After six years as one of Bayern Munich's most successful trainers, and months of speculation over his fate, Ottmar Hitzfeld said Monday he was being forced to leave Germany's top club after this weekend.
Goodbye after six years: management said Hitzfeld wasn't tough enough with players.
Hitzfeld, 55, said Tuesday that he had accepted the decision of Bayern management to cancel his contract, one year before it was to expire.
"It was a lovely time, and the positives prevailed," Hitzfeld said after his team beat a Hungarian club 4:1 Tuesday night in a friendship game in Györ.
Bayern's management, which had shown itself divided over whether Hitzfeld should stay, said it had already signed VfB Stuttgart coach Felix Magath to a contract beginning July 1, 2005, but wanted him earlier than that. Stuttgart is currently in third place behind Bayern in the standings ahead of the last game of the season.
Hoeness: Team didn't fight for Hitzfeld
Manager Uli Hoeness, long one of Hitzfeld's biggest fans, was the last to relent to the Bayern brass after a disappointing season in which Bayern came home with no silverware. Following dinner with Hitzfeld and his wife Monday night, Hoeness ended weeks of speculation in the German press that began after Bayern lost a game and the Bundesliga title to Werder Bremen 1:3 two weeks ago.
"Had the team showed against Werder that they wanted to attack once more with this trainer, then we would have waited another year," said Hoeness in an interview with Spiegel Online.
Hoeness then took issue with Hitzfeld's training style, saying he was too lax with the players. Magath, he said, would bring in the necessary discipline and "pay no attention to names."
Players: coach didn't get enough respect
The "names," among the most talented and best paid in Germany and Europe, reacted angrily to the way in which Bayern management reached their decision. They said Hitzfeld, a player favorite, wasn't treated with enough respect.
"It would have been more clever to come to an agreement earlier," said goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. Kahn said Hitzfeld has reacted to the speculation with "unbelievable character and a lot of style."
French middlefield player Willy Sagnol called Hitzfeld's treatment "bullshit" and said he would try and transfer to another club immediately.
Hitzfeld's successful run
Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld holds up the trophy after winning the Champions League final match against Valencia at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, May 23, 2001. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
In six years at Bayern, Hitzfeld won the Bundesliga title four times, the German Cup twice, and the Champion's League title, which pits Europe's top clubs against each other.
But the club has faltered in the past two years, particularly on the European level. An early and humiliating exit out of the Champion's league in 2002 as well as Bayern's inability to get into the semifinal round this may have been too much for Bayern management.
The future nevertheless looks bright for Hitzfeld. The trainer has been rumored to be up for coaching jobs at Chelsea London and Real Madrid. The hottest tip is as German national team trainer should Rudi Völler's boys put in a poor performance at this European Championship this June in Portugal.
Hitzfeld himself says he has no plans after his team's final game against SC Freiburg this weekend.
"I'm going to switch off and regenerate and I just have to work through everything first," he said.