Bayern Munich’s defenestration of Carlo Ancelotti shows that no football manager, however decorated and revered, will in the current climate be judged on past glories; the denouement to the Italian’s tenure with the Bavarian giant has proven to be no exception.
The corridors of power within the Allianz Arena have in recent days become restive from Bayern’s stuttering start to the defense of their Bundesliga title, although yesterday’s chastening reverse at the hands of a Neymar, Mbappe, and Cavani-inspired Paris St. Germain appears to have forced the hand of chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Despite Bayern’s recent status among Europe’s uber-elite it has been acknowledged from within the higher echelons of the club that they are unwilling to spend €100 million on a player, let alone twice that amount that secured Neymar’s services from Barcelona. Although second place is nowhere to a club the size of Bayern, football’s financial dynamic has shifted since Middle Eastern petro-dollars became a game changer first within the Premier League at Manchester City, and now at the Parc de Princes. What expectations can the likes of Rummenigge and club president Uli Hoeness realistically have for the now anachronistically titled FC Hollywood, when the footballing world, albeit not for the better, has moved on without them?
Despite Bayern’s uncharacteristically slow start to their 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign it is highly likely that a 28th league title will be secured in May. Will fans and a supervisory board brought up on a certain level of dominance continue to be sated by merely dominating domestic opponents, whilst all the while European success becomes a much less certain prospect than until recently it once was? If so, can Ancelotti count himself to be somewhat unlucky?
A series of retirements and injuries to talismanic club captain Manuel Neuer have undoubtedly unsettled a side synonymous with stability, although accusations that the club failed to prepare for the denouement to the careers of Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso aren’t without credence. Whilst the team badly miss the confidence of having a world-class goalkeeper behind them, a custodian of similar standing to Neuer isn’t likely to be satisfied with the role of understudy; Sven Ulreich is therefore always going to be judged somewhat harshly. The loss of three mainstays from the starting eleven is though a significant changing of the guard, especially when replacements of a similar quality have not been forthcoming. Whether Ancelotti or the holders of Bayern’s purse-strings are to blame, ultimately the clue might lie within today’s decision to relieve the three-times Champions League winner of his duties.
The usual suspects have already had their names thrown into the ring by the media, including free-agent and former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, whose tactical acumen has garnered respect but a CV that lacks trophies will perhaps count against the 44 year old. Carlo Ranieri, another manager who found the season following the most unlikely(in his case) of domestic triumphs impossible to emulate, will undoubtedly empathize with his countryman and could be a temporary, safe pair of hands until the end of the current season when Bayern’s list of long-term targets may become available. Inevitably, the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez fall into the ‘otherwise engaged but not forever’ bracket, and would be tempted to test themselves at Europe’s top table. Should though Bayern seek a more holistic, Teutonic appointment, one albeit couched in terms of risk, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann could become more than a dark horse for the top job.
I do though predict that whilst Ancelotti’s former assistant Willy Sagnol has temporarily taken the reins, Rummenigge will ultimately resist an appointment from left field. If poor recruitment and a lack of forward planning have brought Bayern to the foothills of this relative crisis, it will be interesting to see if the next appointment will be given substantial funds to rebuild an unbalanced squad in need of fresh impetus of galactico-type qualities. Have Bayern been overly reliant and loyal to Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, both world-class practitioners in times past but now more resembling items of dated furniture one dare not remove, for fear of causing offense? Should Renato Sanches be recalled from his loan spell with Swansea City? Can James Rodriguez ever be more than a player who has so often flattered to deceive?
Whomever occupies the next cab off the rank will find the air of impregnability surrounding the Bavarian club less rarefied and more hubristic, although raging against the dying of the light will do few favours to a club needing to digest the fact that it can no longer shop in the same marketplace as clubs who traditionally did not occupy the highest echelons of Europe’s footballing elite, but who now have replaced the stern des suedens as contemporaries of Barcelona and Real Madrid.