Saturday, August 27, 2011

And somebody had to come big, for mighty Bayern was coming small… they finished measly 10th! Beckenbauer and all – 10th. The lowest place Bayern had since they burst into the Bundesliga. Their lowest finish so far was 6th place in 1966-67, their second season in the top league. Udo Lattek approached the Bayern’s President Wilhelm Neudecker and, concerned, told him ‘we need some changes’. The President was in agreement: ‘You are right! We need changes – you are sacked!’ By Beckenbauer’s suggestion Dettmar Cramer replaced Lattek. The irony of it… once upon a time Lattek was assistant of Cramer. The former assistant went to Borussia Monchengladbach – and won the next two championships. Bayern was not to see a new title any time soon…
The summer of 1974 – world champions, solid, ready for another season of winning… Breitner departed, but the rest was at hand. In January 1975 Lattek was out and Cramer in. But Lattek had been right: Bayern needed a change. Squad change rather than coach change. For 10 years now the Bavarians depended on cluster of superstars, supported by more or less middle of the road players. New talent was exactly making waves – compared to the great Ajax, Bayern did not produce a whole team of world class stars. Hoenes and Breitner, yes, but after them only Rummenige and he was yet a questionable quality. Breitner left, Hoenes was increasingly fragile – his constant injuries eventually finished his career early. It was still Maier, Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck, and Muller – just like 10 years ago. The two Swedes – Torstensson and Andersson – were inconsistent. So was the occasional national player Wunder. Zobel was hardly great midfielder, far more limited than Overath for instance. The cluster of superstars was added by sturdy Hansen, Roth, and Durnberger, but they were support players at best. Unlike Borussia Moenchengladbach, Bayern was unable to replace players with younger and better ones, especially when foreigners were the case. By 1975 faced problems similar to those of Real Madrid, Inter, Milan – a change was needed, but was it possible to replace aging superstars dear to the fans and still performing strong. Unlike the Spanish and Italians, Bayern had additional difficulty: the aging stars were not retiring yet; on the contrary – they were in great form. Let go Beckenbauer and Muller? The current best player in the world and goal scoring machine? Clean sweep was difficult at best, with few additional problems: the first was Rummenige, still in secondary role – unfortunately, he played at the same position as Muller. The other was Beckenbauer – with him on the pitch, who really needs another playmaker. True enough, yet this limited Bayern to some degree: the strongest line of the team was the defense, including the goalie. Attack was increasingly reduced to Muller – no wingers really impressed and survived for long. The midfield, with injury prone Hoenes, was hardly imaginative force – instead, it was increasingly becoming the prototype of the German modification of total football: mobile, tough, disciplined steamroller without any spark of creativity. No wonder Roth was very stable and decisive player – always dependable, running as hell, and possessing no imagination whatsoever. But was it obvious? Hardly so – after all it was not even Roth, but Durnberger who embodied the new German football: Durnberger played at any post – he was attacker, midfielder, defender, always in the team, yet, somewhat a substitute, patching holes. Great player he was not… dependable – yes. But he was hardly the kind of player to replace a Beckenbauer and shine on his own.
The ‘steamroller’ kind of football worked against European teams and Bayern was winning at the large stage. At home the brand did not work – on one hand, all German teams were playing the same kind of football by now and the likes of Roth and Durnberger were matched by almost every German club: tough runners clashed with tough runners. On the other hand, the cluster of superstars were very familiar at home – for steady ten years they were more than familiar to the opposition, and most clubs learned how to neutralize them. Younger feet were killing the getting older Beckenbauer and Muller. It was not enough to win at home anymore. In ten years time Bayern became a superclub except having superteam… yes, there were 5 world champions, but Roth, Durnberger, Zobel had no chance to be included in the national team and their kind of player was increasingly shaping Bayern. A radical change was needed, and radical change was impossible… at the end Lattek was fired, the players stayed, Bayern finished measly 10th and the hardship was not over at all. Unfortunately, Bayern shaped the future of football – the awful game of the 1980s. Ironically enough, it was Beckenbauer voicing concerns for the future of the game, yet, he has not listen to and more importantly – his very presence in Bayern killed options for radical change.