To truly comprehend the magnitude of Bayern Munich’s 2020, you must cast your thoughts back a bit into 2019 – when a change in personnel change laid the groundwork.
After Bayern had been embarrassed 5-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 10, head coach Niko Kovac was shown the door. On November 4, 2019, assistant coach Hansi Flick was promoted to head coach on a caretaker basis. Nobody at Bayern’s Säbener Strasse head office could have imagined what a sustained run of success they were about to embark upon.
“When he took over in November 2019, it was as if someone had turned on the light switch and the entire club embarked upon on a success story named Hansi Flick,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would later say.
Indeed, what followed was a season of superlatives for Bayern Munich, culminating in the winning of the treble of Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League. And Bayern have hardly skipped a beat since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
“It’s incredible that a coach who had never been a head coach in the Bundesliga, along with his staff, was able to deliver so much success. And that’s not that easy to do at Bayern Munich,” Michael Rummenigge told DW. “It was an extraordinary year, most closely associated with the name Hansi Flick,”
Hitting the ground running aver the COVID-19 enforced break
Michael Rummenigge, the younger brother of Karl-Heinz, is a former Bayern forward and West Germany international, and he knows Hansi Flick particularly well, having been his teammate at the club in the mid-1980s. Michael, Flick and Lothar Matthäus were the youngsters on that Bayern team and they hung out together a lot.
“Hansi was very quiet and never complained, even when he wasn’t in the lineup. Something must have been simmering inside him back then, which didn’t emerge for a very long time,” Rummenigge said. “I certainly didn’t expect such success from him, but he surprised all of us.”
Now, having been given a contract that runs until the end of the 2022-23 season, Flick has the time to fully mold Bayern in his own image.
“There are three points that I always stress; loyalty and trust; everyone needs that. But you also require a certain quality,” Flick says of his coaching philosophy.
And this approach has been working. Flick has turned an unsettled squad into a team brimming with self-confidence and harmony. Not just that, but he and his assistants managed last season’s coronavirus-imposed break better than virtually any other coaching staff. Bayern’s players came out of the forced interlude fitter than any other team – and subsequently overwhelmed many an opponent.
“It’s never been as much fun to play in a team as it is now,” said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after Bayern won the Champions League final in Lisbon.
It’s something you probably wouldn’t have heard from a Bayern star in the past – as the club was long regarded as a gathering place for star players who put their individual interests first.
“He has found the key to unlock the players. When you see the development Thomas Müller has undergone, it simply speaks to Hansi’s quality,” said Michael Rummenigge. “He has developed a great trust between himself and the players. And when players feel that they are trusted, sometimes the unexpected happens.”
In addition, Flick has put his faith in an established axis in the squad. In Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Müller and Robert Lewandowski, the coach has key veterans who are willing to take responsibility on the pitch.
“You’ll have to look hard and long to find their equal,” Rummenigge said.
Long list of records set
And how did Flick’s players repay the trust he placed in them? The following are just a few indications:
Bayern Munich became the first club to win all of their matches in a Champions League season.
Bayern set two new records for the second half of a season by taking 49 of a possible 51 points and compiling a goal difference of +44.
On average, Bayern scored 3.1 goals per Bundesliga match under Hansi Flick – another record.
Bayern went unbeaten for 30 competitive games – also a German record.
This list is by no means complete.
The individual records are also impressive. Flick won 88% of his Bundesliga games in his first season, the highest win-rate ever for a coach in the league. Müller provided 21 assists, also setting a record. With 34 goals, Robert Lewandowski scored the most goals by a non-German in a single Bundesliga season. Joshua Kimmich ran a total of 397.9 kilometers (247 miles) during the past season (an average of 12.7 kilometers per game), the longest distance covered during a single campaign in the Bundesliga.
With five wins and one draw, Bayern continued their winning streak in the Champions League this season, reaching the round-of-16 with ease. In the Bundesliga, they have not been invincible, not least due to the packed football calendar and injuries to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka: yet they remain the favorite to win a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title.
“Bayern Munich have rarely been so admired for their style of play as they were in 2020,” CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has observed.
And Hansi Flick continues down his path undeterred.
Adaptation: Chuck Penfold