A red-head in a league of his own. It should be an easy enough recall for all those old enough to remember watching the 1996 European Championship or the 1997 Champions League final.
The hair went as Matthias 'Firehead' Sammer graduated from player to coach, from Germany skipper to the technical director of the national football federation where he hand-held several current stars of the national team.
As Bayern Munich's sporting director — a summer signing coup according to the Uefa Champions League magazine — Sammer wears a shaved pate.
In this e-mail interview, the outsider in the Bayern family, who led Germany the last time they won an international title, speaks about his present role, relives his playing days and those grand European nights which have been a part of his life since he was a dreamy five-year-old. Excerpts:
Was it an even bigger challenge to become join Bayern Munich a little over one month after the Champions League final nightmare?
I don't think much about the past (Sammer has warned moaning about the Champions League final won't be tolerated, according to media reports). Bayern contacted me because they sought to stabilise their position at the highest level in Europe and get back from being runners-up to the top of the Bundesliga… The Bundesliga is Bayern's first priority and you can read the table to see where we are. (They haven't won it for two seasons but are runaway leaders now). But we are also a club with ambitions and so it's a duty to stay in German Cup and the Champions League for a long time, if possible until the final.
Your thoughts on the continued success of Borussia Dortmund.
It is important to appreciate the rise of Dortmund. You are not for no reason winning two successive German championships and the German Cup. But I also feel a club like Bayern needs this competition to scrutinise themselves. Are we still on the right track? Are we still motivated enough to improve?
You excelled as a sweeper but that role is hardly seen in the modern game. Is there any player currently who you think can do well in that position?
The system of playing has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Due to the present-day philosophy, a relatively free player wouldn't act in a position I played once but would be in a more offensive part of the team.