Rummenigge: ‘This team plays with love’
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge turns 65 on 25 September – the treble is already his best birthday gift. Here the CEO talks about admiration from across Europe, Hansi Flick the creator and his only wish for his birthday. Read the full interview (in German) in the current edition of FC Bayern members’ magazine '51'.
The interview with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – FC Bayern, champions of Europe: How does that sound?
"We’ve had a season where the song 'Feels like Heaven’ would be appropriate. We were seventh in the Bundesliga in November but since Hansi Flick took over it's been a non-stop success story. I won't make the mistake now of saying: We have to win the treble again straightaway. Only Real Madrid have succeeded in retaining the Champions League – you can see how difficult it is. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: we have a great team with great coaching staff under Hansi Flick and we’re in brilliant shape for the future. I'm convinced we'll continue to have success with this team."
After winning the Champions League, Joshua Kimmich talked about "a feeling of invincibility."
"If you go 30 games without defeat, a statement and feeling like that are definitely not unjustified. Now, after the final in Lisbon, there is joy unconfined, but time does not stand still. The stopwatch is set back to zero for the start of the season. Despite our euphoria, we can't forget we’re facing a season that will stress the players like never before. There’s only a short break before the opening match, there are a lot of weeks with two matches, and finally there's the European Championship. We'll have to make sure, in cooperation with the associations, that the players don’t end up running on empty."
We’re already hearing the first rumours that Hansi Flick is snowed under with offers and several players are being tempted away – are you relaxed about that?
"Yes, we can just about manage a weary smile. As long as the relevant contract isn’t about to expire, we call the shots. And who would want to leave the reigning Champions League holders? FC Bayern is a very good club. Players all over the world know that.”
On the way to the victory ceremony you want straight to Flick and gave him a long embrace. What did you say to the coach at that moment?
“Just two words: Thank you! We all know who the main man is. This coach played an absolutely crucial role – and he’s always so modest. After we won the final he’d already put distance between himself and the stage, and I almost didn’t find him. There are a lot of people who push their way to the front without contributing much to making things happen. Hansi makes it happen and then prefers to remain back stage.”
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and president Herbert Hainer offered their congratulations after Hansi Flick and Robert Lewandowski were honoured with the Coach of the Year and Footballer of the Year awards respectively:
You step down as CEO in 15 months. Over the past few days, have you caught yourself toying with the idea of giving up at the end of this year following this triumph?
“No. My contract runs to 31 December 2021 – and, despite all the treble euphoria, I unfortunately have to emphasise we’re facing a season that will be very challenging financially. The whole of football will suffer financial pain. I’d like to make a responsible contribution and help our new bosses Oliver Kahn, Hasan Salihamidžić and Herbert Hainer with my experience to navigate these stormy waters.”
At the same time, it feels like the respect for the achievements of FC Bayern is bigger in Europe than ever before.
“To be honest, we have to say we used to keep looking at Spain when Real Madrid and Barcelona were setting the standards worldwide. Then everything changed step-by-step. We were in the Champions League final four times in ten years – and this time you have to say that nearly everybody in football does not begrudge FC Bayern winning, because we’ve been the best team this season. The world of football has always respected us for our physique, our mentality – but now it’s different. Because this team plays football with love. They celebrate football with devotion. That’s in their DNA, that’s an inherent part of this team – and it goes down well with people.”
You said Lisbon was the “biggest spectacle” you’ve ever experienced. You’ve argued the case for reform of the Champions League. What would that look like?
“I’ve always been a friend of quality rather than quantity. My approach was always: The product always has to be good. If it’s good, it will be accepted. Reform is possible from 2024 because that’s when the new rights will be negotiated. This tournament format has really pleased us and UEFA; the thrill was electrifying. I believe that’s clicked at UEFA. Before that, the emphasis was often: More games bring more money. Now the penny has dropped: If the product is right, the money will flow automatically. This tournament was the proof – and, as the TV ratings were outstanding, we also have evidence that football remains very much alive during these difficult times, despite the naysayers.”
With your birthday imminent, what does the number 65 mean to you?
“When I was at school, people used to retire at the age of 65. Now I have the great fortune that FC Bayern have given me another year in post – and that’s exactly how I feel about it: a great stroke of luck. I enjoy driving to Säbener Straße every day. And if you get the chance to experience days like the one in Lisbon, is there anything better? For 24 hours all you saw was beaming faces. Overall, I’m just very, very happy. If I was granted a wish for my birthday, it would be for us to be playing in front of crowds again soon. There are people who say it’s necessary to get the finances sorted out. I take a different view: We need emotion and atmosphere. That’s what football’s about, that’s the culture of football. Now we have to provide proof and verification that it is possible.”
Title photo credit: Dirk Bruniecki