Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Soccer Memories, Part 24-Bayern Munich Crisis of 1991/92: The return of Beckenbauer and Rummenigge

The 1991/92 season will go down in history as one of Bayern Munich’s worst seasons in recent memory.
It was not just the fact that the team played poorly but also rather everything else that went on and off the field during this forgettable season.
Bayern under Manager Jupp Heynckes had won the Bundesliga title in 1989 and 1990, but had finished runners-up the previous season to a surprising Kaiserslautern squad.
The omens were not good even before the season had started.
Despite having won two titles, Heynckes’ position had been weakened by the failure to win the title the previous season.
Furthermore, the team had been decimated by the loss of three key defensive players, all 1990 World Cup winners. Libero and Captain Klaus Aughentaler retired after sixteen years of loyal service. While stopper Jurgen Kohler and Defender/Midfielder Stefan Reuter were jointly transferred to Juventus.
Bayern were unable to compensate these losses despite the arrival of a number of promising players.
International defender Thomas Berthold arrived from AS Roma after a four-year spell in Italy. Oliver Kreuzer arrived from Karlsruhe as a replacement for Kohler. Striker Bruno Labbadia arrived from recent Champions Kaiserslautern. The Brazilian pair of defender Bernardo (Sao Paulo) and striker Mazinho II (Bragantino) completed the reinforcements.
Goalkeeper Raimond Aumann was appointed as the new Captain following Aughentaler’s retirement, but he would endure injuries that would limit his appearances to a mere 13 matches.
The 1991/92 season was the first season where Germany was unified and featured former East German clubs.
 With the integration of the top placed Eastern clubs, instead of the usual 18, the Bundesliga featured 20 teams for that season only.
As always Bayern started out as one of the favorites but it was soon becoming obvious that the team was not clicking.
They started the season in poor fashion and were off the pace from early on with many players out injured.
They were also reports of controversial midfielder Stefan Effenberg feuding with Heynckes. Effenberg was in fact booed everywhere, even when lining up for the National Team.

Photo From: World Soccer, March 1992
(Stefan Effenberg)

The goalkeeping situation was even more alarming. Early season injuries had deprived Bayern of both starter Raimond Aumann (Cruciate Ligament) and back up Sven Scheuer (Shoulder Injury). Therefore Bayern was left with untried and inexperienced Gerald Hillringhaus and Uwe Gospodarek from the Amateur side.
This emergency forced the Bayern management to coax the former West German International Harald Schumacher out of retirement on September 3rd to provide backup for Hillringhaus until Aumann could recover.
Schumacher managed to play 8 matches that season.

Photo From: World Soccer, December 1991
(Gerald Hillringhaus and Harald Schumacher)

Jupp Heynckes was sacked on October 8th, three days after a home loss (1 to 4) to Stuttgart Kickers. This was Bayern’s fourth loss in 12 matches.
His position had already been weak after the Cup elimination vs. Second Division Homburg at home (2 to 4 loss).
His replacement was somewhat of a surprise. Thirty-Three Year Old Soren Lerby, the former Danish National Team and Bayern (1983/86) star was chosen on October 9th. He had no coaching experience and was chosen merely for his past as a player for the club. He did not even possess the Coaching License required by the Bundesliga, therefore (Licensed) Youth Team coach Hermann Gerland managed at his side.

Photo From: World Soccer, November 1991
(Soren Lerby and Bayern Chairman Dr. Fritz Scherer)

In a bid to save Bayern from this crisis, Chairman Dr. Fritz Scherer invited former legends Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to join the board as Executive Vice Presidents on October 16th.
The additions of Beckenbauer and Rummenigge to the board, as well as the presence of Uli Hoeness, who had been General Manager for a decade now, formed a council of old hands who were now in a position to make decisions for transfer policy and overall club policy.

