Peace has broken out at Bayern Munich after the German giants returned to the Champions League quarter-finals – and it could be bad news for the three English teams left in the competition.
The Bundesliga champions and Manchester City are the two favourites to lift the trophy in Istanbul on May 29 before Friday’s last-eight draw. Liverpool and Chelsea will also be in the hat.
But the Champions League holders have been riven by rows between coach Hansi Flick and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic since the sale of Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool last summer. German daily Bild reported “loud arguments” between the pair in recent weeks.
Despite winning six trophies since taking over in November 2019, the former Germany assistant Flick has felt he has not been backed by ex-Bayern player Salihamidzic over the failure to offer new deals to David Alaba and Jerome Boateng and the purchase of back-up keeper Alexander Nubel.
Flick, who worked with Germany from 2006-2014, has been been careful with his choice of words since the announcement that Joachim Loew will be leaving the national head coach’s job in the summer. Jurgen Klopp immediately and empathically ruled out the position but Flick left the door open – and annoyed Salihamidzic.
RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, 33, would be the natural successor if Flick were to re-join Germany despite the two years left on his contract.
The bad feeling between Flick and Salihamidzic had overshadowed Bayern reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the 19th time since 1995 – one more time than Barcelona.
There is never a drama far away from the club dubbed FC Hollywood – and the simmering tension threatened to destabilise the bid for another double with Bayern four points clear of the Bundesliga.
But after seeing off Lazio 6-2 on aggregate, Flick claimed the two had put aside their differences – for now.
“We have both approached each other and sorted it out, in the best interests of the club,” he said. “It was a short conversation. Both of us are very optimistic for the rest of the season, for our future.
“It was important for both of us, for the team and the club and we’re both relieved.”
Joshua Kimmich said the players were also happy to hear the news after the game. “Of course you notice what is being written and discussed outside,” said the Germany star.
“At the end of the day, it would be better for our success if there was peace and quiet, especially internally. If we give fuel to the outside world, I think it doesn’t help us as a team As far as I know, our coach still has a contract for a while. From that point of view, I’m quite relaxed about it.”
There is no doubting the on-field unity of a Bayern team which is now unbeaten in 30 home games in all competitions stretching back over 15 months. Flick extended his unbeaten record in the Champions League to 16 games, including 15 wins, against Lazio. Italy defender Francesco Acerbi said: “Bayern are probably the best in the world.”
Robert Lewandowski also scored his 39th goal in 35 games in all competitions this season – and his 73rd in the Champions League.
“That is not the last goal in this competition,” said BT Sport analyst Peter Crouch. “Bayern are going to be the team to beat.”