Bayern faces summer of change
Bayern fans have apologized after Arjen Robben was booed in a friendly
Winger Robben might be forced to reconsider his future at the club
Bayern is looking to make a splash in the summer transfer market
Bayern Munich bounced back from its Champions League final defeat with a 3-2 friendly win over the Netherlands on Tuesday night. The upshot was anything but therapeutic, however: Winger Arjen Robben, whose injury in the 2010 World Cup had precipitated the match -- the Dutch agreed to play at the Allianz Areny by way of compensation for the club -- was booed by sections of the crowd. Other supporters tried to drown out the jeers with applause but the whistling was very audible still. "Some fans were obviously disappointed that Arjen only played for the Netherlands, not in a Bayern shirt, after the final defeat," ventured executive chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, "but that doesn't give anyone the right to jeer one of our players. We are astonished, irritated and disappointed [with that reaction]." Bayern's shock was genuine enough but the explanation is not. Robben, it seems, was specifically scapegoated for the defeat by Chelsea; the hostile reception seemed quite independent of the shirt he was wearing. "FC Bayern should be ashamed of itself, Arjen didn't deserve that," said his Dutch team mate Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham), "it's embarrassing." Elftal captain Mark van Bommel agreed. "It's scandalous," said van Bommel. "If I was him, I'd think very carefully if I wanted to play here next season."
Many Bayern fans were just as puzzled and embarrassed by what they witnessed. "We've had plenty of reaction from our supporters this morning," said Rummenigge, "they wanted to apologize to Arjen Robben on behalf of those who whistled." There were unsubstantiated, somewhat implausible rumors that fans from rivals 1860 Munich had taken advantage of the cheap ticket prices to frequent the game while other commentators thought the blame lay with people who were not regular Bayern viewers and too easily swayed by a wave of anti-Robben opinion in the media after his penalty miss. Either way, Tuesday night ensured that these particular bad vibes will continue to linger over the summer. Robben's hasn't looked entirely happy in the Bavarian capital despite his recent contract extension (until 2015). There were even whispers that the club itself would have seriously entertained selling him for the right offer.
At least four weeks of renewed speculation about the 28-year-old's future is the last thing the club needed after the traumatic Chelsea defeat saw them finish as runners-up in three competitions. A second consecutive trophy-less season has spurned the club into action and could well "radicalize the transfer policy," as Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote. "We have to change a few things, that's clear to me," said coach Jupp Heynckes on Tuesday, "we want to add quality to the squad, both in terms of depth as well as excellence". Heynckes seemed to implicitly confirm Bayern's reported interest in Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez, 23. "We missed Bastian Schweinsteiger during the season (when he was injured)," said the 67-year-old Heynckes. "We have to think about getting another top midfielder." A move for the €20M-rated Martinez could well be on the cards since Bayern's preferred option, Turkish international Nuri Sahin, is willing to tough it out for another year at Real Madrid.
The Munich club has already signed Gladbach's central defender Dante and attacking midfielder Xerdan Shaqiri but the Chelsea game has reinforced the need for another striker. Indications are that the club might settle for a cheap, "in-house" solution in that respect: Sporting director Christian Nerlinger admitted that Bayern was close to agreeing a deal with Claudia Pizarro, 33. The Werder Bremen striker is out of contract and knows his way around the Allianz Arena after a six-year spell (2001-2007). The prospective deal is perhaps not what Bayern supporters were hoping for but it is indicative of a strongly-felt dilemma. In theory, Bayern does want to splash out on a striker who can put pressure on Mario Gomez but the club is both unwilling to meet the demands of the likes of Man City's Edin Dzeko, who has been offered to them, and wary of the effect another top class striker would have on the dressing room dynamic. The 4-2-3-1 system only leaves room for a single forward; consequently, one big name would find himself on the bench. In Gomez's case, this is seen as a particular grave complication: the 26-year-old can suffer from a lack of confidence. That's also part of the reason why the interest in Montpellier forward Olivier Giroud has come to nothing.
In days gone by, Bayern would have solved the problem easily: it would have simply bought the best domestic option. That's Robert Lewandowski, naturally, the man who made the difference for Borussia Dortmund this season. Bayern did indeed make an inquiry, but the German double winners were adamant that the Polish striker, contracted until 2014, will not be sold at any price. An offer from Manchester United has reportedly also been turned down by the Black and Yellows.
Bayern is likely to monitor Gomez's performances at the Euros before making a final decision on adding another world class forward. At least the left back position doesn't look like a pressing problem anymore in the wake of David Alaba's development.
Whatever happens in the transfer market won't address the biggest issue, however. Twenty harmless corners in the Champions League final and the obvious randomness of Bayern's attacking play testify to a lack of detailed coaching. Heynckes is more of a psychologist, he doesn't believe in the sort of obsessive attention to detail that's the hallmark of younger men like Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp. Bayern seems to be determined to give Heynckes another year before it plumps for a more modern, conceptual coach but a more drastic, sudden change can no longer ruled out. Heynckes certainly seemed very tired, disillusioned even on Tuesday and chose ambiguous phrases when asked about his future. "We will plan the next season together," he said, adding that he had a contract until 2013. "If something changes, FC Bayern will announce it," he said.
Local tabloid Abendzeitung wasn't the only media outlet who felt that his statements sounded a bit strange. "Isn't he quite sure any more himself?" it wondered. For Bayern, it's shaping up for a long, hot summer of disquiet either way. But that's nothing new, of course. It's the price you have to pay when you're convinced that second-best is the end of the world.