Bayern Munich have been eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. But instead of the defeat, head coach Hansi Flick, who is likely going to leave the club in the summer, was the center of the media’s attention on Tuesday night.
On balance, a 3-3 elimination on the away goal rule (2-3, 0-1) should do very little to further the flames of conflict between head coach Hansi Flick and director of sport Hasan Salihamidzic. There were, however, moments of frustration throughout the 180 minutes that Flick will use against Salihamidzic and the other way around. Many of those moments encapsulating the entire 2020/21 season, which comes off the back of the club’s most successful campaign, could end in major disappointment and frustration.
“Last year, our squad—and everybody knows this—had more quality than the team this season,” Flick said at a press conference during the week (cited by Transfermarkt). “Everything that is being printed as a distraction, that is not coming from me, and I will not comment it in the future,” Flick added, speaking about the constant speculations about his future at Bayern Munich and a potential return to the DFB to become the new national team coach.
The squad and Flick’s future lie at the core of Bayern’s internal conflict. It is a conflict that will not be aided by Bayern’s early exit from the Champions League—even if it was in the most entertaining fashion and the tightest possible margin. Flick will rightfully point out that the club did not have the depth to replace star striker Robert Lewandowski. Furthermore, new signing Leroy Sané, who Salihamidzic wanted over Timo Werner, has struggled, and his final ball in the 90th minute today encapsulated the German national team player’s entire season.
“Normally, my team has so much quality in the final third, but today they lacked that final punch,” Flick said after the game. Pointing at the countless chances squandered by his side. “We have to accept that, even though we would have liked a different outcome.” That lack of outcome was likely due to the lack of attacking options in the final third.
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Leading the game 1-0 thanks to a goal by Choupo-Moting just before halftime, Bayern had to bring on super talent Jamal Musiala and defender Javi Martínez, who was on the verge of leaving the club, in the last gasp effort to score a second goal somehow. Compare that with last season when Ivan Perišić or Philippe Coutinho was available to come on. Not to forget Thiago’s absence, without Leon Goretzka available, Joshua Kimmich struggled, failing to get the necessary support from David Alaba in high-pressure situations.
“We weren’t eliminated tonight; we needed a better result in Munich,” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said after the game on Tuesday. “That was frustrating because we missed so many chances. We’re on our last legs, it’s tough against such a top side, but the players gave everything on the pitch.”
What the statement says, we lacked the depth but also execution over the full 180 minutes. Sure, that first leg result ultimately cost Bayern. Still, the Rekordmesiter also led the game 4-1 on expected goals and, with a more precise frontline, would have produced the same sort of result the club eliminated Barcelona with last season.
Neuer’s statement also points out something else. To win the Champions League, all the players have to be fit, at their best, and the environment has to be geared towards success. Last year, ahead of the Champions League tournament in Portugal, a sense of togetherness and team spirit fueled the club’s treble win. The conflict between Flick and the director of sport has made that impossible this season and will likely lead to Flick leaving the club at the end of the season.
What remains then? Bayern has now been eliminated from the DFB Pokal and the Champions League. The Bundesliga title seemed secured thanks to a win over Leipzig ten days ago, but a slip up against Union Berlin last weekend has closed the gap to five points. With Wolfsburg and Leverkusen next, the Rekordmeister needs to quickly regain its composure to avoid 2021 becoming one of the most disappointing years in the club’s history on top of an ugly divorce with a head coach that seemed to be leading the club to a glorious future.
Manuel Veth is the editor-in-chief of the Futbolgrad Network and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth