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'A difficult phase'

Hoeneß detects signs of a new beginning

Given the choice, Uli Hoeneß might have preferred to postpone a lecture entitled "Bayern: A success story". The Bundesliga champions, currently fourth in the standings a full 11 points behind leaders Schalke 04, are to all intents and purposes out of contention for the title, and could even be in danger of missing out on next season's Champions League.

Nevertheless, the Bayern general manager took to the lectern at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel on Monday evening to address 600 business leaders and politicians, once again showing a battling and upbeat side to his character. "I can sense the anger rising in myself. We at Bayern will be going for it over the next 12 months. I'm detecting signs of a new beginning. It will be very interesting," Hoeneß declared.

Major rebuilding exercise

The 55-year-old described the club's current position in the standings as "something we're not used to. We're going through a difficult phase." However, the silver lining to this particular cloud was the chance to plan for a more successful future. "This situation offers an opportunity for renewal. It looks like we'll have to undertake a more comprehensive rebuilding exercise than we thought."

The board director was unwilling to reveal further details of changes to the playing staff "until it's all legally watertight." He also declined to comment on the future occupant of the head coach position: "I'd be giving off the wrong signal to the team if I was to talk about who will be the coach on 1 July." The only specific comment related to France international Franck Ribéry, where Hoeneß estimated Bayern's chances of obtaining the player's signature as "precisely zero."

Missing out on Europe 'no disaster'

The official criticised "a certain self-satisfaction" in the current squad. "We deserve to be where we are. We have only ourselves to blame, and we have to fix it ourselves." Releasing former boss Felix Magath had become a necessary step, "and it could be that we recognised it too late. It's given me plenty of sleepless nights."

The possibility of Bayern failing to qualify for the Champions League was less worrying, Hoeneß insisted. "It would hurt, but it wouldn't be fatal. It would be problematic for our image, but it wouldn't hurt us that much financially." The club would lose around €15 million in revenue should they miss out on Europe's elite competition, the general manager estimated, "but the season's not over yet." Uli Hoeneß has assuredly retained his fighting spirit in difficult times.