Klinsmann's fortunes take a dive
Bayern's legendary former player faces the sack – unless he can overturn Barcelona's 4-0 lead tonight. Tony Paterson reports from Berlin
Tuesday 14 April 2009
The writing is on the wall for Bayern Munich's hapless manager, Jürgen Klinsmann. His side may have flattened their Bundesliga opponents Eintracht Frankfurt with a crushing 4-0 victory on Saturday night, but the Bavarian fans were in no doubt as to what they thought about the man they once affectionately nicknamed "Klinsi."
The outcome of the match left them cold. As the players walked on to the pitch the fans shouted "Klinsmann Raus!" (Klinsmann out) and the chant that reverberated from the Bayern terraces after the victory was identical. Despite an attempt at jubilation over his team's easy win over struggling Frankfurt, Klinsmann looked the colour of chalk as he sat on his trainer's bench.
The fans could hardly have been chastised for their chanting any more than the Bayern trainer could have been criticised for his colour. Both have endured a nightmarish week, which appear to have finished the former Tottenham striker's chances of staying on as Bayern manager after next year.
The clincher came on Wednesday night when Bayern were subjected to a humiliating 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The defeat came four days after the Bavarians were beaten 5-1 by the current Bundesliga leaders, Wolfsburg.
Bayern have been through a series of crises since Klinsmann was hired in July last year. But the "Night of Shame" in Barcelona appears to have tipped the balance firmly against the 44-year-old, who only three years ago was being feted almost as a national hero for his work with Germany's 2006 World Cup side.
Barcelona will be in Munich tonight for the return match, but the Bavarians are more than pessimistic. "We might have a chance if Barcelona turn up with eight players," said Bayern's captain Mark van Bommel. After the "Night of Shame" Bayern trainer Udo Lattek was pictured on television in tears.
Until Barcelona, the Bayern Munich management had been willing to back Klinsmann. But not any more. In a statement released after the game, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern's general manager, was withering in his criticism. "I am not sure what I feel most: shock, sadness or fury," he told reporters after apologising profusely to Bayern fans.
Yesterday, Günter Netzer, Germany's chief television football commentator added insult to injury by declaring: "Jürgen Klinsmann has failed. The side has become independent of him, he has lost the team."
Klinsmann has faced similar criticism before. After he became national team coach for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he was attacked for making flying visits to Germany from his home in America. Then he was criticised for using bizarre training techniques, such as making players clasp hands and put their heads together for "bonding purposes."
But by the end of the tournament, with Germany having finished third, Klinsmann was credited with turning what had been dismissed as a hopelessly inexperienced team into national heroes.
But this time, the criticism is more fundamental. Klinsmann stands accused of treating the day-to-day business of German premier league football as if it were the same as running a national team. When he got the job as Bayern manager he pledged to make "every player a bit better every day". It is widely thought that most Bayern players are performing worse than at the end of last season. Then, under Ottmar Hitzfeld, Bayern were still cock of the walk.
Under Klinsmann, Bayern have been adopted new training methods with up to six coaches attending sessions. Yoga and language courses were offered to players to help them to "improve" themselves. They were cancelled due to lack of interest. Players were allowed to sleep at home before big matches, but many turned up tired so that was discontinued.
The new trainer also tried to improve the side's strike capability by switching from a tried and tested four-player attacking combination to playing three up front. The scheme was dropped after proving a failure.
But perhaps most damaging of all have been Klinsmann's difficulties with his players. He has fallen out with captain Van Bommel and he appears to have completely lost the confidence of Bayern's veteran goalkeeper, Michael Rensing, whom he dropped hours before the start of the fateful "Night of Shame."
Prospects are not good. As Bild newspaper put it yesterday: "If there is a repeat of the Barcelona debacle on Tuesday night, then Bayern and Klinsi will face the wrath of the German people."
Possible teams: Bayern Munich (4-4-2): Butt; Breno, Lucio, Lell, Lahm; Van Bommel, Ze Roberto, Schweinsteiger, Ribéry; Altintop, Toni.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdés; Pique, Márquez, Puyol, Alves; Touré; Iniesta; Xavi; Henry, Eto'o, Messi.
Sublime to ridiculous: Bayern's recent form
Bayern's last eight games in all competitions have produced 38 goals and some baffling scorelines, with a marked difference between home and away form.
7 Mar: Bayern 5-1 Hannover 96
10 Mar: Bayern 7-1 Sporting Lisbon
11 Apr: Bayern 4-0 Frankfurt
4 Mar: Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 Bayern
4 Apr: VfL Wolfsburg 5-1 Bayern
8 Apr: Barcelona 4-0 Bayern.
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