Photo From: World Soccer, December 1991
(Uli Hoeness, Franz Beckenbauer, Dr. Fritz Scherer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge)

Former Star Gerd Muller was also brought in as scout after being discharged from an Alcohol Rehabilitation Clinic. He had been suffering from Alcoholism and financial woes and clearly needed help. This was a rare act of sentiment by a club otherwise known for its cold and ruthless efficiency.
Lerby’s appointment did not help matters on the field and the team slipped further off the pace with no visible sign of recovery.
On October 15th, the Bayern management even asked Klaus Aughentaler to come out of retirement to help the team, but he refused the request.
With the team seemingly in a free fall, the Bayern management made two signings in November to steady the ship and specifically help its weakest point, the defense.
From Ajax Amsterdam came tough Dutch midfielder Jan Wouters, who was out of favor with new appointed Manager Louis van Gaal.
Defender Alois Reinhardt was also signed from Bayer Leverkusen.
Brazilian defender Bernardo had been a disappointment and was transferred back.
Under Lerby Bayern lost its first two matches vs. Title contenders Stuttgart and Dortmund. Four more losses would follow in the next 15 matches.
Further embarrassment would follow after Bayern was not only eliminated from the UEFA Cup by little known Danish Club ‘BK 1903’, but did so by losing (2 to 6) on the first leg on October 23rd. The Second Leg on November 6th was always going to be an uphill struggle and the win by the most minimum margin (1 to 0) was mere consolation.
The final straw was a heavy loss (0 to 4) vs. Kaiserslautern in March and Lerby was dismissed as well.
As his replacement, Bayern appointed experienced Manager Erich Ribbeck on March 11th.
Despite winning 5 matches in the last eleven matches, Bayern also lost 5 matches under his command.
But the team was in such disarray that perhaps no manager could have saved them.

Photo From: World Soccer, April 1992
(Erich Ribbeck)

Bayern was plagued with so many injuries and loss of form that only three players (Kreuzer, Berthold and Effenberg) managed to notch up 30 or more appearances.
These problems restricted the appearances of regulars such as Danish International Brian Laudrup (16 matches), as well as Olaf Thon (25 matches), Thomas Strunz (12 matches), Hans Pflugler (11 matches) and Roland Grahammer (16 matches).
Others such as Bruno Labbadia, Christian Ziege, Scottish striker Alan McInally were all injured at some point during the season.
There was such disarray that during this season as many as five players were tried as Libero (Berthold, Ziege, Wouters, Reinhardt, Strunz) without much success.
Ribbeck did enough to keep his position for the following couple of seasons.
In the end, Bayern finished in a disgraceful 10th position, with a total of 15 losses (7 of them at home). This was their worst position since 1977/78th season.
This was the first time Bayern had not qualified for Europe since 1978/79 season.
The midseason acquisition of Wouters had been one of Bayern’s few satisfactions for this otherwise nightmarish season.
A new team overhaul was required to put Bayern back in its customary position at the top.
They now also had to contend with the new ambitious Borussia Dortmund who were willing and capable to challenge Bayern in the Transfer market.
To get back on track Bayern made many ambitious signings for the following season. Brazilian defender Jorginho and German International Thomas Helmer arrived from Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
Future International midfielder Mehmet Scholl (Karlsruhe) and Markus Schupp (Kaiserlautern) strengthened the midfield.
More importantly a month or so into the new season, former Midfielder and then current German Captain Lothar Matthaus returned to the fold.
To make way, Brian Laudrup and Stefan Effenberg were jointly transferred to Fiorentina. Others to leave were Manfred Bender and Thomas Strunz (though Strunz returned 3 years later).
In the following seasons Bayern slowly clawed its way back to the top and were Champions in 1994.
Uli Hoeness would publicly state that Heynckess firing in 1991 was the worst mistake he ever made after Heynckes had returned to Bayern and led them to a historic treble (Bundesliga, DfB Pokal and Champions League) on 2013.
The main positive aspect of that season was that the crisis brought back Beckenbauer and Rummenigge. The Bayern model of placing former players in executive positions has been the key to their success to this day.
They did not come as figureheads, but actively participated in hiring, firing of coaches and player transfers. They demanded excellence and results and were not afraid to criticize players in public to get results.

Countless League titles and two Champions League triumphs are a testimony to their input.

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