As the dust begins to settle and the players begin to return to the club from international duty the job of preparing for the title crunch match with Borussia Dortmund looms large in the wake of Julian Nagelsmann’s removal as Bayern head coach. Contradicting reports have emerged regarding the former coach ‘losing the dressing room’ with the club saying one thing and some players saying the opposite. It’s fair to say the Bayern squad has mixed feeling and is not a 100% harmonious unit right now.
“The constellation between coach and team was not right,” sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic explained at the press conference where new coach Thomas Tuchel was unveiled.
Hours later however, two of Bayern’s most important players contradicted him. “We had a very close relationship with Julian” Leon Goretzka said after Germany’s win against Peru. “If someone like that is no longer there, out of nowhere, then of course it’s a shock.”
Joshua Kimmich was even clearer saying, “The coach didn’t lose the dressing room. I’ve been through a couple of managerial changes. This one wasn’t the sort of thing that was hinted at inside the dressing room because the players weren’t happy. We were all surprised.”
It does however appear according to media reports that there were a group of players clearly unhappy with Nagelsmann in contrast to the rosy picture painted by Goretzka and Kimmich. The likes of Mathijs de Ligt, Dayot Upamecano and Benjamin Pavard are said to have been confidants to Nagelsmann alongside his ‘go-to’ players Kimmich and Goretzka.
According to media reports, sceptics included Manuel Neuer, Sven Ulreich, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Joao Cancelo – although no player has confirmed that.
Club captain Neuer and Ulreich were very angry at the shock firing of goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic, while other players complained about a lack of trust in the coach due to them being benched and comments made by Nagelsmann in public.
There was also a reported lack of understanding in the team about the training content and internal communication, which for almost all players was primarily via the two assistants Dino Toppmöller and Xaver Zembrod. Many players found Nagelsmann’s practice sessions to be too complex, especially in the first year, which some leading players complained about, with record goalscorer Robert Lewandowski particularly unhappy.
The training camp in Qatar at the beginning of the year was rated as extremely tough and is also said to have caused a lack of understanding. Some players did not see it as the right preparation for the Bundesliga restart coming so soon after the World Cup. There was also the whole story of the supposed ‘mole‘ leaking confidential tactical information that emerged recently.
At the end of the day, the players’ complaints would noy have carried much weight had Bayern not lost their ten-point over Borussia Dortmund and be bruising to a 12th title in a row. It seems those in charge however took the growing bad feeling as an additional reason to part company with Nagelsmann.
Some will be glad to see the back of him and want to grab their chance under Thomas Tuchel, while others will rue the sacking of a coach they liked and respected fully. Bayern will put on a united front in public, but it is hard to imagine the camp being a totally harmonious place behind closed doors- something that may well be to Dortmund’s advantage in the closest title race in years.