Interim Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick has enjoyed a perfect start to his reign, with two wins from two. The 54-year-old seems increasingly likely to get the rest of this season but will he be the man for the long term?
Two games, two wins, six goals scored and not as much a shot on target conceded; as auditions go, Hansi Flick's has been flawless.
"You can see Hansi Flick gets along well with the team. He always had good ties to the team as assistant coach, and the team delivered today," said Bayern's outgoing president, Uli Hoeness, after Saturday's 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund. "The two matches allow the leadership to think about it very calmly. I'm convinced we won't rush, and I think Hansi Flick will be the first person we talk to in the upcoming weeks." CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made similarly positive noises.
Though little is entirely clear about the vacancy created by the departure of Niko Kovac, one certainty is that Flick is the man in possession. With Bayern's AGM on Friday, there's every chance he'll remain in the role until the end of the campaign, or at least until the winter break.
With unattached bosses Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Massimiliano Allegri all looking increasingly distant possibilities, Bayern's assumed favored contenders for the permanent position — Thomas Tuchel, Eric ten Hag, Mauricio Pochettino and Ralf Rangnick — are all likely to stay with their current clubs until at least the end of the season.
It's not an unfamiliar position for Bayern, who sacked Carlo Ancelotti even earlier into the 2017-18 campaign before turning to Jupp Heynckes to see them through to the title.
Like Heynckes, Flick is very much a Bayern man. As a player, he made over 100 league appearances for the Bavarians and started the 1987 European Cup final in midfield, behind Hoeness and Rummenigge — younger brothers Dieter and Michael rather than his current bosses — though that ended in defeat to Porto.
Injury ended a playing career that saw him win four Bundesliga titles and a German Cup before a spell with Cologne. Following jobs as a head coach in the lower leagues, Flick started working with the German national setup in 2006, moving upstairs at the DFB (German FA) after the World Cup win in 2014.
That stint seems particularly relevant, as it's where he forged strong relations with the most influential German players in the current Bayern setup — Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller in particular — something Kovac failed to do.
Neuer's suggestion that the previous weekend's the 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, which cost Kovac his job, was "not a massive shock" and that "the next few days could be quite turbulent" hinted at the unrest among the senior playing group. Müller was equally unimpressed with the Croatian and was quick to praise the new man after Saturday's win.
"There were certainly elements within the team that wanted the coach gone," admitted Uli Hoeness.
It is, of course, almost impossible to judge a coach on two games. But that hasn't stopped the bookmakers from installing Flick, who returned to Bayern as an assistant to Kovac in the summer, as a heavy favorite to be the German champions' next permanent coach.
Given Bayern's dominance of the league in recent years, the coaching job often seems more about managing the egos on the pitch and in the boardroom than tactics, though early on, Flick has appeared to be adept at both.
"The past does not matter. It is about the here and now, these two games, and the team did it great. It is not about me but about Bayern," Flick said diplomatically. "I will enjoy this evening with my wife and a nice bottle of red wine."
By May, Flick could be enjoying a traditional beer shower instead if he's afforded the opportunity to try and lead Bayern to their eighth consecutive title. Hoeness, who officially leaves his post on Friday, said the club are looking for a "long-term solution" but that "until that comes, I am of the opinion that Hansi Flick is not a bad solution."
For now at least, you'll struggle to find too many Bayern fans who'll disagree.