Bayern seek top coach to replace outgoing Hitzfeld
German league leaders Bayern Munich will almost certainly want to appoint a leading international coach to succeed Ottmar Hitzfeld who is leaving the club at the end of the season.
3rd January 2008
Current Dutch national team coach Marco van Basten is reported by German media to be top of the Bayern list with other candidates said to include Barcelona's Frank Rijkaard.
The speculation began as soon as Hitzfeld confirmed his expected departure from the club at the end of his contract on June 30.
Unlike SV Hamburg, who have been quietly going about finding a successor to Huub Stevens for next season, Bayern will face a turbulent period of intensified media attention until a successor is announced.
Already, commentators are saying Hitzfeld should go right away rather than be a "lame duck" and face a potential loss of authority.
It is thought Bayern, Germany's most successful club, will want a top name to succeed him, in line with their big-spending approach of last year to get the club back among the elite in Europe.
Hitzfeld, 58, is meanwhile reportedly now being lined up to take over from Jakob Kuhn as Switzerland national team coach after this summer's European Championships.
Hitzfeld told Germany's Kicker magazine he had informed the Bayern club management before Christmas he did not intend to stay.
"I don't want to speak right now about the reasons (for the decision), and ask for understanding on this," he said.
"I have already said enough, and more than enough has been written."
Although Bayern are league leaders and have progressed in the UEFA Cup, Hitzfeld was stung by criticism in November from chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge over his selection policies.
Following a 2-2 home draw against Bolton Wanderers in the UEFA Cup, Rummenigge had said football was not a question of mathematics, a pointed reference to Hitzfeld's earlier training as a mathematics teacher.
Rummenigge's public criticism of the coach was unexpected, coming as soon as Bayern had hit a first spell of patchy form after a scintillating start to the season. Since then relations have been strained.
Having already won four league titles and the Champions League, Hitzfeld now wants a less stress-free existence, Kicker said.
"He wants to enjoy life again. He's won enough in his career. And he's had enough of Bayern," it wrote.
Hitzfeld replaced Felix Magath as Bayern coach on February 1, 2007 for his second spell at the club. His first phase from 1998 to 2004 saw four Bundesliga titles, one German Cup title and the Champions League in 2001.
Bayern spent some 70 million euros (100 million dollars) on new players in the summer and top the Bundesliga, although their bright early-season form had faded in the weeks before the winter break.
Although many names are now being bandied about as possible successors, the list of candidates does not appear too long.
Van Basten will be free after Euro 2008, while fellow Dutchman Rijkaard's reign at Barcelona may also be coming to an end. At 43 and 45 respectively, both are young coaches and former top internationals who both speak German.
A van Basten appointment might not be welcomed by Bayern's Dutch midfielder Marc van Bommel, who fell out with the Dutch team coach, but that is unlikely to influence the club leadership.
Two other Dutchmen, Guus Hiddink, current Russia coach, and Louis van Gaal, now at AZ Alkmaar, may be in the frame, while former Germany coach and Bayern player Juergen Klinsmann has also been mentioned.
British media recently reported that Bayern might be interested in Liverpool's Spanish coach Rafael Benitez, while former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho is a top coach who, unlike Benitez and some others, is without a contract.
Portugal coach Luis Felipe Scolari, a World Cup winner with Brazil, is another leading name, and a coach who has also expressed an interest in being in charge of a top European club.
Mourinho would certainly fit Bayern's new philosophy of wanting an internationally renowned coach for a team full of international stars.
However the 44-year-old Portuguese speaks no German, and Bayern officials said following Italian Giovanni Trapattoni's tenure they would in future only be seeking a coach who spoke the language.
There are few German candidates for the job, although both Stuttgart coach Armin Veh, 46, and Juergen Klopp, 40, of second-division Mainz are admired.