Bayern Munich recently received loan offers from English Premier League teams for U.S. 19-year-old Julian Green, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told SI.com in an interview this week, but Green “is looking like he will stay” with Bayern this season.
“He’s something special and very young,” said Rummenigge of Green ahead of Bayern’s arrival in New York City on Wednesday for friendlies against Chivas de Guadalajara (in Harrison, N.J., on Thursday) and the MLS All-Stars (in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 6). “On our team he’s the backup of players like [Arjen] Robben and [Franck] Ribéry, world-class players, so it’s not easy to take their place in the first 11 of our team.”
Rummenigge wouldn’t specify which Premier League teams made offers for Green (“not bad clubs, I can tell you”), but he sounded optimistic about Green’s future.
“He came up from our youth department, had a big opportunity in the World Cup and scored a fantastic goal vs. Belgium,” Rummenigge said. “With a bit of luck he can do well [at Bayern].”
Green may be the most obvious American link to Bayern Munich these days, but he isn’t the only reason the German SuperClub is embarking on its U.S. visit with high aspirations for what it can become in America. It’s one thing to play preseason exhibitions in the States, as top European clubs have done for years, but Bayern has just become the first to establish a full-time U.S.-based office (located in New York) to promote the team.
Whether that bricks-and-mortar investment will pay off remains to be seen—it’s not like Bayern can send its players over to the U.S. during the European season—and it doesn’t help that German Bundesliga games are hard to find on U.S. television. (The rights holder is the obscure GolTV for one more season until Fox Sports takes over in 2015-16.) But Bayern’s Champions League games are available on Fox, and the club believes it has assets that are rare in the sport.
“Our goal is to do something in favor of our brand image and German football,” said Rummenigge, who starred at forward for Bayern from 1974-84 and scored nine goals in three World Cups for West Germany. “We can offer something maybe others can’t offer. We’ve won eight titles in the last two years, everything in club football from the Bundesliga to the Champions League to the Club World Cup. And six of our players won the World Cup a few weeks ago.”
Bayern’s World Cup winners (Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Philipp Lahm and Mario Götze) are set to arrive in the U.S. in time for the Portland game. The challenge for Bayern will be for those players to recover after a busy summer for the long club season ahead.
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When asked what having six World Cup winners meant for his team, Rummenigge looked at both sides of the equation.
“It’s good and it’s not so good,” he said. “The good thing is we can go to Portland and offer to the U.S. soccer fans six fresh world champions. That’s not normal for one club. The bad thing is the fact there’s not enough regeneration. Our season starts soon on August 26, so the regeneration is probably not enough or the preparation time for the coach. But we have to handle it one way or another. I’m convinced we’ll do well.”
Of course, the standards are incredibly high at Bayern, where despite winning last season’s Bundesliga, German Cup and Club World Cup, fans were left disappointed when Pep Guardiola’s team was eliminated in the Champions League semifinals by eventual champion Real Madrid.
Rummenigge pointed out that Guardiola has been in a similar situation before with recent World Cup-winning players and did just fine: In 2010-11, after Spain had won the World Cup, his Barcelona team won both the Champions League and La Liga titles. Not for nothing did Rummenigge say that he would never fire Guardiola under any circumstances.
“I gave him that guarantee,” Rummenigge explained. “I’m 100 percent convinced about him and his philosophy and the way he works. He’s fantastic in every sense. We’d be stupid and crazy to fire him.”
While Bayern did lose Toni Kroos to Real Madrid, the team has added Robert Lewandowski at center forward after getting him on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund. When I asked Rummenigge what he thought about Champions League rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona each paying transfer fees of around $100 million for James Rodríguez and Luis Suárez, respectively, he said he felt good about spending a $0 fee on Lewandowski.
“I’m very happy with Lewandowski,” he said. “In our friendlies so far, you see the huge quality of this guy. He’s a fantastic player, maybe the No. 1 striker in his role in the world. He offers everything from a No. 9.”
Because Rummenigge is also the chairman of the powerful European Club Association, I asked him how he felt about a few other topics in world soccer:
On concerns about World Cup 2018 in Russia, given the uproar over Russia’s recent moves in Ukraine:
“I’m a big fan of responsibility, and it has been decided by FIFA’s executive committee in favor of Russia [in 2018] and Qatar [in ‘22]. So independently of my personal opinion, the World Cup will be played there.”
On what his personal opinion is:
“I hope we find a good solution, especially regarding Qatar. Because it’s looking like in the summer-time we can’t play there. This will be a big problem for the international football calendar and for the national one as well.”
On whether he thinks World Cup ’22 will happen in Qatar:
“It’s looking like that. It’s a decision that was very criticized, but however it’s done and we have to respect it.”
On whether November 2022 is the most likely start time for World Cup ’22:
“We have to find a good solution, because that is a problem for us. If the World Cup is played in November, that means probably three months of league football is away. And that is a problem for our football in the league. That has to be discussed with FIFA to find the best way possible. The leagues and the clubs have to pay the bills.”