New Delhi: Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful football club, played an exhibition match against the Indian national team in the Capital on Tuesday. It won 4-0.
Christian Nerlinger, sporting director at Bayern Munich and a former German international, and Andreas Jung, acting member of the board of Bayern Munich, spoke to journalists in Delhi. Edited excerpts:
Game plan: Christian Nerlinger (left), Bayern’s sporting director, and Andreas Jung, acting board member. Photographs by Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Bayern Munich is a fan-owned club, unlike the majority owner-promoted clubs. How do you manage your finances and do you think this model is sustainable in the long term?
Jung: I think the most important thing is that we are independent. So there is no dependency on investors like in Italian or English football right now. We have long-term partners such as Audi and Adidas. We have shareholders who, of course, know that we have to grow. The engine is sport and this is very important to us. I think from a structure point, we are on a basis which makes us different from many many other teams. We can decide on our own about the most important things in the sport. That’s the most important.
Are you looking at more partners on the board?
Jung : We are allowed to sell a maximum of 30%. The members will own a minimum of 70%. So that gives them the guarantee that they will have the whole decision on everything that happens. We have two strategic partners—Adidas and Audi. They are two long-term partners with whom we have a great cooperation. So we are not looking for any further cooperation.
This is despite the fact that costs will escalate in the coming years.
Jung: Right. But on the other hand, you know we have other options. We have the Allianz Arena that was built five-six years ago. The cost for that was €350 million, and after five-six years the cost has been reduced by 50% (the company has recovered 50% of the total investment made). Looking to the future, in another 6-10 years, the Allianz Arena will be paid for. After that, we will have many options—financial options. This is especially for the team. So I think we do not have to look for any partnership. The club has to have a 51% share.
How important is the Champions League final? You will be hosting it for the first time at the Allianz Arena.
Jung: There were a lot of cost problems as Uefa (Europe’s football governing body) has a lot of requests and we are doing that in the hand of Uefa and under control of Uefa. And, therefore, there is a big budget with it, which has been agreed by Uefa. But this is not a thing on which you can earn a lot of money. This is something like PR (public relations) and a kind of honour. It is a big thing to say that a final will be held in our arena... You have stadiums in Europe which are much bigger than the Allianz Arena. Nevertheless, we have less spectators, but we are competitive to these arenas.
Mr Nerlinger, what is your transfer strategy? Do you think Bayern need a bigger squad for the 2013 season?
Nerlinger: Yes, of course. In the last three-four years, after big tournaments, we had problems. So, we won titles, the doubles. We won the German Cup, we won this German championship, and then we had problems ahead of the big tournaments. So, of course, we focus. It’s always about the philosophy. We don’t want the Manchester City model. We don’t have 22 world-class players, where you have a balance sheet which is growing and growing and growing. But we want to have players who have perspective, those who can play on a regular basis. So it’s always about finding the right structure about the sport. We are, of course, thinking about that.
I believe that, especially after the German cups and also the Champions League, and then our players go in to the European Championships, we need to strengthen our squad. We have now long-term contracts with many of our key players. That means the base is just there, but we need to strengthen our squad.
Will we get to see any big-ticket transfers? Your president indicated a “bomb” transfer.
Nerlinger: I think it is always good that the president and the advisory board give us the permission to do big transfers as they have to think about the money. But what I said is very important. You need to have a right structure in the team and it’s no use to have players that are not playing any role. If you are (player) No. 22 and 11 players can play, that makes a bet about the feeling in the dressing room. For us, it is very important to have good structure and players who are confident and focused.
What’s wrong in paying more? Manchester City is giving United a run for its money.
Nerlinger: There is no patience in football any more. There is only black and white and immediate pressure. That, of course, creates a problem. If Roman Abramovich (owner of Chelsea) paid £100 million for new players, he wanted to win the championships (Chelsea have won six major titles since Abramovich took over). But it is not always about calculation. Football is different. There are many elements.
I think Alex Ferguson did a fantastic job with Manchester United (as its manager) over the years. He has established his club into a brand and into a world-class football team. It’s about developing a team and I think patience is something that doesn’t count any more. We at Bayern Munich, we want to have some continuity as well. On the long-term basis, our philosophy, in the last 30-40 years, has been to move in one direction. That’s why we have a very senior position in European football.
How important is it for former sportsmen to be a part of the administration?
Nerlinger: It’s good if you have a feeling for the football and the club. You can’t handle it like a modern company. But it is not, of course, the only criterion that you are a former player and then you can handle it. So it’s good if it comes together. And if you see Bayern Munich, I think it’s not always very easy for the head coach. They want to know what you are doing and what planning is going. How you are speaking to the players. In my opinion, it’s not about spending hundreds of millions and then you can win the title. It’s more than that.
What I learnt at the university (Nerlinger studied business economics at Munich Business School) is that you need to be a specialist. I really worked hard to understand finance, but I never got it. I think nowadays, when it comes to media, law, finance, you need your guys who really know the business.