Created on 07-01-2008 at 00:00 AM
Attendance levels at the Säbener Strasse media centre on Monday were more akin to those observed a few days before a Champions League final, as some 60 reporters, 14 camera teams and even a live outside broadcast unit witnessed Uli Hoeneß quite deliberately step aside and allow Ottmar Hitzfeld the right of way as the pair entered the building.
Hoeneß’s act was almost symbolic in character, as the reason for the vast media gathering was not the first training session of the new year, nor the unveiling of new Brazilian signing Breno, who had already completed his first news conference as a Bayern player. The spotlight was fully and firmly on Hitzfeld, whose departure from the club at the end of the season had been made public a few days previously, and Hoeneß, the man who might drop a hint or two concerning the General’s successor.
Hitzfeld: My work here is done
Hitzfeld clearly and concisely spelled out the reasons behind his decision not to extend his second spell at the club beyond 30 June 2008. “I came here just under a year ago intending to help out for four or five months. I never intended it to be a long-term engagement,” he explained. Hitzfeld, who took over from Felix Magath on 1 February last year, then opted to remain for a further season in order to oversee a major team rebuilding exercise.
“This is a development which I would regard as complete after a single season. Provided I leave a functioning team behind me, I’ll have achieved my objective,” Hitzfeld observed, confirming he was thoroughly looking forward to his last few months in charge. Although he has yet to finalise his next assignment, reports suggest he will either take the Switzerland helm or return to work on TV: the 58-year-old was a studio expert for pay-TV channel Premiere before coming back to Bayern. “I spent two and a half years in TV, and didn’t lose a single match. It was a great job,” Hitzfeld quipped.
Hoeneß appeals to the media
The question of who will replace Hitzfeld at Bayern remained completely open, Hoeneß reported, as the board intended to “fully explore all the options” before drawing up a shortlist. The general manager insisted the club was in no hurry. “We won’t leave it until May or June, but it’s not our intention to come up with a name in the next two or three weeks either,” he remarked, declining to comment on rumours already circulating in the press. Hoeneß called on the media not to indulge in baseless gossip: “I don’t have a problem with a proper debate in the papers, but I would urgently request the media to desist from half-truths and lies, which would provoke a very sensitive reaction from our side.“
Hoeneß was unwilling to divulge the club’s internal job description (“It’s not something we need to discuss in public“), but acknowledged that Hitzfeld’s shoes would be difficult to fill. “That’s why we need to think hard about our decision, and that’s why we’ll take all the time we need, because finding a good successor will be tough. However, once we settle on a coach, we’ll bring him in. That’s how confident we are.“
The club and Hitzfeld would not part company before the end of the season “no matter what happens,” Hoeneß insisted, rejecting suggestions the ongoing search for a new coach might prove a distraction to the players. “Ottmar has informed the team today that he’ll do everything he can to hit our targets and bring us plenty of success. He won’t allow anything to get out of hand.“ Hitzfeld announced his intention to keep the players on a tight rein: “We cannot allow any indiscipline.“
The General would seek to repay Bayern “for the faith the club continues to show in me” with sporting success. “We want to win a trophy or two. That’s my mission at Bayern Munich.“ The coach is guaranteed the support of the board. “Regardless of how it goes this season, Ottmar Hitzfeld will never be shuffled out through the back entrance at Bayern. He’ll only leave the club through the main gate at the Allianz Arena,“ Hoeneß declared.