Happy birthday, Mark van Bommel
Team player, key player, guarantor of success - Mark Van Bommel played for FC Bayern for four and a half years from 2006 to 2011, during which he played a key role in shaping the game of the record champions. The former captain celebrates his 43rd birthday on Wednesday. fcbayern.com sends best wishes and looks back on his career in Munich.
Suddenly everything went very quickly. Just five days after FC Bayern visited FC Barcelona for the traditional Joan Gamper Trophy in August 2006, their number 17 landed at Munich Airport. "We brought someone back with us from Barcelona," said Uli Hoeneß, general manager at the time, who personally took the visitor to the medical examination. The next day, he signed a three-year contract with the record champions: from then on it was Bavaria instead of Catalonia for Mark Van Bommel.
"More stability" for the Bayern midfield
"He is exactly the player we need for the team right now," Hoeneß stated at the time, "we have found the right man." After Michael Ballack and Zé Roberto left before the start of the 2006/07 season, board member and coach Felix Magath "had the feeling there was a hole behind the forwards". The Netherlands international was intended to bring "more stability" to the Munich midfield, emphasised Magath at the time. "He will take us forwards."
Difficult debut season
And Bayern's last-minute transfer would live up to the expectations. He took a leading role in the team from the beginning, scoring three times in his first six games. Van Bommel made 40 competitive appearances in his first season in Munich, including 30 for the full 90 minutes. At the end of a difficult season, in which Magath was replaced by Ottmar Hitzfeld in February, FCB failed to defend their titles in the league and cup, and missed out on Champions League qualification, finishing in fourth place.
The "aggressive leader"
However, a year later Hitzfeld led the record champions back on the road to success. The league title, DFB Cup and UEFA Cup semi-finals were the achievements at the end of a season in which van Bommel became integral to Bayern's play. The Dutchman made 48 competitive appearances and scored three goals in a somewhat more defensive role under Hitzfeld, who referred to him as his "aggressive leader" because of his presence on the field and ability to step up at the right moment.
Midfield general: Van Bommel set the pace and shaped the game of the record champions.
Two-time Dutch Footballer of the Year
"I never really liked that label, but I never got rid of it," recalls van Bommel. The midfield strategist played technically and tactically at the highest level and was hugely important for the team with his ability to anticipate action. "You enjoy it when you intercept play and play a good pass for a goal. It's not so noticeable, but it is important for the team to intercept passes," said the two-time Dutch Footballer of the Year (2001, 2005) about his new position.
First non-German captain of FC Bayern
And this would become more important in subsequent years. After Oliver Kahn's retirement, van Bommel became FC Bayern's first non-German captain in 2008. He continued in this role until he left Munich in January 2011. Van Bommel was more than a captain on the pitch. He once described himself as the "glue" that holds the team together. He organised team events off the pitch and maintained a close relationship with many employees at the office.
He experienced many highs during his time in Munich: he won the league and cup double twice (2008, 2010) and the Ligapokal once (2007). Memorable games included the Champions League match against Real Madrid in 2007, the 4-1 win at Juventus in 2009 and the legendary 3-3 after extra time in the UEFA Cup at Getafe. But there were also painful defeats, such as the 2-0 loss in the 2010 Champions League final against Inter Milan and the 4-0 defeat at his former club Barcelona in April 2009.
As well as Magath and Hitzfeld, van Bommel worked under Jürgen Klinsmann, Jupp Heynckes and compatriot Louis van Gaal, and played alongside the likes of Kahn, Roy Makaay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luca Toni. He picked up 187 competitive appearances and 16 goals for "my favorite club," as he called FC Bayern from day one. As a child, he had followed the Munich side and had a sticker on his bedside table.
Van Bommel's status changed after the 2011 winter training camp in Doha. Coach van Gaal no longer relied on his captain, whose contract would have expired at the end of the season. The 33-year-old decided to take on a new challenge and joined Italian Serie A club AC Milan. Van Bommel celebrated the league title in a fourth European country by winning the Scudetto -- a feat not matched by many. In 2012 he returned to PSV Eindhoven, where he ended his brilliant career a year later. Dank je wel, Mark!
Van Bommel played for FC Bayern from 2006 to 2011 - here are the most legendary knockout games from 2001 to 2010.