Hasan Salihamidžić's shaky start as Bayern sporting director

Bayern took German football by surprise by appointing Hasan Salihamidžić as their new sporting director on 1 August.  Let’s take a look at Brazzo’s shaky start in his new role with the club.
While many had expected names such as Philipp Lahm or Max Eberl, it turned out to be the 40-year old Bosnian. He was instantly criticized upon his arrival.

Footballing past suggests eventual success

Or does it?
“Diligent. Motivated. Exerted”. Jupp Heynckes description of his new working partner Hasan Salihamidžić turned out as a well-painted description of his first weeks back in Munich. The qualities mentioned by the coach are exactly what made Brazzo successful as a player. Nobody had given the young man a chance when he arrived in Germany back in 1992. He proved those people wrong and found his way into the first team of Hamburger SV.
Six years later, he moved on to Germany’s biggest of all challenges: Bayern. Once again, he managed to vigorously prove his worth, even if he was seen as a useful transfer at first. In the end, he stayed in Munich for nine full years. He played for the Bavarians on 365 occasions, scoring 47 goals while assisting another 53. In the process, he was a large part in the first European triumph since back in the mid-1970s. Salihamidžić played the full 120 minutes of the 2001 Champions League final and converted his penalty successfully.
Surely, his character of never giving up and commitment to the club played a large role in him obtaining the sought-after role with Bayern. His previous work as an ambassador on trips to other countries was widely regarded as a role that is usually given to former players that need a job. Just ask Paul Breitner, Giovane Elber and Co. Suddenly, he found himself in the media lights and as the centre of attention.

A difficult start

The first press conference in his new job was not going very smoothly. General phrases and a lack of his own job description suggested that Bayern took a shot at the wrong man quite quickly. If Salihamidžić does not even know what he is supposed to do, surely his signing was not exactly necessary?  Maybe not, but two reasons speak for his appointment.
For one, Bayern was in dire need of a sporting director. The exit of Matthias Sammer left a hole that remained unfilled for too long. Self-proclaimed experts often asked the same questions they ask now about Sammer’s scope. However, they realised what he did for the club only once he was gone. It felt like the public pressure built up a little too much for Bayern to stand still much longer. Philipp Lahm’s comments regarding the position and the role of Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge produced especially big waves in the media. Long discussions about a potential arrival of Max Eberl and him finally calling it off personally added to the trouble. Ultimately, the bosses decided to go with somebody that knew the club in and out. It happened again when they needed a coach in a difficult situation.
Secondly, Michael Reschke’s exit left another vacant spot in the Bavarian base during the summer. It seemed as though the club was not ready to give him more responsibilities. As a result, he took over a larger role in Stuttgart. Not exactly a move you see every day on anyone’s career ladder (unless you are Holger Badstuber). Too many holes meant a need for Bayern to fill them and they did so with Salihamidžić.

Heynckes makes Brazzo’s job easier

Uli Hoeneß said it during the presentation of Jupp Heynckes as the new Bayern coach. Salihamidžić work got a lot easier with the arrival of Heynckes. He welcomed a well-respected, experienced man to work with. Heynckes knows what he wants and how to deal with the often outspoken Hoeneß and Rummenigge. He calls them his friends after his previous stints. While there were no questions for the sporting director during Heynckes’ presentation, he still received all the support he could ask for.

A matter of input, not image

After choosing the Bosnian for the role collectively, they do not have another choice anyway. Rummenigge and Hoeneß know that their young employee will be criticized publicly, but what matters to them is the internal input they receive from Salihamidžić. For us, this is an area which is very hard to judge from the outside. However, despite the obvious lack of experience for the role, Hoeneß now works with a candidate that is somewhat similar to himself in his early Bayern days. Aged 27, the former German international had to end his active career before turning the Bavarians into a financial powerhouse. According to numerous reports, Brazzo’s effort, energy, commitment and empathy impressed Hoeneß. Certainly, his word will not quite count as much just yet, but Hasan Salihamidžić took a clear line whenever possible.
When discussions about Carlo Ancelotti’s methods unfolded, he started off by prohibiting smoking in the professional players’ area. Especially fitness coach Giovanni Mauri used to chain-smoke whenever time allowed him to. Some restructuring in the physiotherapy department fell into his field of action as well. Particularly important for the club was his order to treat injured players twice a day at the Säbener Straße. This was previously seen as a luxury. A questionable situation considering the constant injury trouble the club dealt with over the past years.

Not all smooth just yet

Not always do his methods come across in the way they were supposed to, though. After cutting the players’ opportunities to travel via plane during their free days, he made an exception for Franck Ribéry, who had already booked a flight. His teammates did not like that decision a lot.
Especially due to his non-existent past in a similar role, we cannot expect him to be an expert just yet. Another reason for public laughter was his statement regarding the possible interest in French winger Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco). When asked about a €90m Arsenal bid for the player, Salihamidžić just responded that he did not know the player and would gather his information from YouTube videos. It was an unfortunate statement, to say the least.

A better outlook, but attention to detail is needed

Whatever way you want to look at it, Hasan Salihamidžić did not enjoy the smoothest of all starts to his new career. While some problems are obvious and acceptable, for example, the slight language barrier due to his heritage, he has to be careful to find the right words before being burned by the usual media outlets. Ever since Jupp Heynckes re-appeared and Bayern’s problems went out the window, his job got a whole lot easier, just as predicted by Hoeneß and Co. Instead of having to explain problems and a lack of performance by the team, he can now concentrate on his actual tasks inside the club even more.
Can Hasan Salihamidžić actually become a good sporting director for the club? It is a thin line that drastically depends on the next coach and his success as well. Nevertheless, the past showed us impressively to never underestimate the man once he gets to work. If he is given the time and trust from above, he has every chance to succeed with his favourite football club.