By Alexander Osang
The morning papers had reported that AC Milan has bought Ronaldinho, and by noon FC Bayern Munich's manager Uli Hoeness is already explaining why the Bavarians didn't want him in the first place.
"Bayern has a great midfield. We have Ribéry, Schweinsteiger, Zé Roberto, van Bommel and Altintop, who was just selected for the European Championship. We introduced Tim Borowski a few minutes ago, and what should I tell Toni Kroos?" Hoeness asks.
But did the club ever consider bringing in Ronaldinho?
Hoeness looks at the team's chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who is sitting next to him on a rattan chair. Rummenigge looks at his mobile phone, as if it could provide an answer. He says: "Ronaldinho will drive up ticket prices in Milan. According to the papers, he's getting six million a year. You can easily add another three to that."
"Oh come on, Kalle, you really don't know exactly," says Hoeness.
"Well," says Rummenigge, as he types something into his phone.
The two men are sitting in Hoeness' office, a room that seems far too modest for this discussion about a superstar like Ronaldhino, a warm, cozy room, filled with rattan furniture and plaid cushions, and pine tables and bookshelves. There are a few photos of football players and some trophies, a silver model of the Allianz Stadium, stuffed animals dressed in Bayern Munich jerseys, and a rattan couch beneath a photo of the Meazza Stadium in Milan, the site of the club's last Champions League victory in 2001. On the desk are a bar of chocolate and a bag from the souvenir shop. It looks like the living room of an average Bayern Munich fan, not the headquarters of a successful football manager. Hoeness' shirt is a little wet around the mid-section. He has just made himself a cup of tea.
"What gets me is that the media are already screaming for new players once again," he says. "And the old ones haven't even been paid yet. Toni and Ribéry will be written off over a four-year period, 25 million a year. That's how it works in business."
'The Only Important Thing Is what you Make of Yourself'
Hoeness is agitated, his neck bulging. He's been reading the paper again, even though Jürgen Klinsmann told him, just after taking over as team coach: Uli, you read the paper too much. A copy of Kicker, Germany's leading sports magazine, is under his coffee table and the evening paper is on the windowsill behind his desk. He consumes the media reports like chocolate. Luca Toni wants to see more stars, according to one of the articles. The tabloid Bild writes that Butt and Borowski won't be good enough for the Champions League. And then there is Lothar Matthäus, the former Bayern Munich captain, with his articles in Sport Bild. One of them was about all the things a coach can do wrong.
Now that guy won't be invited back to our Christmas party, says Hoeness. Rummenigge agrees that this time he has gone a little bit too far.
Klinsmann doesn't read any of this. He tells his staff that the only stories he wants to see on his desk are the ones that relate to new developments. Klinsmann has come to a conclusion about the media: "You think that what's said about you in the press is important. But in reality the only important thing is what you make of yourself."
Hoeness senses that he's probably right, but people don't change that quickly. He pours a little honey into his tea. Keep calm, Uli.
"Most sports writers haven't realized what has happened economically in the last few years. Financially speaking, we can't compete with clubs that keep getting richer as the price of oil rises. Or we go under, like half the Spanish league. Valencia, Seville. All dead as doornails," says Hoeness.
"Yes, but those clubs are a joke," says Rummenigge.
"A joke? Valencia played us in the finals, Kalle," says Hoeness, glancing up at a poster above the rattan sofa. 2001, the Champions League. That was seven years ago. That's why they brought in Klinsmann in the first place. Because he promised to improve the players -- right foot, left foot, head, whatever. It sounded as if someone were finally trying to reach into a wheel that's spinning faster and faster.
"Jürgen didn't talk about new players right away. He just wanted to help shape the training environment. He explained this to all of us. Jürgen is sensational when it comes to explaining things. Of course, we didn't know how far the whole thing would go," says Hoeness, beaming.
