An apocryphal quote generally credited to FC Bayern München general manager Uli Hoeness goes: "A year in which we do not have to change the letterhead is a lost year." Sadly for the Bavarian titans, 2008/09 was one of those years.
With Bayern losing their Bundesliga title to VfL Wolfsburg and failing to hit the heights in the UEFA Champions League and German Cup, the appointment of the inexperienced Jürgen Klinsmann proved to be a bold mistake. However, with caretaker coach Jupp Heynckes having given way to Dutchman Louis van Gaal, the club hope that they have begun to make amends as they returned to training.
The 57-year-old Van Gaal boasts the top-level European club coaching experience that was missing from Klinsmann's CV. Having taken charge of his first side, AFC Ajax in 1991 – and won the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League with the Dutch oufit – Van Gaal then moved on to FC Barcelona and is renowned as a tactical mastermind. As new Bayern sporting director Christian Nerlinger put it: "No one in the world can teach him anything when it comes to tactics."
Bayern have always been known for their confidence, and Van Gaal seems to fit in perfectly in that respect. "Bayern München's culture suits me," he said after his first training session on Wednesday. "Self-confident, arrogant, dominant, honest, industrious, innovative but warm and family-like as well; I can identify with those traits, so I believe I fit in here."
Van Gaal can only hope his raft of new signings will fit in just as well. Germany striker Mario Gómez has come from VfB Stuttgart for a reported fee of €30m, while holding midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk arrived from FC Zenit St. Petersburg. Hamburger SV's Ivica Olić will add to Bayern's attacking options and midfielder Danijel Pranjić, who Bayern picked up from SC Heerenveen, is very versatile.
As a left-back or central defender, Dutchman Edson Braafheid – late of FC Twente - should boost Bayern's options, while 22-year-old midfielder Alexander Baumjohann is rated as an important prospect, having come from VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach. All six newcomers trained with Bayern today, as did French superstar Franck Ribéry, still being courted by some of Europe's biggest clubs.
Plea for time
"I always want to make history and have done this with every club I have coached so far," Van Gaal said. "Our model has to be Barcelona. They have good footballers, as we do, but they work as a team." He added: "We have to form a team. That will take time. It can't be done in a month, but might take two years. I would be glad to get through the first two months unscathed. I hope you will trust me."
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