Flick is all set to tackle a tough environment

Hansi Flick Takes on FC Barcelona’s Intimidating Legends and Harsh Environment

Flick is all set to tackle a tough environment

Hansi Flick has arrived at FC Barcelona to help bring the team back to the top of the sports world in the next two seasons. One of the topics already being discussed in Barcelona is how well the German coach will be able to handle the team’s “environment”. Even the previous coach, Xavi Hernández, was asked after his last game on the culé bench what advice he would give to his successor, and he warned that it will be a “very difficult situation.” Flick has already faced tough and highly specialized environments. While at Barça, there is a mix of everything, from early morning press conferences to various public opinions related to football or not, both at Bayern and with the national team. In the environments Flick has worked in, there is a sense of authority that can either praise or criticize without holding back. What sets this environment apart from others is the intimidating power it holds: these are football legends who have achieved great success with Bayern or the national team, giving them a unique influence compared to others who support different teams.

One of the reasons discussed in the media across Germany for Flick’s decision to leave Bayern in 2021 after winning six titles in 2020 and signing until 2023 was the differing views he had with Hasan Salihamidzic on the team’s sports plan. Salihamidzic, a former player and winner of 18 titles with Bayern from 1998 to 2007, then became the sporting director of the club from 2017 to 2023. There were various tensions in the offices at Säbener Strasse. The departure of key players from Flick’s successful Bayern team, like David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Thiago Alcántara, and Ivan Perisic, and the arrival of players who didn’t quite fit the coach’s vision were decisions made by Salihamidzic. One particular point of contention was the signing of Bouma Sarr from Marseille, a right back that Salihamidzic believed would be a great fit for the team but Flick didn’t agree with. This led to Sule being moved to the right lane to make room for Pavard. In April 2021, Flick publicly announced on Sky Germany that he had informed the club of his decision to leave at the end of the season. “I need time to process all of this, the past few weeks have been tough,” he said. Former Ballon d’Or winner Lotthar Matthaus, known for his direct opinions on Bild, had already predicted that “I don’t think they can reconcile their differences, they are just too far apart in their thinking.”

The climate even led to Salihamidzic being insulted by Bayern fans, which led to Flick’s strong public defense of an executive with whom he had had public and notorious points of disagreement. “Despite all the differences that have existed between us, we have never gone on to personal attack,” the coach censured. “Just because we think differently does not mean that we do not appreciate each other. Anyone can imagine what it feels like when one’s own family is insulted, that is unacceptable,” Flick lamented. In mid-2023, Bayern ended up dismissing Salihamidzic and, in turn, the CEO, another glory of the club like former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who automatically became “environment”. Weeks later, Kahn used sarcasm when congratulating the Bayern players on their 11th consecutive Bundesliga: “I would like to be celebrating with you, but unfortunately it couldn’t be because they forbade me.”

The cast of Ballon d’Or winners and myths who raise their voices, and some their votes, in matters that concern Bayern and the German team is impressive. Putting your finger up or down depending on the place and time sometimes coincides with the same person. Uli Hoenessthree-time European champion with Bayern and world champion with Germany in the 1970s, even said when Flick was appointed German coach at the end of 2021 that “Hansi is the Messiah, but as a Messiah you also have to be successful because “The pressure is enormous.” When the results did not suit him, it took a toll even on his departure from Bayern: “I’m quite angry, I didn’t understand that he was also partly responsible for Bayern making the biggest noise in the year of their greatest sporting success and that he also helped to provoke,” he said.

Just like Stattler and Waldorf, the grandparents who love to criticize from their opera box in The Muppets, another familiar face always seen next to Hoenness at the Allianz in Munich is Karl Heinz Rummenigge. He won the Ballon d’Or in 1981. Hoeness is a significant figure both on the field and in the offices of Bayern, holding various positions. Rummenigge freely expresses his support or questions when he feels it’s necessary. When Flick announced his departure in 2021, Rummenigge expressed regret that Bayern had to “plan without Hansi,” emphasizing the importance of retaining successful coaches for the long term. In February 2022, he praised Flick for bringing faith back to the national team with his seven titles at Bayern. However, there was no defense when the Federation decided to dismiss Flick in 2023. Matthaus, who recently shared his happiness for Flick signing with a top club, acknowledged on September 10, 2023, that despite their long friendship, the results of the German team spoke for themselves during Flick’s tenure.

Talking about a “harsh environment,” the comments of another Ballon d’Or winner like Mathias Sammer, who was a Euro 1996 champion with Germany, were particularly striking when discussing Flick’s time leading the German national team. Back on September 6, 2023, the former DFB sporting director shared with Süddeutsche Zeitung that German football was “facing the biggest crisis it has seen in recent times.” “Let’s face it: we have fallen, we are far from being ‘world class,’ we are losing our identity, and a change of direction is urgently needed,” Sammer expressed without holding back. Rudi Völler, a former world champion striker with Germany in 1990 and sporting director of the German Federation, then mentioned that “sometimes Sammer tends to exaggerate, but he is also right about many things.” Meanwhile, Flick, showing “calmness” as he tried to emulate his main influence, Jupp Heynckes, humorously remarked that “even though it’s not easy, it’s always beneficial to have such a critical mindset around you.”

In short, if Flick knows anything, it is harsh environments. Another revealing sentence by Uli Hoeness perfectly defines how the controlling Germany experiences football: “Performance and success arise from friction.”

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