Thursday, November 20, 2014

FC Bayern München

Sports Illustrated – “Inside the Superclubs: How Bayern Munich emerged as a world power”
By Grant Wahl

"But playing style is another matter, and by moving from the Spanish to the German soccer culture, Guardiola has embarked on a journey not unlike Picasso’s from the Blue Period to the Rose Period. At Barcelona, Guardiola presided over the apotheosis of tiki-taka, employing short passes to dominate possession, move slowly downfield and suffocate opponents. In the season before Guardiola’s arrival, Bayern had won everything with a more traditional German approach, relying on superior athleticism and blistering counterattacks after defending mostly in its own end of the field.

Guardiola, who learned to speak German before his move, argues that he now has to be the one to change, that he can’t simply graft tiki-taka onto Bayern’s DNA.

“I have to adapt to the players,” he says. “Of course I have an idea [of what I want to do], but when you talk about tactics, we have to talk about the skills of our players. You have to analyze your talent and make an agreement together. That is the best way for the team.”

Yes, Guardiola has made changes. He brought in Thiago Alcântara, a promising young midfielder, from Barcelona. And he stunned Bayern followers last year by moving Lahm, arguably the world’s best right back, to the central midfield. He called Lahm “the most intelligent player I have ever coached”—no small statement from someone who has managed Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta—and the switch worked. Likewise, Guardiola asked goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to become more of a “sweeper keeper,” venturing far outside his goal to patrol the back and allow Bayern’s defensive line to play higher up the field.

“[Guardiola] changed the way we defend and attack a little bit,” says Müller. “With Heynckes . . . we played more directly to the goal, with more risk but a bit less control. Now we want to play the whole game in the half of the opponent, defend and attack there. Attack with control.”

That’s the buzzword: control. “The coach is pretty simple,” says Lahm. “He wants control over the game. Preferably for the full 90 minutes.”

The result has been a fusion of styles that may well represent the Next Step in an ever-evolving sport, especially now that the tiki-taka era appears to be waning. “I think it’s a really good mix of the Barcelona style and the Bavarian style,” says Schweinsteiger. “In Germany you have the running and never giving up. For me, the first step is to have your own tradition, and then mix it a little bit with the Spanish or Barcelona soccer. We are Germany, you know?"

Also of note:

"In most ways, modern European soccer is noted for its unfettered capitalism, for the absence of salary caps and for the runaway ticket prices that are the norm in the wildly successful English Premier League. But German clubs still keep costs low for at least some of the seats in their stadiums. At Bayern, season tickets can still be purchased for as little as $180.

“If you’re a poor guy but you’re a Bayern Munich supporter, then our goal has always been to give you the possibility to go to the stadium to watch a Bayern Munich game,” says Rummenigge. “In the southern stands, for example, you pay around [$19]. We could charge three times that price, but we feel there is a kind of social responsibility.” "

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