Speaking exclusively to Get German Football News, Christian Falk, a journalist working for Bild and SportBild, discusses what it’s like working the transfer window, Mats Hummels’ return to Borussia Dortmund and some of the hottest transfer topics in German football.
How does a typical day play out for you as a journalist during the summer window?
No day is like the other, because it’s always a question of where you have your focus on. Of course, we have our daily conferences, on these days it doesn’t matter if you are in the office or just sitting at home. I had two today for example from at home. (On the transfer market), Of course this is one of our main topics, we always have the attitude that “we are the first” to a story. When you (Bild) are the biggest, that’s your target. And I think if you ask a reporter like me, how is my day structured – there is no real structure for getting transfer news. For example, when I heard Niko Kovač was getting the Bayern Munich job, I was at a Noel Gallagher concert!
So, you have to always be reachable, then it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing. It’s nice to have a beer in your hand and get the information, then you can write the article on your iPhone, you don’t need a special structure if you want to get big news.
What should be expect from the German market this summer?
You see now, we have a record summer of transfer fees, which is very interesting but I’m a little bit disappointed because you lose so many stars in the Bundesliga at the minute, there are no faces of the league. The Bundesliga needs stars, because people go in the stadium for players like Robben or Ribery, we need more of them again.
We lose a lot, because of age, because of Premier League, so it would be great if we can get a few more stars. But maybe we have to wait a little bit, because very big clubs are doing the very big deals often at the end of the summer, and then you see if you can get players that you couldn’t get before. Remember Robben, he was coming from Real Madrid when he saw no chance of playing there. So, I think Bundesliga clubs have to look to see if there are chances.
On Mats Hummels – Can he be the experience in defence that Dortmund need?
This is the key for next season, because you saw when Reus was missing this season, it was always a problem. You need always a few leaders on the pitch, and in Hummels you have another one. Then they will build a few more leaders in the pitch, this is the most important thing Dortmund need next season.
Were Bayern ever seriously in the race for De Ligt, given that the wing position was always seemingly the top priority?
Yes, they were thinking about a move, they had a contact with his management. But they had a target in Hernandez, and they also signed Pavard – it’s a question of time. We broke the news a few days ago that Hummels will go to Dortmund. Bayern won’t buy a new defender to replace Hummels, but if Boateng is also leaving, it could change the situation, but he (Boateng) has no offer at the moment.
So again, it’s a question of time and money, it makes everything so complicated. Bayern is a club who tries to do deals with the money they have, they don’t get into risk. So, to get De Ligt, who is an interesting player for Bayern, would just happen if Boateng and Hummels will leave – and I think that by then, it’s too late.
In your opinion will Boateng leave?
Perhaps it will happen but they need time, because he is earning a lot of money. You must find a club that is willing to pay his wages, and the transfer fee for a World Champion. That’s not so easy.
Will a move for Leroy Sané be resurrected or is it deemed too expensive?
In the case of Sané, it’s up to the player now. That’s why it’s very untypical that Bayern say they want a player unless it is safe, but I think Bayern did it to show they player how much they want him really. Because it will never be about money if a player goes from Manchester City to Bayern Munich. They tried to show him that he can be very important at Bayern, and not just one of many at City. He didn’t play in the last matches at Manchester City which was very disappointing for him. They (Bayern) did try and buy him before he went to City, for about €50 million, but then Robben and Ribery were top players.
They couldn’t tell him that he would be the new superstar because it’s hard to go away from Ribery and Robben. But what they do now is to show him that he can be the new Robben or Ribery – because for 9 or 10 years the wings were the secret of the offense at Bayern Munich. You call it a win win situation if he was to come, because now he would be a superstar in the Bundesliga, and not one of many in the Premier League, and they will try to play this card. He’s on holiday now, but if he gives Bayern the sign, I think they will go all in to get Sané.
Do Bayern remain interested in Callum Hudson-Odoi?
