BERLIN (Reuters) - Bayern Munich are again living up to their FC Hollywood tag, as a combination of lacklustre performances, public disagreements and talk of a successor to coach Carlo Ancelotti has provided an abundance of early-season drama.
Bayern’s start to the season has not been particularly bad with two wins and a defeat in the Bundesliga, and a 3-0 win over Anderlecht in the Champions League on Tuesday.
But expectations are so high at the Bavarian club that even a minor slip-up, or failure to score five or six goals against supposedly inferior opponents, causes headlines.
Forward Thomas Mueller was the first to wash his laundry in public when he complained about being left out of the starting line-up for the match against Werder Bremen three weeks ago.
Then it was Robert Lewandowski’s turn. In a magazine interview, the Polish forward criticised Bayern’s refusal to match the huge transfer fees splashed out by the likes of Paris St Germain and Barcelona.
“If you want to compete at the top, you need to have these quality players,” he said.
Lewandowski was criticised by Bayern’s chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who in turn was questioned by the club president Uli Hoeness.
Rummenigge, like Hoeness a former Bayern player, said the club had a “serious and successful philosophy that has brought us big success.” He regretted Lewandowski’s comments.
But Hoeness felt that players should be able to think for themselves and suggested that Rummenigge had over-reacted.
In the midst of all that, Bayern were humbled 2-0 by Hoffenheim last Saturday, increasing the pressure on former Real Madrid and Chelsea coach Ancelotti whose first season was regarded as underwhelming despite retaining the Bundesliga.
Former Bayern Munich midfielder Mario Basler said in a television interview that his sources had told him that Ancelotti would cut short his contract in January and go to work in China - something the Italian quickly brushed aside.
“I prefer to speak about serious things, but that’s a joke,” he said.
The win over Anderlecht, although comfortable, failed to ease the pressure as Bayern’s performance was considered insufficient against opponents who had Sven Kums sent off after 10 minutes.
Forward Arjen Robben admitted it was not good enough. “We have to question ourselves. We have to talk about this and we have to improve it,” he said.
Hoffenheim’s coach Julian Nagelsmann inadvertently stirred things up further by giving a television interview where he said that coaching Bayern would make him even happier than he was now and that his wife and children were planning to move to Munich.
As German media talked of flirtation, Nagelsmann said in a subsequent statement that he had been misinterpreted and was not after Ancelotti’s job.
He said he had merely been talking about a lifelong ambition.
In the midst of the intrigue, the home match with Mainz 05 on Saturday seems almost incidental.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Pritha Sarkar