Marco Neppe: Our squad should have a magnetic effect
On his laptop, on his phone, on the pitch: Marco Neppe always keeps an eye on FC Bayern's squad development. In an interview with members' magazine "51", the technical director, who first started his career at Bayer Leverkusen, talks about player profiles, the club's DNA - and the reason why FCB will never be uncool.
Interview with Marco Neppe
Marco Neppe, you have been at FC Bayern since 2014, leading the scouting department for three years and becoming technical director this season. What exactly does a technical director do?
Neppe: "Every club defines it differently. My connection to the pro department is closer now than before. My interactions with the coaching team, our staff and the players is more extensive. Contact with advisors is an important part of my work, as is the management of the scouting department, observing the market and squad planning, not least in conjunction with FC Bayern Campus. The football market has become more analytical, more transparent and quicker. A lot of it revolves around planning and forward-thinking. Everything happens in close coordination with our board member for sport, Hasan Salihamidžić."
If we take squad planning as an example: What exactly is important there?
"Squad planning is a constant, long-term management process. You have a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces have to fit together in an economic framework: with football quality, character, all combining together. The key question is: How does a team work together? The best individual pieces of the puzzle do not necessarily produce the best overall picture. Our squad should be planned in such a way that our fans can identify with their team, in that we play attractive football and have maximum success as a possibility. Our squad should have a magnetic effect - for our fans as well as for the top players from around the world."
What fascinated you about management in football?
"I got involved in football at an early age. I was always interested in what was behind the game: What distinguishes a player, a coach, a whole team? What are the factors for success? As a child, "kicker" magazine was a must-read, especially the special edition at the beginning of the season. That's when the league table was attached and I'd check again and again to see if I was right in my predictions."
And this fascination still drives you today?
"Yes, football and its complexity fascinate me. Squad planning and working on the team are multi-faceted tasks. The topic of leadership, for example: What types of leaders does a team need? What types make up our squad? How do our players complement each other? We observe this very closely and ask ourselves again and again: What type of player can give this team a push in the right direction? Which potentials of our players can we bring to fruition and how? If you identify a need for the team, that doesn't mean you can just 'copy and paste' in a transfer. Cutting a player out of their current team to use him in ours, that doesn't work so easily. At the end of the day, you need conviction and foresight."
FC Bayern had a lot of foresight, for example, in bringing Joshua Kimmich or Alphonso Davies as young hopefuls...
"... and we had conviction! With Serge Gnabry, we also had the issue early on that Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben were at the tail end of their careers and Serge brought an exciting profile with his individual characteristics. We want the players to know exactly their profile and thus their strengths and weaknesses. Because that is why they are with us. We didn't want to, and couldn't clone, Franck or Arjen, but we expected Serge to be one of the players who could help fill a gap left by the two. This is about one crucial factor: trust. We believe in our players and trust them. Serge has paved his own path with us."
How can one imagine dialogue between Hasan Salihamidžić and yourself?
"It's a constant interaction, just like with our coach Julian Nagelsmann. We observe the transfer market and the internal development of our players. There is an almost daily comparison of the way things are going as each of us perceives it. In our field, it's rarely black or white - and yet decisions have to be made. We all have to be convinced of what we are going to do."
What is the strangest thing that has happened to you at FC Bayern so far
"After signing Alphonso Davies, the moment when Phonzy said goodbye to his family lives long in my memory. It was so heartfelt and personal that I will never forget it. His mother said to him, "Be a good boy!" You stand there and think: That's our job in the club now, too, that this boy makes his way. I think Phonzy can be very proud of himself. He has remained a good boy - and become a world-class footballer."
„"Challenging oneself and encouraging others: That's the FC Bayern spirit. We have to always maintain that."”
Which transfer is better: a world class superstar who immediately adds shine to the team, or a young talent that develops and hits the ground running
"The best feeling for me is when we have a team that is homogeneous and wins everything. We only achieve that through a special mix. At FC Bayern, the quantity of the squad is special compared to other teams internationally. That's part of our strategy, because we create an environment where the likes of talents like Josip Stanišić, Paul Wanner or Malik Tillman are able to get into the team. Other clubs say they need 25 top international players to achieve their goals. We at FC Bayern are convinced that it can be done differently. One of the things that impresses me about our squad is the willingness of our top players to pass on their experience. The transitions between generations, from Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ribéry and Robben to Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Robert Lewandowski, Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala, have been the key to our extraordinary success over the years. Challenging ourselves and encouraging others: That's the FC Bayern spirit. We have to maintain that."
What's crucial in establishing yourself at FC Bayern?
"Football quality and mentality. Then character, desire, team spirit, discipline and courage. You should also have the ability to reflect, to be able to assess yourself and what's going on around you. You also need to be able to deal with pressure, you need resilience. And without fun, dedication, passion and a certain amount of greediness, you won't ever get far anyway. Identifying with the club is also a key for us. A player should be proud to play for FC Bayern."
Which player from 120 years of FCB history would you like to clone and put in the current squad?
"A great question! Only one? That's not fair. FC Bayern had so many legendary players, you could list them forever. Personally, I always thought Giovane Élber was great: outstanding footballing skills and an incredibly positive aura. The game to him always seemed so easy and relaxed - at the same time he had that bite, and he gave everything for FC Bayern. Fans turn up in their droves for a player like that."
Tongue in cheek here: Would you have bought Hasan Salihamidžić back in the day?
(laughs) "Fascinating question. Hasan had a very interesting profile as a player, an incredible mentality and extreme willingness to work. He occupied a position that is also extremely in demand today in the international market. We would have looked hard at him. He was one of the players where FC Bayern's foresight paid off. I always joke with him today about the football shirts of that era: he could have been even faster, but the shirt was too big and and was like a parachute when he was sprinting!"
What did you associate with FC Bayern as a child - and what does the club stand for for you now?
"Actually, not much has changed. I've always liked the deeply-rooted nature of Bayern, the Bavarian character of this club, that's what makes it so unique in world football, because you rarely find such a distinct historical identity. FC Bayern is proud of its successful history. It can and should be - also going forward too. Because what has distinguished it for so many decades will never lose its value and will never become uncool."
Matchdays 28-30 times and dates are now out: