This is one episode of a wider series. To instead start at episode one, please click here.
I park the G63 outside Säbener Strasse and consider everything I’ve been through so far. Being penniless in Sweden. Relegation, then promotion and domestic cup success in Norway. Unemployment. Stability in the South of France, then UEFA Europa Conference League and Ligue Un glory in the north of it. Then onto Germany.
The money and quality of football is incredible here in Munich, but so is the demand for immediate success.
It’s March 2027, and things are heating up. It’s only been four months since we last caught up, but it’s been eventful.
It all culminated in a special European night under the lights at the Allianz last night, but more on that later.
Save for a tight 1-0 away defeat in Gladbach, and a bore 0-0 draw away at Freiburg, we have won every single league and cup match in the 14 weeks or so since our last update. The only other blip we had was away at Real Madrid, where a Milan Skriniar header sent us home disappointed, with a 1-0 loss.
JLG9 has been on fire, and we might have an exciting new signing who was slotted in perfectly. (Spoiler alert – We do.)
First of all, four more of our fringe players left for pastures new. Two in particular went for extraordinary figures.
Left-back Gian-Luca Itter headed to Watford for £40million.
Attacking midfielder Samuel Chukwueze moved to Celtic for an eyebrow-raising £40million too.
The other two first team players to leave were Benjamin Heinrichs to Inter (£4m) and Corentin Tolisso to Arsenal (free). Tolisso wanted to go as his contract was due to expire in the summer, and the London club were happy to take him off of our wage bill six months earlier than initially agreed.
Rummenigge called me into his office not long before Christmas. I thought it was to congratulate me for our fine form so far.
I was wrong.
KHR had been given feedback by his fellow board members that they were collectively “devastated” about something in paricular. Although I’d spent money, and spent it well in their view; I had not signed German players, and the players I had signed were not from direct rivals, whom they would prefer to weaken.
I was all set for marching towards the boardroom full of fury at the ungrateful swines…but then my assistant manager Marco Van Basten (who had attended the meeting in the Chairman’s office with me) slowly shook his head and nodded towards the door, as if to say “hey, you gotta see this.” Much like Chihiro’s father in the animated Studio Ghibli classic Spirited Away, when they first find the abandoned theme park. (writer’s note – might’ve went a bit niche with that one, mate).
I followed Marco out into the corridor after begrudgingly smiling at Rummenigge through gritted teeth, telling him that I’ll try and do better.
Marco forces a document into my hands, which are shaking with anger. It’s a dossier on a player belonging to one of our competitors, Pochettino’s Hoffenheim. This scout report had originally come from our analysis team, but had also been through the hands of two of Marco’s fellow Dutchmen, our coaches, Johnny Heitinga and Dirk Kuyt. Their handwritten notes are scribbled all over the statistics logged in the recommendation papers. Suddenly my anger turned to intrigue. Then intrigue to excitement.
We’d have to pay his release clause, a whopping £84million. This would smash a number of records in German football, but I had to get the deal done.
Welcome to Bayern Munich, Markus Eidelloth.
What. A. Player.
Eidelloth’s arrival coincided with a further tactical tweak, as I am still looking to truly find my favourite system to employ with this group of players. It has to remain true to my strategic principles, but only a fool would refuse to mould to facilitate changing circumstances.
Getting the best out of them is not as simple as picking a formation and sending them out there, as the majority of opponents play tentatively, fearful of being too offensively ambitious against the mighty Bayern. It makes even the most winnable (on paper) league games, an energy-sapping game of positional chess.
Still deploying those dual Mezzalas (instead of my beloved Segundo Volantes) behind an Enganche, the system looks to counterpress quickly, but leverages the creative and technical strength of my forward players.
I’ve now managed Bayern on 36 competitive occasions, winning 27, drawing 7 and losing 2.
I’d like to call out a few key performers so far.
Garavano, or JLG9 as I love to call him (as do his brand sponsors), has been my player of this series so far (writer’s note – Viktor Gyökeres would like a word). He was an absolute superstar at Lille, and the £70m I gave my old club for him to join me in Munich now seems like a bargain. 14 goals in 29 games doesn’t fully recount his contribution, as he drifts effortlessly somewhere between being a natural shadow striker and an ideal number 9. His lightning quick pace and all round ability is a fearsome weapon. José dribbles succesfully over 2.2 times per 90 minutes, coupling his goalscoring heroics with an 84% passing success rate. He also has 5 goals in 10 appearances for his country.
