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Why RB Leipzig sacked Max Eberl before Bayern Munich game

October 1, 2023

RB Leipzig were held to a draw by Bayern Munich on Saturday but the game was overshadowed by the surprising dismissal of RB director of sport Max Eberl. All parties have denied rumors of contact between Eberl and Bayern.

Max Eberl giving an interview
"Lack of commitment": Max Eberl lasted less than ten months as RB Leipzig's director of sport. Does he have his eye on Bayern Munich?Image: motivio/ZB/picture alliance

"I was surprised," admitted even RB Leipzig head coach Marco Rose when asked about the dismissal of director of sport Max Eberl just one day earlier.

"I had a very trusting relationship with Max," he said after the 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich on Saturday. "We value each other privately as people and I value him as an absolute expert. But I can't make a judgement on the processes and the developments which led to the decision. It's a shame, but I need to focus on getting the lads to play good, successful football."

His team had done precisely that for long periods against Bayern, especially in a first half in which RB had hassled and harried the German champions across midfield and in which two new signings, Lois Openda and Castello Lukeba, had given the hosts a deserved half-time lead.

Fellow new arrival Xavi Simons, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, was again impressive, and Rose knew who to thank.

"Together with the scouting department, [Max] delivered a top transfer period," he said, crediting Eberl with successfully negotiating a summer transfer window in which RB had to replace a raft of high-profile departures.

"He played a part in what we were able to produce on the pitch today."

RB Leipzig accuse Eberl of a 'lack of commitment'

Thirty hours earlier, however, Eberl had been dismissed after less than 10 months in the job, a club statement accusing him of "a lack of commitment" to club and city, widely interpreted to mean a failure on Eberl's part to unequivocally distance himself from persistent rumors linking him with Bayern Munich.

"It was beyond repair," said supervisory board chairman Oliver Mintzlaff of the relationship with Eberl, whose appointment in December 2022 he had personally worked on for 18 months previously.

It was a period which wasn't without controversy, beginning with Eberl's tearful departure from Borussia Mönchengladbach citing burnout in January 2022 and culminating in RB paying Gladbach a reported a €2.5m in compensation for Eberl, who was handed a four-year deal.

Oliver Mintzlaff and Max Eberl at the Cup Final at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin
"Error of judgement": After pursuing him for 18 months, RB Leipzig boss Oliver Mintzlaff (left) has dismissed Max Eberl.Image: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture alliance

That, Mintzlaff conceded this weekend, was "an error of judgement," something which began to become clear "as early as April," with frustration growing in Leipzig that Eberl was spending too much time in his native Munich and refusing to quash speculation linking him with Bayern.

"When I was off last year, I had a lot of time to think about where I'd like to work, which club would be exciting, and RB Leipzig was one of them – but so was Bayern Munich, I have to say," Eberl let slip at a Sportbild event ahead of last season's German Cup final, where RB defended their title against Eintracht Frankfurt.

"When Uli [Hoeness] calls, I answer," he continued. "Uli and I speak a lot on the phone, that's no secret."

Bayern, at that time, despite winning an 11th consecutive Bundesliga title, had just dismissed chief executive Oliver Kahn and director of sport Hasan Salihamidzic. The latter role, one which Eberl has long coveted, had suddenly become vacant, but Eberl had signed a contract with RB Leipzig until 2026.

"Eberl backed the wrong horse," commented broadcaster Sport1 but, as late as last week, Eberl was still responding to questions about Bayern with non-committal comments. "I'm under contract at RB Leipzig," he told Sportbild, which clearly wasn't strong enough for his bosses.

"The whole executive board felt it wasn't working," said Mintzlaff. "We had hoped that there would have been more conviction. That, after many years at Gladbach, we could go on a long journey together here. Especially given the good work Max and his team have done so far. Which makes it even sadder."

Later, speaking on ZDF Sportstudio, he added: "There was no big clash, we didn't argue. On the contrary: Max and I had a very cordial phone call. It was a decision that Max also understood and accepts."

Lois Openda with Max Eberl
After several big-name departures, Max Eberl secured some key RB Leipzig signings this summer, including striker Lois Openda from RC Lens.Image: motivio/ZB/picture alliance

What next for RB Leipzig?

After halftime on Saturday, RB's first-half intensity dropped off, enabling Harry Kane and Leroy Sané to drag Bayern back into the game and salvage a 2-2 draw which ultimately helped neither team, leaving both adrift of Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen and second-place VfB Stuttgart.

Nevertheless, Kicker opined that "Eberl's dismissal will not pose a threat to Leipzig's sporting development," instead describing the decision as "a sign of strength." The magazine added: "There is no place in the Red Bull football cosmos for someone like Eberl who was not fully committed to the club and his job."

It was reported on Sunday that RB have no intention of terminating Eberl's contract and will demand compensation from any club wanting to obtain his services. In 2021, RB extracted around €20m from Bayern Munich for then head coach Julian Nagelsmann but the club insisted there has as yet been no contact regarding Eberl.

"If another club approaches us, we'll discuss details, but that's not happened so far," confirmed board member Johann Plenge. "For the time being, we're concentrating on Manchester [City in the Champions League] and Bochum. Then we'll speak to Max."

At least for the rest of this season, sporting director Rouven Schröder will take the reigns as the new most powerful figure on the sporting side of the club. "Rouven has our complete trust," said Mintzlaff. "Our support structures are well set up. We've considered these steps very carefully."

Bayern honorary president Uli Hoeness at Oktoberfest
"No agreement": Bayern honorary president Uli HoenessImage: Felix Hörhager/dpa/picture alliance

Bayern Munich deny Eberl contact

Meanwhile in Munich, honorary president Uli Hoeness also told Kicker on Sunday that he was also "surprised" by the timing of Eberl's dismissal but insisted: "Fact is, there is no agreement in place between Bayern and Max Eberl."

Despite having just unveiled Christoph Freund as sporting director, Bayern still want to fill the board position of director of sport vacated by Salihamidzic. But these plans, Hoeness said, have nothing to do with developments in Leipzig, where perhaps not everyone was as surprised as Marco Rose after all.