“If Borussia Dortmund can’t stop Bayern Munich from winning everything, who can?”
That’s what soccer fans around the world are wondering after visiting Bayern beat Dortmund 3-0 at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday. If winning last season’s Bundesliga (German first division), DFB-Pokal (German Cup) and UEFA Champions League hadn’t confirmed Bayern’s supremacy, beating rival Dortmund for the first time in six attempts — dating back to February 2010 — surely did.
The wave Bayern rode to glory in 2012-13 under now retired head coach Juup Heynckes is showing no signs of receding under Heynckes’ successor, Pep Guardiola, whose methods and tweaks have helped Bayern go undefeated in three competitions so far this season and break Hamburg’s record unbeaten streak of 36 Bundesliga games earlier this month. Winning the FIFA Club World Cup next month in Morocco appears to be a mere formality, and Bayern will likely finish 2013 secure in the knowledge that no one can stop them.
At least, that’s how it looked after the final whistle on Saturday. By Sunday, the mood in the Bayern camp had changed after Guardiola responded to reports that a “mole” had leaked confidential information regarding Bayern’s tactics and player selections to German newspaper Bild during the lead-up to the Dortmund game. Guardiola vowed to discover the mole’s identity — a Bayern player is believed to be the culprit — and give him the stiffest of punishments, according to the Guardian.
“It does not matter who it is, heads will roll,” Bild reports Guardiola told his players after the game. “I will throw him out. He will not play under me again.”
Speaking to a larger audience than Guardiola’s, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge followed up with a less forceful warning, which revealed some interesting details, according to Sky Sports.
“Of course something like this is not to Pep Guardiola’s liking,” Rummenigge told Sky Germany. “The coach is training behind closed doors at times for a reason and it’s obvious that it’s not something which pleases anybody.
“Somebody clearly thinks they’re gaining an advantage through revealing information.
“We’re not going to consult with the NSA [National Security Agency] to find out via the United States who it is, but I would advise whoever it is to stop or else they’re going to get in really big trouble, not only with Pep but with the whole club.”
The brewing scandal doesn’t bode well for Guardiola. His three-year contract suggests that he’s not in Germany to oversee a long-term project but to lay the foundation for the Bavarian superclub’s near-term future. His remit is to sustain the success of recent seasons, promote and develop Bayern’s next great core group and, if there’s time, marry Spanish soccer’s flair with the high-tempo efficiency of the German game to create a new style of play that the rest of the world will fear and admire.
Like any top manager, Guardiola needs total control of his dressing room and the unwavering support of his bosses to fulfill such a tall order. Having less than 100 percent of either makes his job much harder. He has yet to reach the halfway point of his first season as Bayern’s head coach and someone is already undermining his authority in a very public way. While Guardiola was quick to address the issue with his team and the press, the mole story won’t simply fade away. It would be no surprise if the leaks continue in the coming weeks, and Guardiola will devote more time and energy toward ridding his dressing room of the mole instead of winning every game Bayern plays at home and abroad.
Either I’m misinterpreting German humor, or Rummenigge was being a flippant about the Bayern mole. His “NSA” line is funny, but it makes light of the most serious challenge Guardiola has faced at Bayern to date. He could have publicly pledged to use every method the club has at its disposal to identify and punish the leaker but chose not to. Whether he has done or will do so in private talks with Guardiola is unknown, but his comments don’t suggest that he intends to do so.
Guardiola can’t take the mole issue lightly, as the leaks can have an uncontrollably destabilizing effect on any club (particularly the biggest and most heavily scrutinized ones). He undoubtedly saw how a dressing-room mole doomed Jose Mourinho‘s reign at Real Madrid. Mourinho had an argument with Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas during a closed practice late in the 2011-12 season, and a word-for-word account of it appeared in Spanish newspaper Marca the next day. A furious Mourinho sought to identify and punish the mole, but it simply started a process which saw him fall out with many high-profile senior players within the next nine months. Before stepping down after the 2012-13 season, Mourinho reportedly said “it’s a politics issue. I cannot continue in Madrid.”
Like most big clubs, factions exist within Bayern Munich’s walls. These groups compete for influence — both on the field and off it– and their conflicts sometimes play out in public. Meanwhile, tabloids and gossip columns feast on details of the private lives of Bayern’s players and staff. The constant drama surrounding Bayern Munich gave birth to a new nickname that has stuck to the the German superclub for two decades: “FC Hollywood.”
Heynckes managed to keep a lid on Bayern’s dirty little open secret in 2012-13, but infighting has reared its ugly head once again under Guardiola. Bayern’s most successful coaches marshal fluid alliances and master the political aspect of life at the club. Guardiola must do so as well, or he’ll find himself leading FC Hollywood in no time. Surely, that’s not what he signed up for.
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