As ubiquitous as the media’s coverage of the Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali has been, he has proved to be worth every penny of the £50million Bayern paid for him in the summer. Fitting seamlessly into the Munich midfield, Tonali has been deployed as deeply as an anchorman shielding the back four on occasion, and as offensively as a number 10 behind the strikeforce when required. Generally, he operates in either a deep playmaking role, or with a shuttling Mezzala responsibility in that central midfield line. 9 Man of the Match awards in 33 games, 7 goals and 8 assists give you a picture of his importance. 90% passing success and over 4.2 successful tackles per game gifts you a closer look at the nuance.
Now for a few honourable mentions, without detailed commentary. The first of which has an incredibly memorable name.
I’m now inside the training ground. Before doing anything else, I had to rebuke Emre Can for upsetting Jonathan Asamoah. Emre had told Asamoah that he was certain he was more handsome than him. Bloody primadonna footballers. With that nonsense dealt with, I’m now watching Marco, Dirk and the boys lead some sessions on the pitch.
I’m sipping a cup of tea which was handed to me by one of our staff as I arrived. The mug inexplicably has Alan Partridge’s face on it, but I’m not complaining. I can see the way the lads are starting to really work together in the way I like to see on the pitch. This direct, back-to-front system is winning football matches, and that’s what we like to see.
I watch the steam rise from the cup and think back to just 12 or so hours ago. Last night was an incredible evening at the Allianz.
After a tight 1-0 defeat at the Bernabeu, we welcomed Real Madrid to Munich for the second leg of the 1st Knockout Round of the UEFA Champions League. As tough a draw as we could’ve faced, if we make it through this, surely on our day we can beat anyone.
A tight first half is defined only by a Garavano goal for us, and a Skriniar booking for them. At this point we were heading for extra time. If they got a goal though, it would really put them back in the driving seat. Prolific forwards Moise Kean and Leon Bailey pepper our goal with increasing regularity, but the back three system I deployed especially for this match, just about retains its structural integrity. Libero Marco Kana is caught out of possession a couple of times, but his role as the ‘lever’ or ‘palanca’ of the tactic is vital to exploit any rare chances to counter.
The 65th minute arrives and substitute Erling Haaland has only been on the pitch for 8 minutes. He didn’t need asked twice, as he buries the ball in the back of Courtois’ net (yep, he’s still there in 2027) with a powerful smash, as we go through on aggregate to the Quarter Final of the Champions League! 2-0 winners!
I forgive the Norwegian for his 69th minute penalty miss, as I am too busy celebrating the incredible turnaround which dumps Real out of the competition. This keeps the dream of a double, or even an ambitious treble, alive.
If you looked at the earlier schedule screenshot, the above won’t have been a surprise, but what you may not have noticed is that we also dispatched of Wolfsburg and Bochum in the domestic cup (DFB-Pokal) and charge merrily towards a cup semi final against Stuttgart.
Could an incredible trophy-laden campaign actually happen, fulfilling every ambition I’ve had since first getting on that plane to take the Varbergs job? Even winning two out of the three pieces of available silverware may do so.
There’s not too many games left, and the table is looking impressive, but our position is not impenetrable. I realise there is a lot of work still to be done, as we also wave goodbye to a club legend.
The live draw for the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final and Semi Final draw has just taken place.
In an incredible twist of fate, one semi final is guaranteed to be an all-English affair, as all four teams in the quarter final before it are Premier League Sides.
On the other side of the draw, if Bayern Munich can squeeze past Inter Milan, they will face either their tough domestic rivals in Marcelo Gallardo’s Leipzig side, or Lockhart’s former club Lille, now with Pep Guardiola at the helm. What a draw that would be.
Fate has a funny way of working out.
Much later, I get back in the car and lean back in the driver’s seat with a smile and a sigh. The 256 days I’ve been in Munich have flown by, but the biggest challenges are still to come.
The engine’s purr turns into a roar as I exit the car park.
I think back to Marco Van Basten’s Markus Eidelloth suggestion in KHR’s office earlier, and I get the inexplicable urge to watch some Japanese movies tonight. Who knows how the brain works?…
Thanks for reading.