Everyone who has seen Bayern Munich's new training center says that it's the first of its kind in the world of football. Of course, the media immediately pounced on the Buddha statues that are placed here and there, and even came up with some far-fetched amount that the whole thing is supposed to have cost, but this isn't something Hoeness wants to think about now. He is proud of the lounges, the quiet zones, the cafeteria, the press area and the gym, and of the movie theater and perhaps even of the DJ console, even though he knows that DJ consoles don't shoot goals. There are those in the club who fear that Uli Hoeness could soon explode out of sheer pride. When co-coach Martin Vasquez, who Klinsmann brought along from Los Angeles, said, at a party at Hoeness' house on Lake Tegern, that he was deeply honored to be part of the Bayern family, Uli almost broke down, says someone who was there.
The Bayern family. That's the way the club sees itself. And apparently that is exactly how Klinsmann sees it too. Now Hoeness can remain seated on the bench. In fact, that's what he is supposed to do. He too is modern and part of the project now.
'We Are Ourselves'
Klinsmann wants to develop a Bayern Munich identity, something unique in the faded world of globalized clubs that change players like shirts. "FC Bayern Munich has defined itself in the last few decades," says Klinsmann. "'We are ourselves' -- that's the philosophy," he says. He wants his players to watch videos of old matches. When they do, they'll be watching legendary players like Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner and Gerd Müller in short shorts, as well as Hoeness and Rummenigge, their manager and chairman respectively. The goal is for today's players, like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Luca Toni, to realize that they too are part of an ongoing history. And that they will continue to write this history, says Klinsmann.
"Let me show you what we're talking about," says Rummenigge. He jumps up and comes back, two minutes later, with a thin book. It's bound in brown leather, and the words "Mir san mir" (We are ourselves) are printed on the front cover. The book contains pictures that depict Bayern Munich's players of the last 40 years at their happiest: after scoring goals, after fending off penalty shots and after winning championships. The book is a work in progress, but it provides a glimpse of their vision. It sits on the table like a work of scripture. It's moving to watch these two men, who have won all of the world's major football trophies, spend a moment searching for their centers. They try to make sense of it all, of the message, the future, something along those lines. They're learning. Klinsmann has made it his mission to take along Hoeness and Rummenigge on this journey. Two floors down, in the press center, Tim Borowski explains, on his first day in his new job, that he can already feel the winner's gene.
At this moment, it isn't hard to imagine Klinsmann taming and educating the Bavarians. It's his job.
Even the manner in which he was hired was already more in tune with the modern Bayern Munich Klinsmann wants to create. It was quiet and surprising, instead of loud and predictable. It was a real coup, because nothing was leaked by a club that is connected to the media like no other in Germany, and of course, because it was about Jürgen Klinsmann.
Klinsmann played for Bayern Munich for two years in the mid-1990s. The most memorable moment of his tenure there was the time he furiously kicked a Sanyo advertising drum after being replaced. He quarreled with Lothar Matthäus, was tormented by the tabloids and some of his teammates named him Flipper whenever he lost control of the ball. Klinsmann flew right out of Munich and later moved to the United States, where he became part-owner of a company called Soccer Solutions. He entered the public eye once again when he became the coach of the German national team. At the 2006 World Cup, he captured both third place and the hearts of the entire world.
He had offers from the United States, Australia and from Liverpool. He speaks five languages. One would have thought that nothing would convince him to return to Munich. At the first press conference, where he appeared with Rummenigge, Hoeness and the club's president Franz Beckenbauer, he seemed like a boy who had lost his way -- a reflection of just how little people had ever expected that he would come to Munich.
'I Brought Along my Energy'
"It was an emotional decision," says Klinsmann, blinking. "We felt incredibly at ease in Munich back then, but things weren't always going that smoothly for me professionally. FC Hollywood (as Bayern Munich became known in the 1990s -- eds.), with all of its opinion-makers, really did a number on me. But there was also a tremendous amount of appreciation, and that's what I was thinking about when I got the call."
Klinsmann is sitting in one of the new armchairs in the cafeteria. He seems focused, but also a little lost in his track suit, which, after all the fitted shirts he used to wear as coach of the national team, makes him look a little like Bayern Munich's janitor. It's been raining for hours on the training field outside, and the clouds are low in the sky. At moments like this, does he miss California?