Yes, they want both players (Sané too). But if they get Sané this summer, there is an agreement between the management of the player and Bayern Munich, that he could come on a free in 2020. That would be also good for Bayern Munich. But Hudson-Odoi now from what I’ve heard, is thinking again about Chelsea, because they are willing to give him a new opportunity.
I think a few months ago, Hudson-Odoi was convinced about Bayern, and would not sign a new Chelsea contract. He would have signed with Bayern in 2020, but perhaps in the last weeks something could have changed in his mind, but we will have to see.
Reports suggest that Rodri’s on his way to Manchester City, do you think, with this in mind, that Bayern are now out of the running?
Salihamidžić would like to get the player – the Bayern sporting director. He’s working on that – or was working on that. In the last weeks, we received information that it is hard for Bayern Munich to afford him. They want to get a wing player, that is the first target, they need first this position, and then they can see what they can spend on a ‘No 6’. It was difficult for Bayern Munich to be quick, so we get the sign from a whistle-blower that it won’t happen, because City is faster.
That is why, if there were no Manchester City interest, Bayern Munich would have more time and then it would have worked – perhaps. But the chance is over.
Reports in France are linking Nicolas Pépé with a move to Liverpool – but according to some sources, Bayern remain interested. Is he a possible Sané alternative?
They have a ‘B-list’ but they are trying not to use it. On this list of course are names they have discussed like Carrasco, who is very close (to joining) Arsenal. So again, they have to be fast, talking about time. If Carrasco could join Bayern Munich, he would do this – But I don’t know how long he is willing to wait.
Also, there is the German option, Draxler, or Werner is an option to play on the wing. Pépé – they scouted him a lot of times, I know that the board had said no to a transfer because he’s not the quality of Bayern Munich, but if they don’t get any winger, perhaps they have to rethink Pépé! But I would say no.
Speaking of Bayern, will Pavard/Lucas Hernandez be in the side from the start?
Next season will be more difficult than the one we’ve had because there are new players who have to find their way in the new squad. And I think a player like Hernandez will always work for the team, because he played for a team in Atlético who is not so far away from Bayern Munich. He knows how the Champions League works, and he can play in many competitions, he’s experienced enough.
Pavard, we will have to see. He played for a not too successful team in Stuttgart, he didn’t play in Europe, he can play in a different position like at France (where he was a right-back). He will play in the centre for Bayern. So, we will see how far he can get, but it will not be easy to replace Mats Hummels.
Bayern are attempting something like what Joachim Löw is now doing for German national side. I.E. trying to usher in a new generation of players. Would that be a fair assessment?
It’s not the same situation, because Jogi Low would have tried it with the World Champions, but it didn’t work you know? Bayern Munich won two titles this season, which for Bayern Munich is OK. They didn’t like going out of the Champions League so early, but it’s not like they had a bad season. Bayern are doing this transition a little bit earlier than the German national team, so I think you can hardly compare.
They both know that they have to do it, because Bayern Munich and the German national team have the same problem, they know if you win everything, the players are ‘satisfied’. Players like Boateng have also previously won the treble, he was World Champion, and that is why they try to give the team a new face, with a new hunger. A hunger for titles.
Can you see Kovač staying at Bayern beyond this season?
The best argument at Bayern Munich is titles, there were personal at the club that were not confident with him, that is true. It was also a big question between the bosses – Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, but Hoeneß has always the last word on matters. I think if Kovač hadn’t have won two titles, it would have been very difficult to hold him at the club.
There were also players at the club who were not super confident, but if you are winning, you don’t have arguments (against Kovač). I think if he just won the Bundesliga title, perhaps it could have been dangerous for him, to lose his job. But after the DFB Pokal win, the discussion was over. That doesn’t mean that the discussion is over for good, I think a very critical period is always autumn, if they don’t have a good start next season, the discussion (over Kovač’s future) is open again.
How do you rate BVB’s business so far?
It’s easy to make a transfer when you are not Bayern Munich, because the other teams know they can’t pay so much – so Dortmund use this advantage very well. The best example is probably Sancho, because Bayern wanted him so much, but he decided on BVB.
Was that purely to play more regular football?
