Monday, September 16, 2019

Golden era to brand new dawn: Bayern set for major overhaul

May 19. 2019
Munich team celebrate with the trophy after winning the German championship after the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt in Munich. / EPA
Munich team celebrate with the trophy after winning the German championship after the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt in Munich. / EPA
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By AFP

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Bayern Munich's seventh successive Bundesliga title win on Saturday marked both the end of a golden era and the dawning of a new age. 

 

The 2019 title crowned what has been a glistening decade of success for Bayern, as iconic players such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben picked up yet another gong in their final season at the club.

Yet it also heralded the emergence of a new generation under coach Niko Kovac, with the likes of Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry establishing themselves as first team regulars.

As they look ahead to next season, Bayern are not only on the verge of a generational shift, but also of what club president Uli Hoeness has called "the biggest investment programme in our history". 

Bayern have already completed the signings of World Cup winning French defenders Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez for 35 million euros ($39.3m) and a club record 80 million euros ($89.9m) respectively.

RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner, Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt and Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel have all also been linked to the club in recent months.

Though Hoeness said on Saturday that Bayern would not break any more transfer records, they are expected to make several more signings, with CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge setting his sights on a new winger.

"Because we are losing Robben and Ribery, we need another good alternative alongside (18-year-old Canadian) Alphonso Davies," Rummenigge told Bild newspaper last month.

That alternative could be Chelsea talent Callum Hudson-Odoi, for whom Bayern made an unsuccessful bid last January.

The first choice successors to Ribery and Robben, however, will be 22-year-old Kingsley Coman and 23-year-old Serge Gnabry, whom Hoeness has described as "the biggest surprise of the season".

- Kovac divides opinion -

Other stars of Bayern's golden decade have also seen young players emerging behind them this season.

Niklas Suele, 23, has muscled past Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng to become first choice centre-back, while Thomas Mueller has faced competition from newcomer Leon Goretzka.

In a recent interview with Munich newspaper TZ, president Hoeness said the young players' success was proof that Bayern had begun their overhaul at just the right time.

"We have gone through a transition at the highest level. We already have five or six young guys in the team and we will add a few more," he said. 

How much the successful transition is down to coach Niko Kovac, however, remains a bitterly divisive question at Bayern. 

Despite winning a gruelling title race in his first season at the club, it remains to be seen whether the Croatian will be the man who leads Bayern into the new era.

Hoeness has repeatedly backed Kovac, while CEO Rummenigge has remained sceptical, telling Sky TV that "nobody has a job guarantee at Bayern".

The coach has been unable to shake off reports that senior players are disgruntled with his leadership. 

He was defiant on Saturday, saying he was "convinced" that he would see out the remaining two years of his contract. 

"I talk to my bosses, and you get a feeling for the direction things are going in. I think I have interpreted them correctly," he said on Saturday.

Whether Kovac stays or not, the winds of change are blowing through Munich, with departures also looming at boardroom level.

Rummenigge is set to be succeeded by former Bayern captain Oliver Kahn in 2021, while Hoeness recently told the club magazine that the day when he gives up the presidency is "not far off". 

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