Why do Bayern Munich want Vincent Kompany? The relegated Burnley manager might make more sense than you think

At least four others - plus the current incumbent - have turned down the biggest job in the Bundesliga, leaving the relegated Burnley boss to become the head coach they decided upon

Karl Matchett
Friday 24 May 2024 10:53 BST
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Bayern Munich target Vincent Kompany leading Burnley training - archive

Pep Guardiola. Carlo Ancelotti. Jupp Heynckes. Niko Kovac. Hansi Flick. Julian Nagelsmann. And now, apparently, Vincent Kompany.

Even as much as some of those names above have little or no tactical similarity to follow each other, the current Burnley boss will be an outlier if he’s appointed as Bayern Munich boss. Even as one or two of those names were fairly inexperienced coaches at the time of their appointments, the Belgian is still an outlier.

(REUTERS)

Nagelsmann was of course young in years for such a top job, but had half a decade of senior coaching behind him already. Kovac, as well as being a former player at Bayern, had over two seasons at a Bundesliga rival and two years as a national team boss to his name, including a World Cup campaign. And while Flick hadn’t been a head coach for nearly 15 years before taking the reins at the Allianz, he had enormous experience in senior roles including national team assistant and sporting director.

Kompany has none of that. He has two seasons in the Belgian Pro League, ranked eighth-best in the continent by Uefa, plus one season in the English Championship and one in the Premier League, where he won five games and was relegated.

So how have one of Europe’s superpowers arrived at the decision to hire him?

It’s fair to first acknowledge that, despite Kompany being quite some distance down the wishlist of the Bavarian club, there are plenty of reasons why he might carry the required aura.

In particular, in a dressing room that expects winning trophies, Kompany has only recently finished lining his shelf with them at home.

For a period, he was one of the finest central defenders of his generation, during a trophy-laden spell at Manchester City. Amid four league titles and six domestic cups, he was captain for almost the entire lot. He also helped Belgium to a World Cup third-place finish and, importantly as it turns out, spent two years earlier in his career with Hamburg.

But it’s still hard to feel anything other than this being, in coaching terms, an incredible example of Kompany failing upwards and of Bayern Munich digging into a mess that they needed to simply extricate themselves from by any means possible.

One problem appears to be overconfidence in getting the first choice; when that didn’t happen, dissenting voices in the hierarchy have led Bayern on a crazed and incohesive chase, believes Bundesliga commentator Kevin Hatchard.

“It’s clear that Xabi Alonso was the chief choice. They felt they had a chance as a former player and when it became clear that wouldn’t happen, they ended up scrambling,” he told the Independent. “You’ve got a lot of voices in there: Christoph Freund and Max Eberl as sporting directors with different roles, then Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness in the background still.

“The problem with a club like Bayern is that interest is so fierce in everything they do and it gave the impression, fairly or not, that they didn’t know what they were doing.”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Bayern Honorary President Uli Hoeness
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Bayern Honorary President Uli Hoeness (Getty Images)

Given the vast difference in formation, buildup style and man management approaches between Alonso, Ralf Rangnick, Oliver Glasner and even retaining Thomas Tuchel, it’s a hard sell to go against that view. And much of it has played out in “embarrassing” fashion in public view, Hatchard adds.

As Bayern endured their first trophyless season since 2012, two others have reached European finals and Stuttgart won admirers as they finished above them in the league.

“The decision to get rid of Nagelsmann was a huge mistake and the fact [Bayern] went back is an admission of that - they’ve been floundering since,” says German football expert Jonathan Harding.

“It’s a few things at once: Dortmund in a Champions League final and Bayer Leverkusen putting together the greatest Bundesliga season ever will feel like an insult.

“Nagelsmann was the face of the next generation but normally they appoint managers with a lot of prestige and achievement. It’s been embarrassing for them to go for ones at this level and being continually turned away. They’re one of the biggest brands in world football and yet nobody wants the job.”

Until now, of course.

Kompany had little to celebrate about last term
Kompany had little to celebrate about last term (Getty Images)

Kompany very much appears to want it, and looks set to be named as Tuchel’s replacement soon.

Jokes abound at which of the Belgian’s five wins this term impressed the Bayern hierarchy - but there are plenty in the game who speak of him as being a fine coach on the training pitch, having ideas perhaps suited to players above the level of those he has had at Turf Moor.

There are maybe other factors in his favour, too: the Euros being in Germany this summer will mean he can start work with the bigger focus far away from him, which would not normally be the case at Bayern.

A key first step, adds Harding, will be to show the fans “there’s a plan and a style” as we move into the 2024/25 campaign.

“Inherently, Bayern’s DNA is to win straight away,” he points out. “There is going to be an expectation of that but some fans will feel the club has brought this situation on themselves, while some are desperate for a coach which works. Even so, it’s hard to escape the fact Bayern are appointing someone who has just been relegated and that will cause friction if it doesn’t start well.”

The eventual decision - and responsibility for it - will perhaps lie with Eberl. There have been suggestions that Kompany is a low-risk placeholder from some quarters, holding fort until Alonso opts out of Leverkusen.

Alonso could complete a league and cup double with Bayer Leverkusen
Alonso could complete a league and cup double with Bayer Leverkusen (Getty Images)

But that doesn’t chime as a Bayern approach - now they have to stick to the plan even if there are not immediate fireworks, insists Hatchard.

“This is potentially the most exciting appointment. The test is going to be what happens if it doesn’t work immediately. If they’re going to concentrate on younger players then Kompany can develop that,” he said. “But they’ve got to spin this as a Bayern rebuild and the players need to know he is here to stay. It’s a dangerous strategy to have a placeholder for a year - the players get wind of it and it’s hard to keep authority.”

It will be hard for the board to keep integrity and authority, too, if their fifth-choice-at-best head coach fails to deliver and next year proves another trophyless campaign. But stranger things have happened than a manager jumping from relegation to a title.

Perhaps keeping company with the elite will lend, well, Kompany, the right place for his methods to thrive.

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