It was like Sancho, you know? He believed he could play at Borussia Dortmund, they showed him the changes he would have, it was not about money. But he made a good decision, it was hard for Bayern Munich, because he’s now one of the most interesting players in the league. That is why Bayern want a deal for Hudson-Odoi, because they believe he is on the same level as Sancho, maybe even better I would say. So, they made a fault, now they try to make it better with Hudson-Odoi.
Dortmund don’t pay such big transfer fee’s like Bayern Munich, but we were very surprised this year because in Germany, you have to show how much you pay the agents – but Borussia Dortmund were paying a really crazy amount to agents! It was not quite as high as the transfer fee, but it was nearly so high. So they also spent money, it’s not only good news.
After signing the likes of Schulz, Hazard and Brandt, could BVB close the gap to Bayern next year?
They have much quality now on the pitch, but also on the bench. This is very important if you want to beat Bayern Munich in the league, because they also have the Champions League again. The most important transfer though, will be Hummels. Because I think you need players with “winning DNA”. The players at Bayern have this, BVB were 9 points ahead and still didn’t make it, and in such situations you need players like Mats Hummels. If they had him the season before, I’m sure they wouldn’t be 2ndafter being 9 points ahead at one stage.
What is the best aspect of your job?
We are always very close to the teams. In the Champions League, you will be once a year in Madrid, in Barcelona, you can always be there. In a normal job, you are free to go home at 3 or 5, and maybe we don’t have time to stop during the day, but then you are sitting in Milan or Madrid. In 2014, I was in Brazil for 6 weeks for the World Cup, you can’t pay for a holiday experience like that, to live and work there in a foreign country. It is a 24 hours job, but the 24 hours never feel like work. So, it’s always fun.
Is the fact that the job is 24/7 the most challenging part?
Yes, many people ask me how it is to be a sports reporter, how nice it is to be always close to football players – but I always say you never have a weekend! You never switch your brain off, it’s not something I always want to do. But I like it, I think if you can handle it, it’s fine. The only thing is the pressure perhaps, to be first (for a story). They are very stressful times, but I think stressful times will always be a part of any job you do.
What are some of your favourite interview moments?
I was very early on a Bayern Munich reporter, so I was very early near to stars. It perhaps is not the interview itself but instead the atmosphere. Sitting with Louis van Gaal in Portugal at the seaside, drinking wine and eating fish – talking with him for three hours about the thing you love yourself more than anything, aside from family. What more could you want! Or sitting in Rio in the Maracanã, watching your national team win the World Cup, and you get paid for it! What do you like more than that? If I didn’t have this job, I think I would have paid a lot of money, and spent a lot of my holiday to get just a few days of what I have now for a job, so it’s very interesting.
What do you make of Low’s decision to no longer call up the Bayern trio up of Müller, Hummels and Boateng for national duty?
I had a few talks with Joachim Löw about this. He wants to give the new players a chance, they (the Bayern trio) always performed, the first time they did not perform was the 2018 World Cup, but he didn’t want to get rid of them because of one performance. Because they never disappointed him in all the years.
So, he tried again, and they failed again in the Nations League. He said I will give them another chance, but it didn’t work again, so he had to do something. To throw them out after one bad tournament would have been harsh, because they’re not 35, they are 29, 30, the best age of footballers.
Is the recent 8-0 win over Estonia a sign that Germany are back on track?
I went to this match, the Estonian team were really very bad! But what we have seen in this match is hunger, they didn’t stop, they hadn’t had enough after 3, 4, 5 goals. They didn’t think about the next match, or a holiday, they didn’t think about not getting injured, and on and on. That’s what the team needs now, they have to show that they are better than they showed before.
(They also showed that) In Amsterdam, where they beat the Dutch. There we saw that they have quality. We have a style (now) which we played 9 years ago. When we see this team playing, it reminds me of the 2010 Germany team at the World Cup in South Africa. They were very quick at getting the ball and attacking with speed, it’s not the ball possession football that they played in the 2014 World Cup. They were hard to beat (in 2014) but the best football they played was in 2010.
By Tom Fenton.