Heynckes' hiring creates conflict of interest for Bayern and Bayer
Bayern's hiring of current Bayer coach Jupp Heynckes creates a conflict of interest
Bayern are likely to target key players at rival German clubs in the summer
The fear is that Heynckes will bring midfielder Arturo Vidal from Bayer to Bayern
You don't win 21 Bundesliga titles in 41 years without a certain a degree of bloody-mindedness. At Bayern Munich, it used to manifest itself in an unapologetic transfer policy that could best be described as BIMBY -- best in my backyard. The Bavarians would routinely buy up the domestic competition's outstanding talent to kill two birds with one stone: while their own status as Germany's best (and wealthiest) team was strengthened, their league rivals would be instantly weakened, sometimes fatally so.
After a couple of seasons without any high-profile inward transfers from other Bundesliga clubs, the champions have returned to a spot of Bimbyism. In fact, they might have taken it to another, potentially problematic level this time, by going after a direct competitor's manager. When Bayern coach Louis van Gaal's tenure was cut short last month -- the prickly Dutchman will have to leave at the end of the season, one year before his contract would have expired -- Jupp Heynckes, currently at Bayer Leverkusen, was immediately identified as the preferred successor at the Allianz Arena. It will be the third spell of the 65-year-old in Munich, after a successful stint in the early 90s and five weeks as a post-Klinsmann caretaker in 2009, when he ensured Champions League qualification with four wins. "He's a friend and he knows what makes us tick," said CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, "I'm sure we will have a lot of fun and success together."
That's all well and good but doesn't do anything for Leverkusen, naturally, who was initially pretty confident it could extend the veteran manager's existing one-year contract before the end of this season. Heynckes, 65, has done a fine job at the BayArena. He has put the team on course for a first Champions League participation since 2003 and could yet win the league, a late collapse by leaders Borussia Dortmund (seven points clear) permitting.
In Robin Dutt of SC Freiburg, the club owned by the pharmaceutical firm, Bayer has already secured a very able successor but it's obvious that Heynckes will be missed. If Leverkusen fail to make progress next season, its supporters are likely to blame Bayern's poaching of the coach. There are two more immediate issues, however. How will the team react to his imminent departure, will his authority suffer? And doesn't this job change represent a grave conflict of interest? Bayern is currently in fourth place, seven points behind Leverkusen, who it will meet in two week's time. It's worth remembering that only the top three German sides can get into the Champions League (a fourth place becomes available again in 2012-13). As Gabriele Marcotti noted in an article for The Times, "(Heynckes) doing his best for Leverkusen could result in him not managing Bayern in the Champions' League next season, and with a reduced transfer and wage budget to boot. The stakes are huge."
It's a little too early to speculate on the changing room dynamics but probably safe to assume that the appeal of achieving Leverkusen's worthy targets will outweigh any "lame duck" effect. The conflict of interest question is less straightforward, however, even if Leverkusen has made light of the news. "Jupp Heynckes will do his utmost to make sure we achieve our goals, that's obvious to me and anyone else," said Bayer sporting director Rudi Völler.
Heynckes' impeccable track record in the game makes it all but inconceivable that he could somehow sabotage Bayer's campaign in coming weeks. This, after all, is a man who reacted to his dismissal at Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2007 by returning his company car freshly washed and with a full tank. Furthermore, the transparency of the decision will only increase the scrutiny on his work and counter the arguments of conspiracy theorists, who tend to thrive on secrecy.
Heynckes will surely try to get into the Champions League and claim the personal bonus payment that comes with it. In fact, the complete of lack restrictions on managerial movements -- unlike players, they can change whenever and as often as they like -- suggests that the authorities generally don't believe coaches are capable (in a moral sense) to harm their current clubs with a view to future engagements. But that is not to say that a conflict of interest doesn't exist. In this particular case, it's actually a very real one, albeit in a slightly different manner than Marcotti outlined: Heynckes could well be instrumental in weakening Leverkusen's squad for 2011-12 by taking its best player -- Arturo Vidal -- with him.
The highly-rated Chilean midfielder (9 goals and 9 assists in the league) is widely believed to feature on Munich's shopping list, along with Schalke 04 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Benfica left back Fábio Coentrăo and half a dozen center backs. This week, Vidal, who is out of contract in 2012, helpfully put himself in contention. "Every player would like to play for Bayern", the 23-year-old was quoted by the Chilean press. "I will consider this issue." And Heynckes will do the same, despite protestations ("I don't talk about Bayern until July") to the opposite effect. Völler, wary of the imminent threat, has already dismissed any chance of Vidal leaving, in classic he-doth-protest-too-much style. "Jupp is totally correct, a true sportsman," he said. "He would never take one of our players".
Völler's statement sounds suspiciously like whistling in the dark. The 50-year-old former Germany international knows there is little he can do beyond extracting the best price for his asset if Bayern really do come calling. To make matters worse, Vidal has been Heynckes' favorite protégé and is in a position to get assurances about playing time next season.
For his part, the coach will no doubt argue that morality doesn't quite come into it when transfers are concerned. There's an obvious food chain in club soccer, and countless managers have brought players with them over the decades, often to the financial benefit of their former employers. Heynckes' conflict of interest in relation to Vidal will thus ultimately matter far less than the player's sales tag. At the same time, Bayern will have to reacquaint with the less attractive side of Bimbyism in relation to the Neuer transfer, too: it tends comes at a very inflated price.