Created on 18-05-2008 at 00:00 AM
At the end of a memorable last day of the season, when a few tears were shed and some thrilling goals were scored in a 4-1 victory over Hertha BSC Berlin, Uli Hoeneß chose the moment to lay down the gauntlet. "Our goal is not simply to be the number one in Germany. We want to mount a challenge in Europe too," the general manager told a huge throng of fans from the Town Hall balcony on the Marienplatz, "we'll do everything we can to achieve this target. I hope we get there very soon."
Over 30,000 supporters packed the central square, 69,000 were at the Allianz Arena, and thousands more lined the parade route from the stadium in Fröttmaning to the Town Hall. "I've seen plenty of things in my time, but I never expected and I've never experienced so many fans on the way here nor in the square itself. This is unbelievable," Hoeneß beamed.
Hitzfeld overcome with emotion
The focus of the celebrations was unquestionably provided by two men who are leaving the club, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Oliver Kahn. "I'm smiling again now, and I'm just delighted I've come through it all," Hitzfeld confessed after his final match as Bayern coach. Before kick-off, the 59-year-old wept uncontrollably as the board officially bade him farewell. "After seven and a half momentous years at Bayern, there were tears of joy too," Hitzfeld revealed, "it's been a fairytale goodbye for Oliver and me."
For his part, the long-serving club captain took a final post-match round of questions from the media. "I've been taking in this unbelievably emotional atmosphere to the full. I revelled in the journey from the hotel to the stadium," reported Kahn, who left the field to a standing ovation after 88 minutes and symbolically handed his place in goal to successor Michael Rensing.
Hoisting the shield
At just before twenty to six, Kahn accepted the championship shield from Bayern legend "Katsche" Schwarzenbeck and hoisted it skywards, repeating a phrase which has become almost a mantra for the giant keeper, and which his team-mates echoed like a refrain through the long night of celebration which was to follow: Da ist das Ding!, or "Here it is!"
"This is utterly incredible," the 38-year-old later observed as he surveyed the scene from the Town Hall balcony. Kahn ends his playing days with yet another record to his name, as a total of just 21 goals against in a season means Bayern beat Werder Bremen's two-decade old Bundesliga record by one goal. And furthermore, Luca Toni's hat-trick against Hertha confirmed him as the league's leading scorer this term with 24 goals in total, the best-ever by a striker in his first season at Bayern.
No way back for Kahn
Toni is now determined to apply his prolific talents to the Champions League, but Kahn was more concerned with reflecting on the past. "Winning the league is always the greatest thing. Twenty years as a professional is just amazing. It's had everything. There's no way back now, this is the perfect moment to retire. I feel only one thing, and that's gratitude," declared Kahn, "it really is time to give my body and my nerves a rest."
Hitzfeld steps up to the task of coaching Switzerland on 1 July, but Kahn is preparing to "go with the flow" as his life enters a new chapter. He returns to the Bayern goal for his testimonial on 2 September, by which time his team-mates will already have the first few matches of the new season behind them. "There's huge potential in this team," Kahn predicted.
Over to Klinsmann
Hitzfeld's successor Jürgen Klinsmann will now be asked to exploit that potential to the full. The incoming Bayern coach can expect one or two carefully chosen new faces when he takes up his duties in six weeks' time. "If we do bring in players, it will be to improve our quality," promised Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, although the chairman called for patience: "It can't be expected of us to go out and win the Champions League next season just as an aside."