Bayern Munich are in all kinds of trouble on and off the pitch, but is buying new players the solution?
"We talked at the hotel, and it was love at first sight."
Louis van Gaal's candid admission this week did not reveal anything about the Dutch coach's private life. But it did speak volumes about his relations with Bayern's best players who, it seems, he is doing his level best to disenchant.
Sarcasm has long been one of van Gaal's best-loved tactics, but his decidedly unromantic chat with Franck Ribery in a Bavarian hotel was a risky move.
It came after a friendly against Unterhaching, set up to help the Frenchman's rehabilitation from a long-term ankle injury. Van Gaal lashed out at the player after the match: "He did not put in any effort and showed no commitment.''
Ribery is a sensitive soul and was not pleased: ''I was very disappointed to see this in the press. If the coach always puts me down, time and time again, it is difficult."
Public infighting at the club - between coach, players and board members - is now a daily ritual.
Bayern are slowly recovering from their worst-ever start to a Bundesliga campaign, but still lie down in eighth place, 14 points behind leaders Dortmund. Some, including former legend Franz Beckenbauer, have already given up the ghost of catching Juergen Klopp's men.
''They made schoolboy mistakes, '' Der Kaiser complained after Bayern squandered a lead against Leverkusen last weekend. ''They are not good enough to win the league like this.''
Not only does Van Gaal insist Dortmund can be still be caught, but he is determined to do so without buying any new players. And he is even ready to release his best performer this season, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The midfielder's contract is up in the summer of 2012, and the midfielder is the subject of intense transfer speculation.
''Bayern Munich is a business and if it is true that 30 million euros have been offered for him, you cannot just ignore that kind of money,'' Van Gaal said.
That represents sacrilege for board member Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who believes Schweinsteiger must stay at all costs.
Some Bayern fans have been left bemused. They are hoping the transfer window will see new names brought in, not familiar ones shipped out.
Sporting Director Christian Nerlinger wants to buy. President Uli Hoeness agreed this week that Bayern are capable of buying big - but only once the debt is paid off on the Allianz Arena.
More might be revealed at the club's annual general meeting next week.
Until then, fans are left wondering whether the German league and cup winners were right to not bring in any new recruits over the summer for the first time in Bundesliga history. Could that all change over the next winter break? Here are some of the possible targets:
The left-back slot has been a problem this year, and Bayern are eying Genoa's Domenico Criscito and Benoit Tremoulinas of Bordeaux.
Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa and Gael Kakuta are less-likely arrivals for that position. Meanwhile, Youngster Alvaro Dominguez of Atletico Madrid could fit the bill at left-back or centre-back.
Last year's top scorer in Bundesliga, Edin Dzeko, who would cost at least 40 million euros, would be the ultimate prize.
But an auction with moneybags Manchester City is the last thing Hoenness wants. Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner seems an unlikely choice up front, particularly with Mario Gomez starting to find goalscoring form, but we shall see.
Any new recruits will have to deal with a club stifled by daily infighting. And a coach with an unusual way of expressing his love.
Andreas Evagora, Deputy Head Eurosport 2
- Bayern Munich
- Louis van Gaal