"I miss my family, because they're not here yet," he says. "And when I start up my computer the weather in Los Angeles comes up on my screen, and it makes me think of the beach. But I brought along the energy. It's inside me, in my coaching staff and in the team. We have a job to do here. I want to change something. I wake up in the morning and ask myself what I can change, and in the evening I think about what I've accomplished."
Klinsmann spends the next hour outlining a plan, a blend of his American experiences and the history of the team, a concept that he hopes will close the gap between Bayern Munich and the major European clubs. The big ten, he says: four English teams, three Italian teams, two Spanish teams and Bayern.
'I Want to Look Inside the Players' Heads'
He says that it was a "brutal wake-up call" when, after 18 years as a professional football player, he realized that his only educational achievement was his certificate as a journeyman baker. He had learned all kinds of languages and gotten to know interesting people, but he never moved out of his little football world, he says. He started learning. He took classes in computers, languages, all kinds of things. He took a look at the college system that every American professional athlete has to go through. He discovered that American athletes continue to derive benefit from their education on the playing field. In Germany, on the other hand, the development of a professional football player's personality has not played any role at all until now. He is convinced that this represents an important opportunity. "People are always talking about how matches are decided in the mind, but no one pays much attention to the mind," says Klinsmann.
Klinsmann works with his team during a practice session on Wednesday.
"I want to look inside the heads of the players," says Klinsmann. "I want to know what makes them tick, to figure out the best way to reach them. Some need to be hugged, some need visual examples and others need conversation."
"I want to convince them to open up," he says.
And once they are open, soft, he can impart the Bayern feeling to them. The Bayern identity. The 'We are ourselves' philosophy. Self-confidence, he calls it. Sticking one's chest out. Being active. Growing talent from within. Aggressive football. Klinsmann wants his opponents to think: Oh shit, the Bavarians are back. This, though somewhat abbreviated, is the essence of Jürgen Klinsmann's philosophy.
One could probably say that Luca Toni hasn't been opened up yet. He is sitting in Bayern Munich's new media center. Technicians to his left and right are working on the new simultaneous interpreting machines. The machines aren't working. Finally the interpreter steps out of his booth, walks down to the press center, sits down next to Toni and translates -- as usual.
Toni says that he is already familiar with the eight-hour day from his days in Italy, and that he certainly won't be doing any yoga, nor is he likely to take the language course. He speaks Italian. He shoots goals.
"If I have a striker who shoots 25 goals, he can smoke a pack of cigarettes and drink four beers a day, for all I care," says Lothar Matthäus. If the world of football Klinsmann has decided to take on had a face, it would look like Lothar Matthäus.
The two men played together for Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and the German national team. They became champions and world champions together, and they captured the UEFA Cup together. Both men have lived in Italy and the United States. And yet, despite these common experiences, Matthäus and Klinsmann turned into two completely different people.
Matthäus tied his fate to the tabloids. He led a public life, a turbulent life of divorces, affairs, departures and arrivals. Klinsmann kept himself out of the tabloids because he didn't want to be dependent. He wants to retain control over his life and the lives of the people for whom he is responsible. He doesn't want public opinion to shape the lives of his players. This is why Klinsmann erects barriers and spends a lot of time talking about opportunities to withdraw. He considers Matthäus to be dependent, open to blackmail.
Klinsmann's strategy has apparently worked. Both men wanted to coach the national team and Bayern Munich. But Matthäus has only managed to coach the likes of Partizan Belgrade, the Hungarian national team, an unknown Brazilian team, Red Bull Salzburg and now the Israeli Premier League team Maccabi Netanya -- in that order. On the day that Luca Toni begins training, Matthäus is 250 kilometers (155 miles) away, sitting on the sidelines of a football field in the Alpine village of Schruns in Austria. SC Freiburg and Maccabi Netanya are playing a friendly, in front of an audience of about 300 fans. Matthäus shouts at his players: "This way, this way," "Look, the ball," and once he even groans, "Mamma mia, why I must have to see this." No goals are shot during the match.
