Bayern Munich are one of the few clubs in Europe where the coach is not the most important person.
At RB Leipzig, Julian Nagelsmann is being given the space to build a team that reflects his own personality. In England, Jürgen Klopp has become so synonymous with Liverpool that he is Liverpool. But they do things differently in the Bavarian capital.
Hansi Flick was revealed as the permanent Bayern coach in a low-key announcement on Friday, with the usual fanfare absent due to football’s indefinite hiatus. Low-key is in keeping with Flick’s character, though. The 55-year-old is personable, friendly and one of football’s good guys. But most importantly from Bayern’s perspective, he’s a company man.
Flick’s record of 18 wins from 21 games doesn’t hurt, of course, but at Bayern the coach needs to know his role. That’s to coach competently and conduct himself with consummate professionalism at all times in front of the cameras and away from the field, too. Humility also helps. That is in the job description, and Flick ticks every box.
‘Loyal and disciplined’
Bayern Munich’s sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, offered an insight into the virtues that make a successful Bayern coach when he was asked to comment on Flick’s appointment.
“Hansi has been loyal and disciplined, that is a quality,” he said. “Football is facing great challenges, we believe that Hansi is the right head coach for this time.”
Oliver Kahn, who is being groomed to succeed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as Bayern CEO, also echoed those sentiments, suggesting that Flick’s long-term association with Bayern also made him a palatable choice.
“It is important for Bayern that a coach also understands the philosophy of the club,” he said. “Hansi was a player at Bayern, he was assistant coach, now he is permanently head coach. Hansi knows the mentality of the club, he knows that Bayern is measured by maximum success and I am pleased that we can now develop our ideas together with him in the coming years.”
Bayern are at a point in their history where the consolidation of their success and position as Germany’s premier team is at least as important off the field as on it. That’s the “maximum success” that Kahn is referring to.
Elite brands want to associate themselves with the idea of perfection and aspiration, and the likes of Adidas and Audi remain so committed to Bayern because the club also espouses those values. On the field, Bayern could afford to finish second a couple of times, off it they can’t.
The importance of commerce to the modern Bayern Munich means a safe pair of hands in the dugout is infinitely more preferable than a young firebrand, in the mold of Nagelsmann, or indeed Thomas Tuchel.
Flick has got the best from Thomas Müller
Bayern have financial clout like no other team in Germany, and can always dip into the transfer market to buy themselves out of trouble, rather than rely on the genius of any particular coach. They had a genius coach in Pep Guardiola and it worked, but that remains the exception rather than the rule.
Flick knows his place
A little like Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, Flick is quite capable of achieving remarkable things at Bayern without ever being considered a genuinely great coach. This would be a little unfair, because great teams need great managers and so far Flick has shown himself to be more than up to the challenge.
Flick has found a place in the team for home favorite Thomas Müller and brought out the best in some players who were struggling under Niko Kovac — Jerome Boateng, for instance. He has also overseen the integration of some youth team players into the senior team and so far held off the increasing challenge of RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund.
Flick may not have been the headline appointment that some were expecting when Kovac was finally ousted, but sometimes the least glamorous appointments are the best ones. Most importantly of all, Flick knows his place at the Allianz Arena, and that suits Bayern’s men in suits just fine.