Bayern to beat United? Munich men are not even the best side in Germany
12 March 2009 02:17
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Liverpool were not the only ones to win at a canter in the Champions' League this week, with Bayern Munich recording an even greater landslide after demolishing Sporting Lisbon 7-1 for an incredible 12-1 overall margin.
Manager Jurgen Klinsmann was understandably euphoric, after the ultimate exhibition of German efficiency, and claimed his side had sent out a
message to the rest of Europe.
Presumably one announcing that Bayern are finally back at the level that put them among Manchester United's most respected, if not exactly feared, Champions' League rivals in the days of Ottmar Hitzfeld.
There are those close to the Allianz Arena who would take issue with any such suggestion and argue that Bayern's last-16 scoring spree was a one-off against the poorest Sporting side in recent history.
Tuesday's return leg was described by one observer as being 'like a training session', and it evidently did little to paper over cracks that have opened up alarmingly this season.
The Bundesliga title is considered Bayern property within Munich,yet Germany's biggest club trail leaders Hertha Berlin by four pointsand are neck-and-neck with two others in the race to catch them.
Worryingly for Klinsmann, as he attempts to close the gap, theesteem in which he was held as national coach has vanished withouttrace during his eight months as Bayern boss.
According to sources close to the club, he is too cold and detached for a Munich public who have yet to accept him as worthy of Bavaria's most important sporting post.
If a slightly aloof air was considered entirely suitable for leading his country into a World Cup on home soil, it has not gone down well at club level.
Neither has referring to California as home, or appointing an assistant, in Mexican Martin Vasquez, who speaks no German and relies on the players understanding his English when he addresses them.
Bayern's power base of Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness are standing by their man and will take no action until the end of the season at the earliest, for all the claims that Klinsmann is close to the sack.
Even so, a meeting with relegation-threatened Bochum this weekend represents another banana skin, with many Bayern followers evidently hoping to see him flat on his face.
The mood is such among Bayern supporters that the blame for any defeat is placed squarely at Klinsmann's door, while nights like Tuesday are overwhelmingly seen as a triumph for the players.
Klinsmann is single-minded enough not to worry unduly, but, after signing a contract for only two years last summer, he could opt to walk away at the end of the season, if he senses antagonism towards him is getting out of hand.
He has never been one to outstay his welcome, and the signs have hardly encouraged him to explore ways of extending his stay.
He is in charge of a team with glaring weaknesses in key arears. Even Beckenbauer admitted the right of midfield was 'a disaster', while an injury to Luca Toni has left them short of firepower.
Lukas Podolski scored twice on Tuesday night but is already savouring a return to Cologne in the summer, while Miroslav Klose's team ethic hardly makes up for his lack of goals.
He was on the scoresheet against the hapless Portuguese but only courtesy of a penalty. It doesn't get much better for Klinsmann in the transfer market.
He took Landon Donovan on loan from LA Galaxy earlier this season and was so impressed, he looked into ways of making the signing permanent.
Galaxy chiefs gave their consent, but Bayern's did not.
Rumminegge and Hoeness weighed Donovan's worth against an asking price of eight million euros and decided not to proceed.
Just imagine how Rafa Benitez might have responded to that. Klinsmann wasn't exactly overjoyed, but he insists whoever draws Bayern in the quarter-finals will have their work cut out progressing any further.
'We wanted to send out a signal to the rest of Europe, and that is what we did against Sporting,' he said.
'There are 10 weeks ahead of us this season, and everything is possible now, in Europe and domestically. I would like to be at home again in the second leg, but it doesn't matter too much - I think we have shown we can be a match for anyone.'