Lahm compares Bayern Munich to NBA star Nowitzki

Holidays feelings surfaced, or at least it did amongst the many interested onlookers. The conditions in Trentino (Italy) were beautifully pleasant, the atmosphere was one of a harmonious family holiday. But Bayern Munich’s training camp in Riva on Lake Garda obviously involved a lot of hard work, and most of it was done in good weather. A good-spirited Bayern team is preparing for the 2011/2012 season and the aim is for it to be different to the one that came to an end in May 2011. “We’re favourites to win the championship and it’s a role we’re happy to be in,” explained the Director of Football, Christian Nerlinger, shortly before the camp in north Italy came to an end with a 4-2 win in a practice match against the Qatar national team in Arco on 9 July. “The team is itching to go. You can see it every day. We had a disappointing season and are looking to do better. And I’m certain it’s what’ll happen,” said Nerlinger in an interview with “Kicker”, Germany’s leading sports magazine.

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The FC Bayern Munich team photo for the 2011/12 season. It doesn’t include new signing Jérome Boateng. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Attention has focussed on a number of things: how will the new players in the squad find their feet? As everybody knows, there’s a new man in goal. A man called Manuel Neuer, Germany’s best goalkeeper who was transferred to Munich for about 22 million euro. The club is also thought to have paid Manchester City 13.5 million euro for the German international defender Jerome Boateng who has signed a four-year contract. And there is striker Nils Petersen (Cottbus/2.8 million), the former Rafinha player (FC Genua/5.5 m), the talented Japanese youngster Takashi Usami (Gamba/300,000) and David Alaba (Hoffenheim/no fee) who is returning to the club. In charge is a new head coach: Jupp Heynckes (66). After being at the helm in 1987 and 2009, it will be his third stint in Munich.

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Signed from second division Energie Cottbus, Nils Petersen should strengthen Bayern’s striking options. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

The experienced coach has brought the much-admired Peter Hermann (59) with him from Leverkusen. Thomas Wilhelmi, Andreas Kornmayer and Marcelo Martins are all responsible for player fitness. “Their work is fantastic,” said Heynckes when praising the trio. He appears to be totally relaxed, communicates a lot with the players and generates a different atmosphere to the one that prevailed under his predecessor Louis van Gaal, whose management style was more draconic. Heynckes refrained from saying anything detailed about his intentions in the early part of pre-season training. But the 1974 World Cup winner did quote an old piece of wisdom when discussing tactics. “Strikers win matches and defenders, championships. We’ve got to become more solid in defence again.”

Fan campaign against Neuer, but also lots of praise

Bayern won their first practice match against a Trentino eleven 15-0. To the annoyance of everybody at the club, the match was marred by the continuation of the campaign against Neuer. Placards with the words “No Neuer” had been held aloft by many Munich fans during the cup semifinal loss against Schalke. In their minds, it would have been better if the goalkeeper had remained in Gelsenkirchen. Bayern and Germany’s national keeper strived to dispel the resentments but some persistent Neuer objectors unfurled a banner at the Trentino game announcing the former Schalke player would never be accepted. Neuer himself remained cool and asked for their understanding. His teammates thought the demonstration to be out of order. It angered Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern’s club chairman, who said, “I almost went hopping mad because I was so certain the whole thing had been put to rest.” He admires Neuer for the calm way in which he is reacting. It shows the goalkeeper has a great character and a strong personality.

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Manuel Neuer signing autographs for the Bayern fans at the training camp in Trentino/Italy. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Neuer, on the other hand, praised everybody for the help and assistance he has received in Munich since arriving in the city after his holiday in Canada. “Three people from Bayern asked simultaneously whether they could do something for me,” he said and appeared impressed by the most successful German. “Not only are the colours different. Everything is bigger here, more people look after you. It’s all a bit more professional,” But the 25-year-old stressed he will never forget the Royal Blues in Gelsenkirchen. President Uli Hoeneß and Heynckes are looking a long way into the future. He could well imagine that Neuer, who has a five-year contract, will play for the club for the coming ten years. “He’ll make history at Bayern, just like his predecessors,” declared Heynckes.

Ribery, Robben and Olic available from the start

Thomas Kraft, who was between the posts last season, is one of the players to have left the club. He has gone to Hertha BSC, Hamit Altintop to Real Madrid, Miroslav Klose to Lazio Rom and Mehmet Ekici to Werder Bremen. Previously on loan to Nuremberg, the youngster is the only one to have gone for a transfer fee. (5 million euro). And Munich is still looking to add to their squad as they are trying to wrestle the Chilean Arturo Vidal away from Bayer Leverkusen. However, Rummenigge claims the signing is not vital to their plans. Bayern, who travel to the newly-promoted second division team Eintracht Braunschweig in the first round of the cup on 1 August (Monday), are happy to have top stars Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben raring to go right from the start of the season. After the 2010 World Cup, they were both jaded for much of the last campaign. And Croatian Ivica Olic is also back on board after a long injury break.

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Philipp Lahm, who led Bayern back up the Bundesliga table after becoming captain in January, will return to left of the defence as Brazilian Rafina has been signed for the position on the right. Alongside their target of winning the championship, the 27-year-old also talked of their vision of a Champions League triumph – especially as the 2012 final is in Munich in May. “Dirk Nowitzki is the best example. He’s an outstanding player, had an outstanding team around him but it took him ten years to become the NBA champion.” In “two or three months” at the earliest, one will see whether “we’ll be in with a shout of winning the Champion League,” said Lahm. There are still a few questions to be answered at club where everybody seems to be in good spirits.

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Brazilian Rafinha (from FC Genua) is another former Schalke player in the Bayern squad alongside Manuel Neuer. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)