Bayern face uncertain future after Champions League exit

AFP , Thursday 9 May 2024

Bayern Munich's Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid on Wednesday will kick-start a summer of soul-searching with the German giants facing an uncertain future.

Tuchel
Bayern's Serge Gnabry, left, shakes hand to his coach Thomas Tuchel during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Photo: AP

 

Just 12 months away from hosting the Champions League final at their Allianz Arena home, Bayern will begin a summer rebuild without knowing who will be in the coaching dugout next season.

Dethroned as German champions for the first time in 11 years by Xabi Alonso's rampant Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern's Champions League run offered a sense of salvation for a club in a mire largely of their own making.

Bayern agreed to part ways with manager Thomas Tuchel in February after falling behind Leverkusen in the title race. Despite talk of a "mutual decision" Tuchel at the time said he would have preferred to stay in the role.

While Tuchel's stock has since risen after taking Bayern to within minutes of a Champions League final, several candidates have already knocked back a chance to replace him as coach.

Alonso, one-time mentor Julian Nagelsmann and former Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick have all reportedly declined Bayern's interest.

The last-minute elimination, headlined by referee frustrations and an uncharacteristic error by captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, means a first trophyless season since 2012.

A season without silverware is always an unthinkable outcome in Munich. But with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final and Leverkusen on course for a treble, Bayern have plenty to ponder.

A very painful defeat
 

Speaking at a gala dinner at a gourmet Madrid restaurant hours after the elimination, Bayern CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen spoke to players and club officials, including Tuchel and honourary president Uli Hoeness.

Dreesen acknowledged the "very painful defeat" but said the 2025 Champions League "home final is our big goal now!"

The former banker's speech, intended to cut through the disappointment in the room, was greeted with sporadic applause.

Hoeness, who has officially stepped down from club duties but remains Bayern's principal powerbroker, criticised Tuchel just a fortnight ago for his inability to develop junior players.

"He doesn't think you can improve (Alphonso) Davies, (Aleksander) Pavlovic or (Jamal) Musiala.

"He thinks if it doesn't work, you should just buy another one. I think you should work with them and give them confidence."

That all three played a starring role on Wednesday -- with Davies scoring Bayern's only goal and Munich local Pavlovic anchoring defensive midfield -- only serves to highlight Hoeness' misguided criticism.

I loved my time in England
 

Tuchel said Hoeness had "hurt his honour as a coach" but for Bayern the statements not only eroded any chance of holding onto Tuchel, but turned potential other targets away from the role.

Tuchel had previously left the door ajar to staying at Bayern beyond the season, but said on Wednesday night "It's no secret that I loved my time in the Premier League with Chelsea in England."

Bayern sporting director Max Eberl, in the job since March, faces several challenges on the pitch

Alonso's decision to knock back Bayern as well as reported interest from Liverpool and Real means Leverkusen will again be a real threat next season.

Dortmund may be fifth in the league this season but could go into the next campaign as Champions League winners.

Several of Bayern's biggest stars, including Leon Goretzka, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry, are under performing, with their output not matching their weighty pay packets.

Defenders Dayot Upamecano and Min-jae Kim, who cost a combined 92.5 million euros ($100 million), have largely ridden the bench in recent months, with Tottenham outcast Eric Dier preferred to partner Matthijs de Ligt at centre-back.

The club's better performers are also on the wrong side of 30. Neuer, who impressed despite his mistake, is 38 and Thomas Mueller turns 35 this year.

Harry Kane, undoubtedly Bayern's star this season with 44 goals in 45 games, will turn 31 in summer.

The combined challenges means Bayern, trophyless and without a manager, face the biggest challenge to their hegemony in a generation.

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