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‘Plan is to rejoin the elite’

Exclusive interview with Paul Breitner

The five pages in the current Bayern yearbook introducing the club staff feature 174 face-to-camera photos, but despite the fact that Paul Breitner is an essential part of the management structure, his image does not appear. The former FCB and Germany stalwart is a consultant to the board of directors, advising Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Co on sporting and team matters. spoke to the 57-year-old about recent far-reaching changes at the club.

Interview: Paul Breitner Paul Breitner, Bayern have five points from three matches so far. Is that poor, or acceptable in the circumstances?
Paul Breitner: “I know Bayern fans will have wanted nine points from three games, but even here, there are reasons or situations which limit us to the five points so far.“ You’re thinking of the injury list?
Breitner: “Yes. We have a few players here who are even better than the very best standard in the Bundesliga. Franck Ribéry, Luca Toni and Martin Demichelis are all world-class. We have to accept that the absence of these three makes Bayern weaker, by which I’m not saying the other players are worse. It was the same in my day if we lost Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller, or later on if Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and I were both out. You can replace a player of this quality temporarily, because the replacements are fired up to prove the team can manage without the star. But you can’t compensate for several at once.“ Significant changes at the club in the summer included the new performance centre and a totally new coaching staff. Do you feel the media coverage was even-handed?
Breitner: “Jürgen Klinsmann was widely pre-judged on the basis he’d never coached a Bundesliga team – but he’d not coached a national team before 2004. Then there was a tiresome discussion about the interior décor and the fact that Klinsmann held closed training sessions, which is actually nothing new. And what we do here is nothing compared to the way the German national team seals itself off from the public.“ There was much talk about new coaches and allegedly new methods.
Breitner: “All head coaches bring in their own team, so why not Jürgen Klinsmann? As for methods, I’ve spent the last three decades talking about state-of-the-art training, incorporating the latest developments in sports science. You still find coaches who think they just need one assistant to keep a squad of 25 busy. When I was with Real Madrid in 1974 we had six coaches, and a physiotherapist whose sole job was attending to injured players. The Luca Tonis and Franck Ribérys need different training for their different individual skills. You have to take the physical attributes into consideration.“ Klinsmann’s goal is to help each individual improve, every day.
Breitner: “Exactly. Ottmar Hitzfeld was very successful and it was great, but we need a clean break with the past now. This is a chance to test whether what we’re doing is up-to-date, and set ourselves up for the years to come. I want Jürgen Klinsmann’s Bayern to be at least as successful as we have been over the last 40 years, and we’ll see a lot of his ideas take root in the Bundesliga.“ Klinsmann and Hitzfeld represent different coaching generations. What does the club want to achieve in this respect?
Breitner: “Jürgen transformed and shaped the Germany team in just two years. He’s in tune with the current generation of players. He doesn’t talk down to them, he speaks to them on their level and he’s totally credible. As an example, a text or an e-mail can often achieve more than 20 minutes jogging round the field trying to impress something on a player.“ Could that be the last piece in the jigsaw as Bayern seek a path back to the very top in Europe?
Breitner: “We have to be brutally frank and accept that the football we’ve all been playing in the Bundesliga in recent years isn’t going to get us anywhere in Europe these days. We need a complete re-think, as we in Germany have yet again missed out on a tactical development where other nations are already two or three steps down the road. I’m talking about the oft-quoted one-touch football, where players on the move at maximum pace have the ability to exchange passes with one or at most two touches of the ball. You see it from the big four in the Premier League, and from Real Madrid and Barcelona nowadays. We need a team capable of that, and that’s exactly one of the expectations we have of Jürgen Klinsmann.“ But you need suitably skilled players for that type of football.
Breitner: “We have them, without a shadow of a doubt. We have a fantastic squad. The players at Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal aren’t all artists, there are a few cloggers there too. It all depends how they train every day. Exchanging passes at top speed becomes second nature. I’m convinced we have the players for this kind of football. They just need to accept and learn it mentally.“ Despite that, the media is full of reports linking you with scouting missions to watch players in stadiums all over the world.
Breitner: “I like travelling, and I like watching interesting players. I’ve been doing so this year, and there are indeed one or two players we’d like to have brought in, but couldn’t for a wide variety of reasons. We buy quality, not quantity, as everyone knows, and quality costs money. But if we’re sure a player could help us, and is he was available, we’d be prepared to make a move. I’m going to contradict a former Germany coach and say: money scores goals. Top players cost a fortune, but they do make the difference.“ What can Bayern achieve this season?
Breitner: “I hope we pick up where we left off last season – with a few exceptions in the autumn - in terms of the passion inspired in the fans by the team. And I hope Jürgen Klinsmann and the team take the next step forward towards rejoining the continental elite. However, we cannot afford to neglect the Bundesliga. The league is and remains the number one priority, everything else is just the icing on the cake. That’s not to say we’re not looking forward to Europe, and we’re convinced this team can go a long way in the Champions League.“