EXCLUSIVE: Bayern legend Klaus Augenthaler talks about money in football, Thomas Mueller situation and much more
Klaus Augenthaler represents a footballing class that’s hard to find these days. Nicknamed ‘Auge’ which in German means ‘the eye’, the sweeper defender was as aware of his surroundings at his end of the pitch as the knack to burst up with runs and smash one in the top corner. The Bayern Munich and German legend was one of the finest to perform the role of a libero, a position lost in modern-day formations; while his commitment for the Bavarian giants for whom he played 404 matches and led in seven seasons, is also rare to find.
In town to train 18 female footballers as part of a mentorship programme organised by Hafele in association with Bayern Munich, the 1990 World Cup winner spoke to Hindustan Times on why he spent his entire career at Bayern, the cash-rich transfer market and why not many step in as a libero these days.
You played for Bayern Munich all your life… What was the driving factor?
It was a big step for me as well to come from a small town like Vilsofen to Munich but after three-four years, it came to my heart that this is the club I identify with, felt like home…well played with the likes of Gerd Mueller, Franz Beckenbauer and so on. After (Karl-Heinz) Rummenigge left, I became captain for seven years, the longest at Bayern. Looking back, I feel happy there were no offers from another club so I never had to make that decision. I liked English football and it might have been interesting to play in England but at that time I was totally happy to stay there.
It’s actually quite uncommon to find players proving to be one-club man. Almost every transfer window big players swap clubs…How do you see it?
Well, if you even take clubs like Hamburg or FC Koln back in those days, everyone would at least be able to name six-seven players. One of the major reason for such a thing is the players’ agents. Sad, but it is how it is nowadays… These days if players don’t play for two-three matches, if they are not in the starting XI, they might contact their agents and just say ‘I’m a bit unhappy’ and the agent is happy to look for another club because that’s where he makes new money.
A major part of those also include the amount of cash in the market. Do you believe the astronomical sums paid for say players like Neymar, Mbappe or Coutinho are justified tags?
The money in football for ordinary people has become extraordinary. It’s very high and for ordinary people it’s probably not realistic anymore but football is booming and the money is driving it for sure. But if you look at our club, we have it a bit different here. We don’t have these foreign investors spraying in a lot of money so… The money, all we earn, is self within ourselves and we’re sustainable since quite a long time. We kind of stick to our German attitudes that we don’t spend a lot more than we earn, we are profitable since years making more profits every year and that’s what makes Bayern different than clubs who have a lot of foreign investors and incidentally brings in a lot of money.
Speaking of footballers complaining over playing minutes, Serge Gnabry spoke out in public taking a dig at Kovac saying players like Thomas Mueller needs more respect…What are the perils of having a star-studded squad?
Well, Mueller is one of the faces of Bayern Munich. He’s one of the players who came through our youth academies being with the club since a very long time and he has a strong connection with the fans. So he understands that the fans want to see him on the pitch but in the end we also have to respect the trainer, who is making the decision about the starting XI and who’s not.
Bayern has a strong squad on paper. And yet, the Champions League title has eluded them since 2013…
Well, if you look at last season, we had Liverpool in the Round of 16; very early and it was an intense and close match. At Liverpool, we played quite well, but at home unfortunately we didn’t win so they succeeded and in the end they won the title! So it’s many clubs being on a similar level. If you take Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, the English clubs too, it’s very narrow. So firstly, it’s important you proceed through the group stage and after that you need see your next opponents with whom you might be a bit lucky with the draw. You also might have an advantage playing home or away first or maybe a decision from the referee which is very close. The shape and mood of team as well… See, very very minor issues…
There was a Franz Beckenbauer, there was an Augenthaler. Why has the libero become a position that’s hard to find these days?
Well, the system looked a bit different having just a defender in front of it (the defence line). But it’s not such a big difference. I was just the leader organising the defence. Even now if you have four players in the same line, it’s important to have someone taking the lead. We were looking at (Mats) Hummels to take that lead, (Jerome) Boateng etc. (For a libero to work)it all depends on the system, the team etc.
Recently Uli Hoeness had stated it’s either Manuel Neuer as German No 1 or Bayern would stop sending players… Is that a healthy relationship to have with your national federation where the club comes first and the country second?
I guess that sentence might have been a bit rephrased. Maybe he didn’t say it like that, mean it like that. The key element is that Germany as a federation is very lucky to have three outstanding goalkeepers. And that’s that.