Bayern may have secured the Bundesliga title but it wasn't a happy triumph for the club as they crashed out of the Champions League and the DFB Pokal leading to a clearing out of the front office. CEO Oliver Kahn wasn't in attendance for the title decider against Koln before news emerged that both he and Hasan Salihamidzic have been dismissed from their roles at the club even with the club winning the title.
Manager Thomas Tuchel confirmed in his post-match interview that this decision was made prior to the game, and it's a decision that shows how dissatisfied Bayern are with how the season has gone, despite the fact they ultimately eked out a title. While they still get to celebration their 11th straight crown, this season hasn't been close to Bayern's standards. After the match, it even came out that Kahn wasn't allowed to be in attendance at Koln to celebrate the title which, while harsh, shows everything about how the board feels about the season.
Starting with the the abrupt firing of Julian Nagelsmann at the end of March and now continuing with Kahn, Bayern are a club that usually moves in a calculated fashion but have now quite emphatically hit a reset button. They enter the summer almost at the same stage that they started the year, in transistion, a place that a club never wants to be. Replacing Robert Lewandowski was supposed to be the club's biggest worry this season but for the most part, the striker position wasn't the issue. Even if the edition of Sadio Mane didn't quite work out, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was able to score when needed in the league and in Champions League, finishing with 14 combined goals on a team which scored 92 goals, in the Bundesliga, only five fewer than the season before. Still, the 34-year-old Choupu-Moting is hardly the future of the squad.
And that's the whole problem for Bayern. Nagelsmann was supposed to lead a reinvention of Bayern, and instead they've hired Tuchel, who is leading a team of short-term band aids, keeping Bayern afloat. They might have been barely good enough to win the league this season, but there are quite a few issues for Jan-Christian Dreesen to sort out as the new CEO.
What's Bayern's direction?
At their best, Bayern Munich were a club that took Bundesliga talent from their title challengers and made it part of the club's machine. Whether that was Robert Lewandowski in attack or Mats Hummels in defense, a generation of Bayern dominance was built on finding the best stars in Germany and adding them to their squad. But that method has dried up since Leon Goretzka joined the club in 2018. Dayot Upamecano, who Bayern poached from RB Leipzig, is a player who was expected to be a plug and play piece of Bayern's defense but during his time with the club it has been a roller coaster where for every good performance, he costs the team a match at critical moments.
Part of this is the rising pull of the Premier League. Where once Bayern tempted Lewandowski from Dortmund, now players like Kai Havertz and Erling Haaland are going to England. Similarly, Germany's second best team, Borussia Dortmund's own recruitment system is filling in some of the role once occupied by Bayern offering better playing time to players like Thorgan Hazard (who is currently on loan to PSV) and Julian Brandt. Bayern are caught in the middle, getting out bid for the Bundesliga's biggest stars by teams abroad, and losing out on more functional talents to Dortmund. There's no quick fix to this issue as it's a systemic one but Bayern will need to rethink things to keep up with the rest of the world in purchasing and nurturing explosive talents, especially on the defensive end. This is also where while Tuchel will likely start next season as manager, he may not finish it in charge of Bayern because when it comes to the direction of recruitment, Tuchel's focus is on winning now while Bayern as a club need to both win and plan for the future.
How youth focused can Bayern be?
It's not that Bayern aren't bringing in any young talent. Mathys Tel and Ryan Gravenberch, both of whom were purchased last summer, are legit prospects, there's no denying that. But in their first season with the club, the duo logged fewer than 1000 Bundesliga minutes combined. To compete on all fronts like Bayern expect to, players young and old need to be contributing in all competitions. There is a chance that they aren't ready for the required level of expectation at the club right now but that just leaves everyone with yet another decision. Should they be loaned out, with depth being added that can help now, or stay at the club and contribute?
Youth development isn't a one size fits all situation and for Bayern, a full summer of stability can help the duo but with Choupo-Moting not getting any younger, someone needs to step in and fill these minutes.
How to get younger as a team?
Without key additions this summer, Bayern's window feels like it's closing. With an average squad age of just over 27, this is a team in their prime but quite a few minutes were filled by players 30 and older or those with uncertain futures at the club. An heir to Manuel Neuer needs to be found sooner than later and there's no guarantee that Alexander Nubel is that person which could create quite the void. Even Yann Sommer joining midseason wasn't enough to make people look past the loss of Neuer who is on a different level to most keepers in the world, and Sommer himself is 34 years old.
Perhaps more important is the role of Thomas Muller. A Bayern legend, Muller has been key for the team but as the players flanking him decline in quality year after year, it's beginning to show that he isn't a match-winner on his own week in and week out at this point in his career. And, in keeping with our theme here, he's 33. Bayern have quite a talent in Jamal Musiala who could seamlessly slot into that role but at 20 they need to avoid running a talented player into the ground and it would also be unfair to not get him help in the attack. The team thought they were doing that with purchasing Sadio Mane but he has yet to integrate into a role with the club circling back to the transfer issue. When the club bought Mane last summer, he was already 30, it's not like he's the future of the club, he's the present at best, and already the past at worst.
Without a cohesive strategy, Bayern will not only struggle to keep up with the Manchester City's and Real Madrid's of the world but they'll also have issues staving off opposition from the Bundesliga teams chasing them. They were lucky to not lose the title to Dortmund and while Union Berlin's title charge faded this season, they've now qualified for Champions League which will only increase their own recruitment. Is German soccer is slowly catching up to Bayern, that's unclear, this is a team that has won 11 titles in a row after all. But another lost summer for Bayern and it's won't be a surprise if they don't make it to 12.