After a protracted, semi-fruitless search, former club standout Hasan Salihamidžić was announced as Bayern Munich’s new Sporting Director on Monday. The reaction to the appointment has been largely “meh” throughout Bayern fandom . . . and for good reason.
Bayern had been without a mediator since the spring of 2016 after Matthias Sammer stepped down due to illness, with the big brass largely expecting Philipp Lahm to take the role after hanging up his boots at the end of the 2016-17 season. Lahm went rogue, however, despite being in advanced talks; deciding some vacation time and a personal life might just be the thing.
Several illustrious, familiar club names would be opined about with varying degrees of
seriousness– Mark van Bommel and Oliver Kahn come to mind– but perhaps Munich’s best, most competent, bet lay with Max Eberl, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s director of sport. A drawn-out “he said, he said” (or, rather “no one has said anything”) battle played out through the press with Eberl ultimately deciding to stay with the Foals; signing a new contract that keeps him at ‘gladbach until 2022.
And so here we are today.
There are many things about Salihamidžić that one can absolutely not doubt. His nine-year tenure with Bayern, though fraught with injuries over a two-year-stretch, saw him collect five Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokals and the 2001 UEFA Champions League trophy. He retired in Munich, where he lives today, and has been a wonderful ambassador for the club– lovely, friendly, unassuming. Brazzo’s media work provides measured analysis, and he is definitely a fan favorite.
There is only one problem: none of these attributes necessarily make an effective Sporting Director . . . especially at Bayern Munich.
While, yes, the club is largely governed by its former legends, what made Sammer so effective compared to his predecessor, Christian Nerlinger (also a former Bayern player), was his ability to be beyond the scope of the “mia san mia” family. Sammer is a strong personality, fully capable of butting heads with the likes of President Uli Hoeneß and Chairman of the Board Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. There are rightful reservations that Brazzo will be able to fill that similar, somewhat ruthless role.
The 2016-17 season was largely disappointing for many supporters, and the lack of a Director of Sport played a large part. Without an effective mediator, the senior team ended up being kind of a mess. Trainer Carlo Ancelotti managed to upset key players on his squad while alienating the youngsters– Renato Sanches, most notably– and without any sort of in-club recourse, the players went public. Never a good look. There is little doubt that the affable Salihamidžić will be able to broker the media aspect with aplomb, but is he up for the minutiae involved in negotiating to keep everyone happy
Questions on suitability also arise when one looks to the big picture: mining youth talent, transfers in and out of the club, building/sustaining long-term prowess nationally and internationally. The business aspect of a club as massive as Bayern Munich is certainly not for the faint of heart, and Bayern is unique in the fact that they do it better than pretty much everyone else. Now it’s not to say that Brazzo can’t handle it, but it is a massively steep learning curve.
The initial impression one gathers is that Salihamidžić’s tenure will be that as an elevated ambassador, a yes-man to Hoeneß, and a place-holder until Lahm finally hops on board.
And that, my friends, is not a Director of Sport.
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