After dinner with his team in the hotel, Matthäus sits down to watch a couple of DVDs scouts have given him. He still needs a good defender and perhaps a striker. He doesn't have a lot to spend. The club operates on a budget of 6 million ($9.3 million) -- third-tier league level in Germany. Netanya can't afford as many coaches as Jürgen, says Matthäus, but morale is excellent. That's the most important thing, he says, the simple things, the basic things. Discipline, order and good morale.
After dinner, the owner of the Schruns hotel pours a round of champagne, and the Israeli players sing noisily, although Matthäus isn't quite sure why. He has trouble communicating with the players. Some speak a little English, just as he does. Nevertheless, his approach -- sans interpreter -- is more direct. He sees it as an advantage, which brings him back to Bayern Munich and Jürgen Klinsmann.
"Bayern Munich has always been a hands-on team," says Matthäus. "We were personalities. Basler, Effenberg, Matthäus. We used to play cards with the bus driver until five in the morning. I think it's a mistake to build such high fences today. It deprives the club of its soul."
Matthäus, for his part, knows no barriers. After drinking a few beers, he sits on the hotel terrace and talks about the differences in mentality between Scandinavians and Africans, his apartment in Israel with its view of the ocean, his experiences with Otto Waalkes in Budapest and how Klinsmann, as the striker, always complained about balls coming in too high or too low. "It was always someone else's fault, never his," says Matthäus. "When I heard that Jürgen was becoming a coach, I thought it was April Fool's Day. He was such a total loner." If he were offered a coaching job in Germany's top league, the Bundesliga, he would give up his column with the German sports weekly Sport Bild, says Matthäus. By this time, it's already 12:30 a.m.
Didn't he want to take a look at the scouts' DVDs?
"Oh, I'll do it tomorrow. I already know who I'm picking, anyway," says Matthäus, ordering one last beer.
The next day German national defender Philipp Lahm is sitting in the media room, explaining that the reason he didn't leave Bayern Munich was because he believes that something new is being developed here.
"I want to be a part of it," says Lahm. Black-and-white photos of famous 'We are ourselves' moments hang on the wall next to him: Andersson's free kick goal in the last minute of a championship game that cost Schalke its title, Kahn's decisive parade in the penalty shootout against Valencia, Schwarzenbeck's long-distance shot in the 120th minute against Atlético Madrid. Matthäus isn't visible, but at this moment it's even difficult to imagine that he ever existed. He was once captain, but he isn't part of the history that Klinsmann plans to continue writing. As a result, he is disappearing slowly. It's almost ghostly.
"Jürgen believes that you can solve every problem with education," says Klinsmann's advisor Eitel. "Positive education. He is never against anything, just always in favor of something."
The disappearance of Lothar Matthäus shows how much Klinsmann has already changed football. Former stars like Mario Basler and Stefan Effenberg have also disappeared almost completely from the radar screen, but in return there are now twice as many fitness coaches in Germany as there were before 2006. But the education of Bayern Munich is still a long way from complete, and at times one is left with the impression that it has only very little to do with the upcoming Bundesliga season. In fact, it may not have anything to do with football at all anymore.
When Georg Schwarzenbeck, once a defender at Bayern, like Lahm, turned 60 recently, Klinsmann went to his stationary shop on Ohlmüllerstrasse in Munich to congratulate him. Schwarzenbeck was overjoyed. At first, he says, he thought a Klinsmann lookalike had just walked into the door.
Schwarzenbeck took over the tiny shop from his aunts, after ending his career at Bayern, where he began playing as a boy. Schwarzenbeck has won the European championship, the World Cup and is a multiple winner of the European Cup for national champions. But instead of placing his own name over the door, Schwarzenbeck used the name of his aunts -- because it was already established. He supplies Bayern Munich with printer paper and White-Out. He occasionally attends matches, but not always, because he has a garden and a family to attend to. To this day, Spaniards still talk about the goal he short against Atlético Madrid 34 years ago. It was the ultimate 'We are ourselves' moment. In April, when Luca Toni shot the equalizing goal in the last minute of overtime in the UEFA Cup quarter final in Getafe, Spain, Spanish reporters called out: "Schwarzenbeck!" It is a name that means many things.
Klinsmann presented him with an illustrated book from California.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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