Saturday, 22 June 2013

In Praise Of... Bayern Munich in the 90s

It takes a lot to break Giovanni Trapattoni.  The most successful Italian manager of all time has won titles in four countries and managed two international teams with great distinction.  It took the 90s Bayern team two years to reduce him to this:

You can see where he’s coming from (the translation is apparently accurate by the way, poor Giovanni got himself so wound up his grasp of grammar slipped further than it normally does).  No team has ever managed to combine success with so much self destruction either before or since.  In the 90s they won the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup four times and one UEFA Cup.  They had players of the calibre of Elber, Mehmet Scholl, Jurgen Klinsman, Lothar Matthaus, Stefan Effenberg and Mario Basler.  And also Carsten Janker.  They were often so busy trying to outdo each other off the pitch they forgot how to win football matches.  It would be impossible for anyone else to lose a UEFA Cup tie to Norwich in the same year they ran away with their domestic league.  For 90s Bayern it was merely an appetiser.

The FC Hollywood name has become a bit overused of late, used to illustrate the glitz and glamour of Bayern against the rest of the Bundesliga.  The 90s was when it first surfaced, an era when you had players calling up papers to plant stories about each other, fights in training, players getting thrown out of bars and the club hiring private investigators to trail their own players.  If we’re honest with ourselves doesn’t that sound much more entertaining than the togetherness and ruthless unity they’ve shown this season?

Lothar Matthaus kicked the decade off by being nicknamed the loudspeaker by the German press for his outbursts, his most famous being the time he told a Dutch journalist that ‘Hitler must have overlooked you.’  Which is pretty hard to top.  He also famously had a running battle with Jurgen Klinsmann.  They hated each other so much a live TV debate had to be stopped when they wouldn’t stop arguing.  This then led to Klinsmann demanding Lothar was left out of the Euro 1996 squad.  He got his way but Lothar ended up outlasting him at Bayern to make life awkward for everyone else.

Even in a squad lacking in self-discipline Mario Basler was exceptional.  ‘Super’ Mario’s opinion of things like professionalism and time keeping where that they were fine for other people.  He once cheerfully admitted that, ‘50% of players hate me.’  Presumably they were the 50% he played with (in mitigation its worth pointing out how talented Basler was, in 1994-95 he scored 20 goals from midfield in a 33 game season, including two direct from corners).  After the 1996 European Championship he told Playboy the best thing about the tournament was the fact the players were allowed to have sex during it.  That and the drinking and smoking he got on with anyway.  Bayern eventually got so tired of Basler that they hired a private investigator to follow him around, a fact that was plastered all over the front page of Bild soon afterwards.  Eventually he walked out after they caught him drinking before a game one too many times.  In the 1999 Champions League final he was the best player on the pitch by miles.  When they lost he shrugged his shoulders and drank so much they found him dancing on a table.

So to try and calm things down they decided to resign Stefan Effenberg.  The press quickly dubbed Effenberg, Basler and Matthaus Le Trio Infernal and started reporting on each of them badmouthing the others in the press (Effenberg saved his best stuff, particularly about Matthaus, for his autobiography).  Der Tiger has always had the air of someone killing time until his next fight.  He played football like he was painfully aware it was beneath him.  His seeming contempt for a game he was excellent at has never been bettered.  At Bayern he managed to amass more yellow cards (109) in the Bundesliga than anyone before or since.  He also was fined after assaulting a woman in a nightclub.  His crowning glory has to be stealing his teammate Thomas Strunz’s wife.  Predictably the press had a field day and Effenberg made sure everyone knew he genuinely didn’t care.

It couldn’t last.  Ottmar Hitzfeld was brought in and eventually managed to calm it all down, mostly after Basler left and Matthaus and Effenberg retired.   And from that came the calm, thriving mega-franchise that we have today.  Even more successful but let’s face it, compared to the 90s, fucking boring.

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