Crisis-hit Bayern banking on Kane and victory to change the narrative

AFP , Tuesday 7 May 2024

Six-time Champions League winners Bayern Munich head into Wednesday's second semi-final at Real Madrid ever more reliant on striker Harry Kane amid swirling off-field crises entirely of their own making.

Harry Kane
Bayern Munich s English forward #09 Harry Kane celebrates scoring the 2-1 goal from the penalty spot with his team-mates during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Real Madrid CF on April 30, 2024 in Munich, southern Germany. AFP

Bayern still do not have a coach lined up for next season, with reports emerging on Monday that Julen Lopetegui became the latest to knock back the German giants, with the Spaniard chosing West Ham instead.

Bayern drew 2-2 at home against Real in the first leg and need a win to progress to Wembley, the site of their famous victory over rivals Borussia Dortmund in 2013.

With Dortmund 1-0 up heading to their second semi-final at Paris Saint-Germain, a repeat of the all-German final is on the cards.

Even just appearing in a Champions League final, let alone winning a seventh crown, would change the narrative surrounding Bayern's disappointing season.

Kane, famously still without a team trophy despite a decade collecting individual honours, left Tottenham for the stability of serial winners Bayern last summer.

Bayern's stumbles and Bayer Leverkusen's incredible unbeaten season under Xabi Alonso ended the Bavarians' 11-year Bundesliga title streak in April.

Bayern's elimination in the German Cup at the hands of third-division Saarbruecken -- with Kane on the bench throughout -- meant that the Champions League was their only chance of a trophy this season.

One win away

While that looked unlikely when Bayern lost 1-0 at Lazio in the last 16 first leg -- with coach Thomas Tuchel agreeing to leave the club just days later -- the German behemoths are just one win away from a 12th Champions League final.

But while the club and their hierarchy continue to suffer from self-inflicted wounds on and off the pitch, Kane is reliably carrying them to within touching distance of a Wembley return and a possible seventh crown.

A member-run club without wealthy majority ownership, Bayern are consistently held up as a model of success fuelled by stable, sensible decisions both on and off the pitch.

Their record with head coaches however leaves much to be desired. Since Pep Guardiola's departure in 2016 after three years at the Allianz Arena, none of Bayern's seven coaches have served at least two seasons.

Most recently the lack of consistent thinking has been jarring. Bayern sacked Julian Nagelsmann for the crime of being one point behind leaders Borussia Dortmund in March 2023.

In February 2024 Bayern agreed to part ways with Nagelsmann's replacement Thomas Tuchel at season's end.

After failing to get Alonso, Bayern were reportedly rebuffed in their attempts to bring back Nagelsmann, now Germany coach, along with Austria manager Ralf Rangnick.

'Big occasion'

Bayern fans had signed a petition calling for Tuchel to stay at the club, but honourary president Uli Hoeness said in late April that the coach was not skilled in developing talents and instead preferred to buy stars.

Tuchel said the comments "hurt his honour as a coach" and surely snuffed out any chance he may stay beyond the coming season.

Amid the ongoing crises of their own making, Kane -- who arrived as Bayern's record purchase in August for a fee of 100 million euros ($107 million) -- keeps scoring to bail the club out.

He now has 44 goals in 44 games in all competitions, officially his best return in a season. Kane's effectiveness and efficiency in front of goal has turned what could have been a disastrous season into one which could end in glory for Bayern.

After scoring from the spot to give Bayern the lead on Tuesday, Kane told reporters "of course I dreamed of playing in the Champions League final at Wembley."

"It's 0-0 now, one game to take you to Wembley... It all comes down to next week and we have to perform on that big occasion so the opportunity is there."

Thomas Mueller, a two-time Champions League winner who has lifted almost every team honour available, said on the club's website on Monday efficiency would be key in Madrid.

"It's a game on equal terms, on a knife's edge. Football is about being effective. It's a question of millimetres, whether we are effective in the moments where we have opportunities.

"Now it's about getting over the finish line in Madrid. (Real are) extremely dangerous but very playable. Whether they are beatable is for us to determine."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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