Pitchside Europe

Bayern Munich’s ‘mole’ could derail their season


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It's a Godsend! The 'Maulwurf' affair at Bayern Munich is a headline writer's dream. After his tactical strategy to counter Borussia Dortmund was published in Bild the day of the game, Guardiola, habitually the most measured of individuals, exploded. The culprit would "never play for me again" the Spaniard ranted, but is he - here it comes - making a mountain out of a molehill?

Let's assess the damage: Dortmund 0-3 Bayern Munich is a pretty decent scoreline in your favour when the other guy knew you were coming and from just where your posse would attack. It's true: Forewarned is not necessarily forearmed. Quite frankly, everyone in the stands - and so presumably opponents - knows that Arjen Robben will cut inside and try to bend a shot into the top corner 90 per cent of the time, and yet the Dutchman still manages to do it with surprising regularity.

Uli Hoeness' comment that "The players are killing themselves laughing when they read the headlines" suggested the matter is being taken light-heartedly, but it would seem the Bayern president is out of kilter with the spirit at the club, a spirit which has taken a blow. Not a fatal one, but a potentially damaging one long-term.

The problem isn't what the mole brought to light, presumably with him - let's assume it's a male mole - blinking profusely just out of the media glare as he did so. It's more that there is a mole at all. 'Mole' is synonymous with disgruntlement, dissatisfaction, discontentment somewhere inside Bayern, most likely within the squad itself given the formation was revealed to the players at a behind-closed-doors training session (as usual the English doesn't do justice to the German, a Geheimtraining, a 'secret training session' that gives the whole thing a suitable Cold War espionage feel to it).

And that is the crux of Guardiola's problem if the mole isn't rooted out quickly. Suspicion will surely set in within the squad, whispers will be uttered, fingers will be pointed and the dressing-room will fracture, particularly as the players themselves are - understandably - taking the matter seriously, despite Hoeness' claims. "No, it doesn't make me laugh. There are rules in the team. It's unpleasant when someone doesn't respect them," said a straight-faced Philipp Lahm. "It's nothing new. I've been at Bayern five years and it's always been the same," said an equally stern Robben.

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The Dutchman does have something of a point, and the paperazzi-friendly, clique-ridden FC Hollywood days - when Bayern players seemed rarely in agreement with each other and frequently at odds - did not necessarily have a detrimental effect on success on the pitch. But this is what makes this mole particularly worrying. Bayern are (were?) a different club now. The strength of this team, on top of their exceptional individual ability, is their willingness to play for each other. That, it seems to me, is a modern-day coach's single-most important battle: how to get a group of highly-paid, oft egotistical individuals to function as a unit.

Jupp Heynckes did it, Guardiola had done it until the mole reared his head. The Spaniard's concern will surely be that if one man can go off on a selfish tangent, for whatever reason, then others can too and may well might, straying from the meticulously-laid path their coach wants them to follow. "He who takes on my ideas, I support him," Guardiola said in an interview earlier this season. "However, if someone doesn't want to understand, he'll often be found sitting in the stand."

The former Barcelona boss needs to find the mole who has undermined him, and threatens the fragile equilibrium of the dressing-room. Bayern bigwig Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he hoped the mole would "go into hibernation" with the arrival of the first snows of winter. If they don't find him as he dozes, Bayern and Guardiola should hope he never wakes.

Ian Holyman

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