12 January 2004
HAMBURG – Bayern Munich general manager Uli Hoeness has warned in an interview that the “days of milk and honey” were over for players but many had still not realized times had changed.
Hoeness said 150 players could be out of the game by next summer as clubs struggle to balance their books but some players were still “living in a dream world”.
The former international has given Bayern players two months to show top form or face the consequences after a season in which several big names have looked below par.
“These words seem harsh but I wanted to make it clear that times have completely changed. The footballing land of milk and honey no longer exists,” he told Kicker sports magazine.
Speaking at Bayern’s winter training camp in Dubai, Hoeness said he had predicted the financial crisis for the game several years ago.
With the loss of lucrative television income following the insolvency of the Kirch media empire the transfer market had collapsed.
“Players can no longer say, ‘if I have a problem with Bayern I’ll go here or there’. There is no alternative to Bayern. Players have to change their awareness. In the summer 150 professionals could be unemployed. And how many clubs are threatened with bankruptcy!”
Hoeness called on clubs to cut players’ salaries, adding that they would probably be forced to reduce wages in any case.
“The players, especially those at Bayern, should light two candles every morning (in gratitude) for being able to enjoy this quality of life,” he said.
“I am trying to open the players’ eyes to reality because I have the feeling they are living in a dream world.”
Hoeness said Bayern over the last six months had not produced the form required although the club is lying second in the Bundesliga and narrowly qualified for the knock-out rounds of the Champions League and a meeting with Real Madrid.
Too many players had not produced their form for various reasons, Hoeness said without mentioning any names. The views coincide with previous remarks by chairman of the board Karl-Heinz Rummenigge which have been seen as an indirect criticism of coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.
But Hoeness said Hitzfeld’s position had never been questioned.
“I speak with him every week. He is not some sort of underling whom I summon. We talk about everything, and in doing so one has to question everything. For if we do not play better football with this squad there must be some sort of reason,” he said.
Although the focus had fallen on the indifferent form of midfielder Michael Ballack, other players had to do more, Hoeness said.
“If they had done so we would not be four points behind Werder Bremen (in the Bundesliga). Or do Bremen have the better team?”
For instance it was time 22-year-old Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz achieved the breakthrough.
“He laughs every day, is everybody’s darling, and has not yet realized the danger he is in. From him I expect a big impetus.”
If Bayern players can call up 95 per cent of their potential the team will win the Bundesliga, he predicted. For the encounter with Real Madrid “110 per cent” will be needed.
Meanwhile Bayern have extended by a season the contracts of midfield and defensive stalwarts Mehmet Scholl and Thomas Linke.
Talks are still being held with French defender Bixente Lizarazu and striker Alexander Zickler whose contracts also expire at the end of this season.
Bayern would like to extend Lizarazu’s contract but are adopting a “wait and see” approach on Zickler who has been plagued by injuries.
The German champions still hope to sign Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez but will abandon transfer hopes if no agreement is reached with his club, Boca Juniors, by the end of February, Rummenigge said.
Subject: German news