Bayern Munich after Carlo Ancelotti: Is a change of philosophy required?

When Carlo Ancelotti was appointed, Bayern Munich were keen to break with the Pep Guardiola era. Firing the Italian leaves them at a tactical and ideological crossroads. DW's Matt Ford looks at where they go now.

Paris Saint-Germain's demolition of Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday night didn't just spell the end of the road for coach Carlo Ancelotti; it has also thrown up more existential questions over the future direction of Bayern Munich and German football as a whole.

What went wrong tactically under Ancelotti? Is Bayern's transfer policy to blame? How can Bayern compete with Qatari-owned PSG? Indeed, how can any German clubs match the financial might of a sovereign state while the 50+1 rule continues to discourage outside investment?

Innovation needed

By most clubs' standards, 13 points from six league games is a more than respectable balance but, for Bayern Munich, it represents the worst Bundesliga start in seven years. Furthermore, the quality of the team's performances has decreased noticeably from the three years under Pep Guardiola.

Deutschland DFB Pokal Finale FC Bayern München - Borussia Dortmund

Pep Guardiola (top) enjoyed great success in Bavaria

If the Catalan was the progressive thinker whose revolutionary ideas fired Bayern to three straight Bundesliga titles, Ancelotti was seen as the consolidator, the calm after the storm, a man whose immense experience would help Bayern scale the one height that Guardiola couldn't – the Champions League. It was a tactic Bayern had employed before when the composed, collected Jupp Heynckes replaced the abrasive Louis van Gaal.

But while Heynckes led Bayern to the treble, Ancelotti's stabilizing influence also stripped Bayern of the intensity which had pushed them to such extremes under Guardiola, Arjen Robben complaining in kicker in September about the quality and intensity of training sessions under the Italian.

So is it time for another innovator in Munich? Hoffenheim's Julian Nagelsmann has long been on Bayern's radar but, at just 30-years-old, lacks experience and has lost all four of his European matches so far. Thomas Tuchel is the more likely option but is just as intense, controlling and tactically demanding as Guardiola. He would not tolerate interference from CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge or president Uli Hoeness – not that those two see eye-to-eye either, as exemplified by disagreements over the club's transfer policy.

Transfer policy

While superstars Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, signed by PSG for a combined fee of close to €400 million, ruthlessly exposed Ancelotti's passive tactics, recent Bayern arrivals such as Sebastian Rudy, Niklas Süle, Corentin Tolisso and Renato Sanches are clearly not considered to be of sufficient caliber to compete at the very top. The fact that European champions Real Madrid were willing to allow James Rodriguez to join Bayern suggests that they no longer consider the Bavarians direct rivals.

"Bayern Munich have never spent more than around €40 million for a player,” Robert Lewandowski complained in a recent interview with Spiegel. "Bayern will have to come up with something if they want to keep bringing world-class players to Munich."

Yet while Rummenigge believes that Bayern will one day conduct a 100-million-euro transfer themselves ("Only the ten commandments are set in stone," he told kicker), Hoeness has insisted that Bayern are neither able nor willing to spend such sums, preferring instead to invest in infrastructure, including a 70-million-euro youth academy. It's an admirable but brave position to take in a game increasingly dominated by nouveau-riche clubs with sovereign and industrial backers.

There is another way

After a week in which all six German representatives lost in Europe, there have been renewed suggestions that German football is unnecessarily handicapping itself with its continued adherence to the 50+1 rule, discouraging the outside investment which would enable Bundesliga clubs to compete internationally – but at what price?

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Robert Lewandowski has been critical of the club's transfer policy

Bayern Munich's membership controls 75 per cent of a club which turned over a record 627 million euros in the last financial year. In contrast, PSG are owned by an undemocratic sovereign state with a questionable human rights record using football to exert soft political power. Is that the price German football is willing to pay in order to compete internationally?

It's been a tough week for German football but Bayern Munich's decision to part company with Carlo Ancelotti may not be the kneejerk reaction some suggest. Rather than moving the club forward by bringing stability, his management alienated senior players and performances suffered as a result.

But the solution, like the problem, could easily be found on the pitch and not in huge amounts of outside investment. Whether by appointing and supporting Tuchel, Nagelsmann or another progressive candidate, Bayern now have the chance to return to being innovators and show that there is another way.  


Branko Zebec

Zebec was appointed Bayern coach in July 1968. Zebec managed to win the double in his first season in charge, the first in the Bundesliga's history. The following season was less glamorous, with Bayern being knocked out of the European Cup in the first round. Zebec later announced he would not extend his contract, but was sacked midway through the season after a three-match winless spell.


Giovanni Trapattoni

After Franz Beckenbauer was appointed the club's president, Trapattoni was given the job in 1994, with Bayern expecting the former Juventus coach to bring his successful touch to the Olympiastadion. However, Trapattoni ended the season trophyless and was sacked. Trap did have a second stint as Bayern coach, in which he won a league title and the German cup.


Otto Rehhagel

The former Bremen boss was appointed Bayern's coach in July 1995. After going on a shopping spree, signing Jürgen Klinsmann, Andreas Herzog and others, Bayern were expected to glide to the Bundesliga title. That was hardly the case. Rehhagel didn't even finish his first season in charge and was famously sacked four days before Bayern were due to play the first leg of the UEFA Cup final.


Felix Magath

After impressing with Stuttgart, Magath was officially presented as Bayern Munich's coach in July 2004. While his first two seasons brought back-to-back doubles for the first time in the Bundesliga's history, the 06/07 season was disappointing in comparison and after being fourth in January, Magath was sacked.


Jürgen Klinsmann

The former Bayern striker was appointed after a successful spell as Germany coach and expectations were high due to his revolutionary methods used with the national team. But, he didn't deliver. Klinsmann was sacked in April 2009, with five matches to go in the Bundesliga season and Bayern third. Club legend Philipp Lahm has since described Klinsmann's campaign at the club as a "failure".


Louis van Gaal

After the Klinsmann bet backfired, the Bayern hierarchy decided to go with experience. Van Gaal referred to Bayern as a "dream club", and the Dutchman managed to win the double in his first season in charge, while only losing to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the Champions League final. The second season was less than glorious, with van Gaal sacked in April after slipping out of the top three.


Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti joined Bayern in July 2016, after Pep Guardiola announced he would not extend his contract at the club. The Italian may have won the league in his first season, but Bayern's form for the most part failed to impress. After suffering Bayern's biggest Champions League group stage defeat of all time, 3-0 to PSG, the club announced Ancelotti had been sacked.