There was a touch of Beethoven about Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as he strode out of the Stade Gerland following FC Bayern München's 1-1 draw with Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Champions League on Matchday 3.
Spring in his step
He may not have the wild hair or the musical genius, but the way the Bayern chairman has helped to orchestrate his side into a major European force again has certainly put a spring in Rummenigge's step as the German champions prepare to welcome Lyon for Wednesday's home return.
Last season Rummenigge, now chairman at the Olympiastadion, was cursing Bayern as they grappled against seemingly impossible odds to keep their pride intact. Alarmingly for a club of Bayern's size, they failed to muster a single victory in the Champions League last year, bowing out at the first group stage.
Life has been much rosier in 2003. The Bavarians stormed to the German title and lead Champions League Group A at the halfway stage with an unbeaten record, playing the type of football which Rummenigge believes could see them repeat their Champions League victory of 2000/01.
"They still have a long way to go before they can start thinking about winning the tournament," the former European Footballer of the Year told uefa.com. "But
Ottmar Hitzfeld has got a brilliant squad of players, playing the kind of football which will make them one of the top contenders to win the tournament."
Bayern showed their mental strength when they came from behind to beat Celtic FC on Matchday 1, and draws at RSC Anderlecht and Lyon ensued, leaving them needing only to win their remaining home games to advance to the last 16. But why does Rummenigge believe the 2003 model is so much better than last year's?
"There are two major differences," admitted Rummenigge. "Firstly, we have brought in Roy Makaay. He has slotted into the side superbly and is one of the best finishers ever to come to the club. Secondly, we now employ a system which sees us punish opponents at home and makes us very tough to break down away from home. Sometimes it is not pretty but it is certainly effective."
The Bayern train is spluttering a little in the Bundesliga after a weekend defeat by FC Schalke 04, but given the unpredictability of the domestic season so far the six-point gap between themselves and leaders VfB Stuttgart is hardly unassailable.
Of all the club's players, Rummenigge is delighted with one in particular. "When people think of Bayern they automatically think of Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn but, as someone who has watched every game this season,
I believe Sebastian Deisler has been our best player," he said. "He scores goals, is an excellent passer and is devastating from free-kicks - he is certainly my kind of player."
Deisler, who missed the 2002 FIFA World Cup with a knee injury, has been in wonderful form this term, and looks likely to emerge as a key figure in Germany's plans for UEFA EURO 2004™. "His performances this season will certainly have impressed Rudi Völler," said Rummenigge. "Sebastian has become an integral part of both the Bayern and the German team.
'A big star'
"He was tipped to be a big star for many years and we are finally seeing him fulfil his potential," added the former international. "If Sebastian and all our other top players are on their game then Germany will be a major force next year."
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