BERLIN, Germany, Sep 26 – Bayern Munich play Paris Saint-Germain away in a blockbuster Champions League clash on Wednesday with the old ‘FC Hollywood’ nickname having returned to haunt the Bavarian giants.
In the 1990s, Bayern earned the ‘FC Hollywood’ tag when the off-field antics of stars like Lothar Matthaeus and Jurgen Klinsmann made the headlines as much as the team’s success on the pitch.
Even the coach got in on the act when Giovanni Trapattoni famously exploded in rage at his players’ performances during a press conference.
Since Ottmar Hitzfeld steered Bayern to the 2001 Champions League title, the moniker has been redundant, but recent events, combined with below-par results, have seen it reappear in the German media.
A shock 2-0 Bundesliga defeat at Hoffenheim, then last Friday’s 2-2 draw at home to Wolfsburg when Bayern threw away a two-goal lead, have not helped coach Carlo Ancelotti with his team now third in the table.
The Italian has been criticised on all sides.
The behaviour and comments of stars Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery or Robert Lewandowski has added to the simmering tension.
– Star tantrums –
Mueller moaned about being benched when Bayern won at Werder Bremen last month, saying: “I don’t know exactly which qualities the coach wants to see, but mine don’t seem to be 100 percent in demand.”
Then Ribery hurled his shirt in a rage after being substituted in the 3-0 Champions League win over Anderlecht and Robben slammed Bayern’s performance after the Belgians played for 80 minutes with 10 men.
Lewandowski criticised the club’s conservative spending policy, making the point they risk being left behind by their European rivals, in a thinly-disguised attack on chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and president Uli Hoeness.
Ancelotti’s situation has been further hampered by the loss of Manuel Neuer — out until January with a fractured foot — and replacement goalkeeper Sven Ulreich has yet to impress.
Unless results pick up, the German media will be asking how much time Ancelotti has left, especially if Bayern lose heavily in Paris.
“I have a contract until 2019,” Ancelotti recently said about his future.
“The criticism has gone beyond its limits. I am used to being criticised, but to be frank, this is too much!”
German daily Bild are already convinced Bayern have Hoffenheim’s 30-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann lined up as a possible replacement.
Ancelotti was recruited to great fanfare when he took charge last year after Pep Guardiola left to coach Manchester City.
– ‘Step backwards’ –
Guardiola’s frantic urging and marshalling of his players was juxtaposed by Ancelotti’s calm observations from the sidelines.
Under Guardiola, Bayern reached the Champions League semi-finals for three years running, but under Ancelotti they bowed out in the quarter-finals to Real Madrid last season.
Ex-Bayern and Germany star Paul Breitner has been Ancelotti’s biggest critic.
“I miss the chaos and craziness, like under Pep Guardiola,” said Breitner on a recent talk show.
“Carlo Ancelotti has not let the team develop. I haven’t seen any movement, it’s all static and the team has taken at least a step backwards.”
Nagelsmann took Hoffenheim to the brink of a place in the Champions League group stage recently and won the award as Germany’s coach of the year.
He let slip in a Bild interview that Bayern “play a big role in (his) dreams”, while Ancelotti has had to laugh off reports of a possible move to China.
And so the drama rumbles on at ‘FC Hollywood’, where Ancelotti may well be replaced unless he sates Bayern’s unquenchable thirst for silverware.