“Bayern can only win,” I wrote after the draw of the Champions League semi-finals a month ago. In retrospect, I have to admit I was wrong – at least partially.
Following the bitter defeat against Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final of the Cup and then against Barcelona in Champions League, sentiment has once again turned in Munich, a club spoiled by its own success.
The two-day championship celebration – Saturday, receiving the championship trophy after the last league match against Mainz, and on Sunday the traditional party with the fans at the Marienplatz – is likely to be a rather sad event, not just because the forecast is for heavy rain.
“Only the triple is with Bayern enough”, Pep Guardiola had complained weeks ago. And he has been proved right.
It was not enough this year to win only one title after the triple in 2013 and the double in 2014, even if they have suffered from a long injury list encompassing almost all their key match winning players who even when returning from injury seemed to break down again. An example of this is Arjen Robben. The Dutchman was up until his stomach muscle tear in late March the dominant player in the Bundesliga. But on his return he was injured against Dortmund after just 14 minutes, an injury so bad that he will be sidelined for several months.
In addition, the team lost the game without scoring a single goal in the penalty shootout, and to make matters worse Robert Lewandowski suffered several fractures to facial bones shortly before the finish, leaving him not fully fit, despite wearing a special mask, in the first leg in Barcelona.
In the Camp Nou the last men standing held out for 77 minutes at 0:0, but suddenly fell apart, conceding three goals. The 3:2 victory in the second leg was not enough to overturn the three-goal capitulation from the first.
On top of all of this, the Bavarians, since the early season win of their 25th championship in late April, have lost all their Bundesliga matches including last Saturday at strugglers Freiburg. Now the club is being heavily criticised from within the League for alleged distortion of the competition’s integrity.
“Until now, FC Bayern has always been a role model in terms of professionalism and this professionalism you do not see in recent games,” said Wolfsburg’s sporting director Klaus Allofs at the famous weekly Soccer Talkshow Doppelpass in SPORT1.
The wind has become rough, even for the success spoiled Pep Guardiola. Through his partially unintelligible statements and tactical experiments in the decisive games, the coach has lost the confidence of an increasing number of followers and criticism in the media has grown.
In contrast, the club’s management, right up to board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, are still totally convinced by Guardiola and hope to continue with a contract extension beyond 2016. Although he is currently considering the mating calls, mainly from the Premier League (Manchester City), there is little to suggest he will go there, as the Catalan will still complete, at least, his three-year contract which will see him at Bayern next season, allowing him one last attempt at the Champions League with Bayern.
The question will be, what effect Guardiola will have given his uncertain future what is expected to be a break-up of the current squad. Many of the top players like Robben, Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Lahm are in the autumn of their careers, new stars are needed. The club has already been linked with millionaire additions like Di Maria, Griezman or Sterling.
However, Bayern have obviously realized that they can not just rely on the opinion of Guardiola, especially if he isn’t going to be around in a year’s time. “Bayern have never shopped for a coach off a wish-list,” sporting director Matthias Sammer said. “The coat of arms is more important than the individual.”
In any case, it will be a very interesting summer in Munich. And the weather should get better, too.
Martin Volkmar is a member of the Editorial Board of leading German sports channel SPORT1 and Head of the Online Desk (www.sport1.de). He has covered, among others, two World cups, two European Championships and four Champions League finals.