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Flick's impending exit proof of politics over performance

Kommentarbild Matt Pearson
Matt Pearson
April 18, 2021

Two months after making Bayern Munich world champions, Hansi Flick wants to quit. While expectations on the pitch are sky high, the internal political battles are what makes the job so tough, says DW's Matt Pearson.

Hasan Salihamidzic and Hansi Flick
The relationship between Hasan Salihamidzic and Hansi Flick seems a big factor in Flick's exitImage: picture-alliance/Fotostand

A Bayern Munich coach leaving after being unable to satisfy lofty boardroom expectations is nothing new, Bayern have had seven permanent coaches in the last decade. But, even for a club once known as FC Hollywood, the events of the last week have been dramatic.

Rumors of Hansi Flick's departure had been gathering steam even before his outpouring after Bayern's Champions League departure in midweek. But after Saturday's 3-2 win over Wolfsburg that took him within reach of consectutive Bundesliga titles, and Bayern in reach of nine in a row, he expressed his desire to terminate his contract at the end of the campaign.

The next day, the club fired back in a terse statement: "FC Bayern disapproves of the unilateral communications issued by Hansi Flick and will continue talks after the match at Mainz, as agreed," it read.

Reluctance to accept Flick's resignation is understandable. After coming in as an interim after Niko Kovac was dismissed in November 2019, he has recorded the best win percentage of any Bayern boss in history (83%) and won six trophies, with a seventh on the way.

History repeating

But his desire to go is equally easy to comprehend. As with Kovac, and Carlo Ancelotti before him, Flick's work has been done to a background hum of boardroom squabbling. While the former Germany assistant rose above it early in his tenure, he's recently been dragged in to the political viper's nest after a bust up with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

Among other things, a disagreement over Jerome Boateng's future (Flick wanted to keep him, Salihamidzic announced he'd leave) and a series of underwhelming big money transfers were the biggest bones of contention.

Though they may protest about the manner and timing of Flick's announcement, Bayern have clearly allowed Salihamidzic, whose record is patchy at best, to win out over a coach who has proved himself up to one of football's most demanding positions on the field but unable (or unwiling) to navigate the dark corridors of power. 

Kovac knows how he feels. "Here in Monaco, Paul Mitchell [sporting director], the scouting department and I are closely involved in squad plans. We talk about everything. I think every club needs that. We all know how things go in Munich. It's the exact opposite there," he said to German publication Sport Bild this week.

Kommentarbild Matt Pearson
DW's Matt Pearson

Know your place

Miroslav Klose, who won the World Cup as a player when Flick was Germany assistant, has also gone public with his frustrations about the behind-the-scenes bickering, with his contract as a youth coach soon to expire."It's not a problem that the club hasn't spoken to me yet," he said, also to Bild. "What really makes me consider (my future) is how people are communicating with each other here. You absolutely have to have respect for each other, even if you don't always agree."

Even Thomas Müller, a player rejuventated by Flick admitted that "you need to have a thick skin to be Bayern coach." 

But it seems to be more than that. As well as the ability to motivate players who have dominated domestically for so long, tactical nous and an ability to handle pressure, Bayern coaches need to be master politicians and subservient enough to know their place.

It should be said that such conditions have bred a huge amount of success in recent years. But will the like of Jürgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann or Massimiliano Allegri really be happy to take a back seat to a sporting director, to be undermined in the press if things aren't perfect? It feels unlikely.

Such clashes of ego are inevitable at the super clubs, where domestic success is never quite enough. Losing such a successful and talented coach is not.

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