Spooked Bayern Munich turn to Jupp Heynckes

A month ago, Paris Saint-Germain buried Bayern Munich 3-0 in the Champions League. In truth, it could have been more. It could have been worse.

But three was enough, because the German champions, the five time winners of the European Cup, were rattled to the core.

It wasn’t just this game, not just this night – September 27. Bayern, after all, have lost games before. They know when they’ve been beaten by better sides. And they were well beaten by the better side.

But in the past, they felt they could do something about it. They could go away, work on it, improve, compete.

But that Wednesday was something different. That Wednesday was an affront to the senses. That Wednesday they were demolished by a club that perhaps they will not be able to compete with. Not without a serious rethink. A change that could cut to the very core of the game in Germany.

That night in Paris, Bayern fielded their record signing, a player familiar to their French hosts, the former Lyon midfielder Corentin Tolisso.

The 23-year-old French international cost the German giants €41.5 million in the summer. Big money. Or at least up until recently we all would’ve thought so.

But given that PSG will have spent more than four times that amount for the 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe when his permanent move from Monaco is finalised next summer and that they spent more than five times that amount in taking Neymar from Barcelona, €40 odd million seems like small Bavarian beer.

After the game, Bayern Chief Executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said there would be consequences. A day later, Carlo Ancelotti lost his job.

It wasn’t down to this one game, more a reflection of a trend and feeling in the club that culminated in their Paris undressing. The sacking, the first the Italian has suffered during the course of a season, was not entirely unexpected.

It was a consequence of the night, yes. The manner of the defeat hardly helped. But one wonders whether when Rummenigge spoke of consequences he was also thinking about something wider and deeper.

Put simply, the owners of PSG and Manchester City have subverted the game. We’ve been seeing the impact ever since their respective takeovers by rich Arab states.

But last summer, the business done by both clubs really hit home; hit home so hard that even arch Financial Fair Play proponent Arsene Wenger appeared to throw in the towel on how football clubs should be financed.

The financial clout of Abu Dhabi and Qatar is possibly more keenly felt in the Bundesliga that any of the other big leagues.

The league’s rules on club ownership seek to maintain deep supporter interest and mitigate against the kind of ownership from which PSG and City benefit.

It’s an approach of which many fans are immensely proud – hence the fury with which the rise and growing threat of RB Leipzig have been met.

But for others, it runs the risk of marginalising German clubs, rendering them irrelevant on the European stage. Just mid-level fodder.

Doubtless in the Bayern boardroom this is an issue of deep debate. How can they hold back the Gulf tide? How can they compete with it? Should they even try? Is the moral high ground the German game inhabits enough?

In terms of replacing Ancelotti, the decision to bring back Jupp Heynckes until the end of the season was a sensible one.

The man who delivered Champions League and a domestic double in 2012/13 suits the board, is loved by the fans and commands the respect of the players. But it also suggests a club deep in thought.

It’s a short-term move. No matter how well Heynckes does, at 72, it will still be short term

And he has done well. Routine wins over Freiburg, Celtic and Hamburg have helped restore a sense of calm.

But his reappointment also buys the club’s hierarchy time to think about the long-term both on the pitch and off. Time to more closely assess the merits of the likes of Julian Nagelsmann, for example.

What will another season at Hoffenheim tell us about the 30-year-old’s credentials? And more time to see which way the wind is blowing in the wider game – and just how to respond.

The Author

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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