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Bayern Munich fire Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic

May 27, 2023

Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic were both fired after the club secured the Bundesliga title on Saturday. Jan-Christian Dreesen will replace Kahn as CEO with a new sporting director yet to be announced.

Fussball FC Bayern München l Oliver Kahn und Hasan Salihamidzic
Image: Stefan Matzke/empics/picture alliance

The sight of Hasan Salihamidzic on the field remonstrating with president Herbert Hainer as Bayern Munich's players celebrated meters away with a replica of the Meisterschale in Cologne was not the edifying spectacle one associates with Bayern Munich.

Salihamidzic had just been fired after six years as the club's sporting director and Oliver Kahn, only in his role for 23 months – 18 months of which were spent under the wings of former CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge — was also relieved of his duties.

The fact that this was Bayern's least convincing Bundesliga title in 11 years wasn't lost on the kingmakers in Munich, aware that they had won the title because of Dortmund's failures rather than their own successes. Something had to be done about Kahn and Salihamidzic and they have been ruthlessly disposed of, not even waiting until the club's advisory board meets on May 30 to deconstruct the season.

Bayern Sportdirektor san Salihamidzic
Salihamidzic failed to replace Lewandowski and other influential figures in the Bayern teamImage: Philippe Ruiz/IMAGO

Lewandowski fiasco is Salihamidzic's failure

Although Bayern's season started as though he'd never left, the failure to replace Robert Lewandowski has been the elephant in the room for over a year. The Pole's intention to leave was clear long before he put pen to paper at Barcelona in mid-2022, grumbling about Nagelsmann wanting him to press. Bayern had plenty of time to line up a replacement but only signed Sadio Mane, a proven Champions League-winning forward with Liverpool but not a someone who could be expected to come close to replacing the volume of goals Lewandowski scored.

Even as the rumors were ramping up this time last year that Lewandowski was heading to Spain, Herbert Hainer, Kahn, and Salihamidzic continued to publicly state that Lewandowski would stay. That was either a disasterclass in public relations or delusional because a month later he was gone without seeming to have a clue about who would replace him. Napoli's Victor Osimhen would have been available for a snip compared with what he's worth now, Manchester City's Julian Alvarez would have been an option on loan, Gabriel Jesus too, before he opted for Arsenal.

All of this can be laid at Salihamidzic's door. He was the the man responsible for ensuring Bayern sign, sell and retain the right players to maintain success. He has failed in this respect and given that he is also responsible for ensuring a harmonious atmosphere between the dressing room and management, it can only be said that he's failed here too, with several senior players — Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich among them — having voiced their concerns about the direction of the club in recent months.

David Alaba, right, was a mentor to Alphonso Davies at Bayern.
David Alaba, right, was a mentor to Alphonso Davies at Bayern.Image: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/imago images

Catalogue of errors

The Lewandowski situation is merely the tip of the iceberg though. Salihamidzic may have brought in Matthijs de Ligt, albeit for big money, and identified a rising star in French forward Mathys Tel, there have been a lot more deals that haven't worked out than have. He has presided over a long list of failures that has left the club leaderless and a long way short of being able to challenge for Europe's top honours.

David Alaba, one of the club's longest serving players and one of the game's finest defenders, was allowed to leave for Real Madrid in 2022 when Bayern failed to give him the pay rise he demanded. With Alaba aware of the exortionate salary being paid to Lucas Hernandez, an €80 million Salihamidzic signing who has spent long periods injured and done nothing to suggest that was wise business, Alaba accepted Real Madrid's approach.

The Austria captain was crucial in the development of Alphonso Davies too, mentoring the young Canadian into one of Europe's brightest prospects. While Davies is ultimately responsible for his own performances and injuries have interrupted his season, his development has been stunted since Alaba's departure.

In 2020, young goalkeeper Alexander Nübel was signed from Schalke and promised game time by Salihamidzic. When this failed to materialize, Nübel swiftly secured a loan move to Monaco and has stated that he has no intention of returning to Bayern.

And with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben long gone and not adequately replaced either, Salihamidzic's sporting failures have been stacking up. And given the reported breakdown in confidence between the dressing room and management, Salihamidzic had been living on borrowed time.

Jan-Christian Dreesen, right, will replace Oliver Kahn as Bayern's new CEO
Jan-Christian Dreesen, right, will replace Oliver Kahn as Bayern's new CEOImage: Bernd Feil/M.i.S./IMAGO

Kahn out, Dreesen in

It's not only Salihamidzic's departure on the final day that has sent shockwaves around Bayern. As CEO, Kahn was ultimately responsible for the strategic direction of the club and in the past two years Bayern have been stumbling from one crisis to the next.

Julian Nagelsmann was often criticized for the fall-off in performances since Hansi Flick, who had fallen out with Salihamidzic, left to coach Germany, but what coach wouldn't struggle given the leaders he'd lost? Nagelsmann was actually holding things together somewhat admirably and while the decision to fire him was rash, it may not have been the wrong decision. It was just timed so badly that it de-stabilized an already unstable infrastructure.

The fact that Bayern won the title in the end was never going to change their minds. The buck ultimately stops with Kahn and he will be replaced by former banker Jan-Christian Dreesen, who has sat on Bayern's board since 2013 and has worked as the club's chief financial officer during the club's most fiscally sound period.

While the day of Bayern's 11th straight title may have appeared an odd time to fire two of the most senior figures at the club, the thinking was surely that it was a good day to bury bad news. But given their track record and the decisions that have been made under their watch, perhaps it's not such bad news after all.