Munich. Despite indifferent performances they had recorded four wins in a row since that press conference, and with Borussia Dortmund dropping points against Hertha BSC, one wondered whether they were finally getting a bit of Dusel.
An extraordinary couple of days later though, and the champions seem to be back into crisis mode. First came Der Spiegel’s exposé of plans to form a breakaway Super League, with Bayern said to be actively seeking an exit from the Bundesliga and Champions League. On the pitch, they then stumbled to a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena against Freiburg, followed a subsequent overreaction to a misguided Instagram post from Thomas Müller’s wife, Lisa.
Müller had been left on the bench again by Niko Kovač, eventually coming on and setting up the opening goal for Serge Gnabry. That was not enough for Lisa though.
“More than 70 minutes until he (Kovač) has a brain wave,” she wrote over an image of her husband being readied to come on, complete with facepalm emoji. Not exactly a veiled criticism of the coach.
Both the player and the coach played down the post after the match, but the aftermath was intriguing. On Sunday, Bayern felt the need to release a short statement confirming that she had apologised to Kovač and that he had accept that. However, not only has she deleted the post, she has also removed all pictures of her and her husband on the social media site, and even unfollowed him.
Maybe she’s worried about other posts being misinterpreted, or maybe there’s trouble in the Müller household. Either way, it all seems rather petty. Yet after the press conference two weeks ago where the club’s hierarchy took aim at anyone who had dared to criticise either the club of their players, it seems that Bayern are not taking any criticism lying down at the moment. They seem to wonder why anyone would even want to criticise the mighty Bayern Munich.
This sense of entitlement is even more evident with their alleged role in the Super League plans. The latest of Der Spiegel’s Football Leaks reported, compiled with 14 other news outlets, claimed that Bayern spent many months in 2016 helping to concoct plans for the new Super League, made of the biggest, most powerful European clubs. A power grab in all but name.
It was also claimed that Bayern were considering withdrawing its players from the German national side, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge going behind the back of the European Club Association, which he chairs, in helping to prepare the plans. “If they succeed, it will be the end of the football world as we know it,” claims the report, with the big clubs becoming ever richer and sides like Mainz, beaten by Bayern in the Bundesliga last weekend, “would fade into insignificance.”
Bayern were, obviously, quick to deny the allegations with a statement. Rummenigge said that he “absolutely and clearly” rejects the claims about him stabbing the ECA and its member clubs in the back, whilst adding that “Bayern Munich stands by its membership of the Bundesliga and, as long as I am chairman of the board of FC Bayern, also by the club competitions organised jointly by UEFA and the ECA.”
In further comments to Sky though, he said that he “did not see any scandal whatsoever” about investigating the possibility of a Super League. “It’s up to me to examine it and then discuss it internally. Nothing more, nothing less,” he added.
Needless to say, the revelations will be dissected down to the lowest possible denomination in the German media and plenty within the game have already had their say. Dortmund have been shown to be one team that could be invited into the league, but Hans-Joachim Watzke, for one, has said they “will not leave the Bundesliga for any competition on this planet.” Müller, meanwhile said that he “grew up with the Bundesliga, and that’s where the heart is.”
That may be so, but Bayern’s heart doesn’t seem to be showing in their performances at the moment. Despite Müller’s intervention, Bayern would not come away with the points on Saturday as Lucas Höler snatched a point for the visitors by converting a Christian Günter cross. It was their only shot on goal in the entire game, yet for Manuel Neuer it is becoming a familiar story – the last eight shots on target that the Bayern goalkeeper has faced have all resulted in goals.
It sums up what has been a difficult return for the Bayern captain since his long injury lay-off last season, yet even more shocking was just how sloppy Bayern had been in this game. Kicker even went as far as citing 37 different mistakes over the course of the match, with Renato Sanches, Rafinha and Jérôme Boateng all held responsible for the goal in their article.
As a result of failing to win again, Bayern drop to third in the Bundesliga table, and with a Marco Reus goal giving Dortmund a 1-0 win at Wolfsburg, it is BVB that go into next week’s Der Klassiker with a four-point lead. It will be the first time since 2011-12 they have gone into a meeting with Bayern ahead of them in the table. Next Saturday will tell us a lot about where these two teams really stand this season.
1 | “No longer German champions, FCB? No more ‘honest titles’…” The Bayern fans are no strangers to criticising the actions of their club, and this was their response to the Super League allegations on Saturday. They were by no means the only set of fans to vent their frustrations over the weekend. There were plenty of demonstrations in both the Bundesliga and the 2. Bundesliga over the DFB and the over-commercialisation of the game. Hertha fans had more pressing matters to deal with meanwhile – after they were prevented from bringing in banners for the game with RB Leipzig after the unsavoury scenes in Dortmund last week, they managed to bring in one: “Against collective punishment.” The many paying for the crimes of a few is an all-too-common occurrence when dealing with football fans – see also the suspended ban from matches in Hoffenheim that Dortmund fans have been handed this week in response to their protests against Dietmar Hopp earlier in the campaign.
2 | Returning to Berlin, it was a tough evening for Hertha has they were comfortably brushed aside by an RB Leipzig that is increasingly threatening to launch another title challenge. Rune Jarstein was in good form in the hosts’ goal but that wasn’t enough to stop Timo Werner grabbing two goals or to keep out a superb strike from Matheus Cunha that made it 3-0. The 19-year-old partnered Werner up front and could be their next big thing after adding to his five Europa League strikes with his first Bundesliga goal. His side are fourth, just a point behind Bayern and Borussia Mönchengladbach who are second after beating Fortuna Düsseldorf on Sunday.
3 | That win for Gladbach came off the back of a 5-0 hammering at Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal in midweek. Der Werkself appeared to be back to their old selves after that game and the 6-2 thrashing of Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion last weekend. The momentum from those wins came crashing back down though as Hoffenheim left the BayArena with all three points courtesy of a 4-1 victory. Reiss Nelson scored another cracking goal for them whilst Joelinton made a case for being another of the Bundesliga’s breakout stars this season with a brace. Karim Bellarabi was amongst the goals for Leverkusen again, but his equaliser would prove in vain.
4 | Things are going from bad to worse for Stuttgart, who seem to be regressing under Markus Weinzerl. They have lost all three games he has taken charge of since replacing Tayfun Korkut, with Friday’s 3-0 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt following the 4-0 defeats inflicted by Dortmund and Hoffenheim. Even the class of Benjamin Pavard could not prevent their defence from looking a shambles, and if not for some wasteful finishing from the visitors, who have been in such good form, it could have been a lot worse. With it being far too early to fire Weinzerl, the spotlight is instead falling on sporting director Michael Reschke. When asked on Friday by Eurosport whether he would resign, he said he was “still far away from that at the moment.” Jürgen Klinsmann has though already been linked with his job.