Rummenigge: “Getting Messi out is an own goal”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge speak in AS after leaving his position as CEO of Bayern Munich.

How did you experience your first vacation in 30 years without having to keep an eye on the market?

It was a beautiful summer, I spent it with my family on the island of Sylt. Fortunately, the weather was better than in Munich. They were calmer days than other years.

Is it possible to change from Bayern CEO to fan in one day?

When I decided to take a step back, I was aware of what it meant. I had to be willing to let go of the rope, so I took a longer vacation than usual. Before, Bayern was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and, also, the last thing that crossed my mind before going to bed. It is not easy to change these types of habits, it is only possible if you are working to close a chapter for real.

I ask you as a fan: what do you think of the Bayern signings?

I do not want to go into detail. I think the team has started well and it will be a matter of time before I take the lead. Taking into account the squad, I am convinced that he will be champion for the tenth time in a row. As for the Champions League, we will have to wait to see when it reaches the qualifiers.

Did Bayern hand over their successors as you always imagined?

As for my position, I place high hopes on Oliver Kahn as CEO. Uli (Hoeness) and I always pursue the goal of delivering a Bayern in full health and that’s how it is, despite the crisis caused by the coronavirus. We won seven titles in just 13 months and, economically, we have managed to come out with a black eye from the two seasons marked by the virus, as seen in our last annual balance without deficit. It is the basis for continuing to look forward to the future.

His biggest challenge at the head of the club?

The same that current leaders face: to succeed at the national and, especially, international level despite the economic power of certain clubs with more television revenues, in the hands of billionaires or entire states. Ten years ago we already had to face these kinds of challenges and I am still very proud that at Bayern we did not commit any kind of madness in this regard. Even so, we have reached three Champions League finals in the last ten years and won two. Bayern can be proud.

What challenges does German football face?

Bear in mind that the Bundesliga is the last league that, thanks to the 50 + 1 model, remains closed to investors pursuing the desire to gain the majority of a club. It is up to the Bundesliga to decide whether it wants to keep this model in the future. I was always in favor of making thoughtful decisions. Perhaps in Germany this type of subject is treated with more caution. German fans are more critical of this issue than English, Italian and Spanish fans, but the Super League proved that critical fans can be essential for the good of football. It is known that Bayern distanced themselves from the beginning. If it were different, assume that we would have had to hire bodyguards to the reaction of our fans. The hobby is key to not falling into the temptation to swim with the current.

The hobby as a regulatory element.

They have to be critical, but not so retro. We all feel nostalgic for what happened 20, 30 years ago, but trust me: in terms of attractiveness and socio-political work, football has never been better than today.

Despite the investors?

I think that, in Germany at least, each club should be able to decide for itself whether it wants to open its doors to them or not. The Sankt Pauli, for example, never will. But perhaps other clubs do feel that need to be able to look forward again. PSG was not an internationally competitive club before Qatar’s entry and, now, it is the favorite to win the Champions League. I think that you do not have to close beforehand, but measure pros and cons. Translated into the Bundesliga, it means that we have to answer the following question: is the Bundesliga, as a competition, enough or do we want to continue to see German teams triumph internationally?

Like Bayern in that 2-8 against Barça. How do you remember the game?

It was crazy. We all thought we were in a dream and we were going to wake up at some point. But no. I think I never lived and never will experience something like it again. Our team was in a trance. And that game helped him to believe that he could win the Champions League for real. What Hansi Flick and our team did in Lisbon was exceptional.

What does Messi’s brand mean for Barça and LaLiga in general?

In a matter of three years, LaLiga has lost its two badges. Cristiano went to Juventus and, now, Messi to PSG. Both leave a gap in terms of marketing that cannot be filled. Everyone is free to say what they want, but I consider it an own goal to have been forced to release Messi due to the consequences of financial fair play.

What do you think of finances at the Camp Nou?

We saw it coming. When you accumulate so many expenses it is normal that the accounts do not end up going out, especially after what the coronavirus has meant for everyone. The path he faces now is hard, but it is also correct and necessary. Reducing expenses seems essential with more than 1,300 million euros of debt. There is no alternative. And my good friend Joan Laporta knows it too.

Do you have a good relationship with him?

He’s a great guy. And better manager. He has already led the club during his most glorious time with Pep as coach and I cannot be more convinced that he will also be able to get Barça out of this crisis. His candidacy, taking into account the moment the club is going through, seemed to me even brave and noble. You can tell that he feels responsibility for his club and he wanted to assert it in these difficult times.

Real Madrid also has debts, but …

Somehow it would have worked. When you intend to pay that sum for a player, I deduce that you will have the money in the box. I am not aware of the finances of the club, but I did play for a time in Italy and that is why I know that things work differently in southern Europe. There, football takes on an even greater socio-political importance than, for example, in Germany. Imagine Catalonia without FC Barcelona. It is unfeasible. Hence, the importance of the club is different, both on the pitch and off it.

Are you worried about certain trends in modern football?

We have all witnessed the amounts that, despite the crisis, the English and PSG have invested. The main thing must be the competition under equal conditions. For this reason, all my efforts as a member of the UEFA Executive Committee will go towards preserving such sports justice. The amounts that have been moved again in the recent market, especially in the context of the Pandemic, are difficult to understand. It is clear that, when you have enough money to buy a club and you do not depend on its income, you act with an advantage in the market compared to others.

You look worried.

Football has been on the wrong track since 1995, specifically since the Bosman ruling. The fact that players can go free at the end of the contract has caused a series of aberrations in terms of salaries, commissions for agents and amounts for transfers. It depends on UEFA and, as the highest regulatory body for world football, on FIFA in particular, to re-channel a market that is increasingly out of control. Of course, I am convinced that UEFA can and needs to find tools to guarantee what is most important in this sport: healthy competition on equal terms.

Is what PSG is doing legitimate?

I do not know the exact figures in terms of budget and salary mass of PSG, but I suspect that they will have increased. Nasser (Al-Khelaifi), for his part, dropped that, at the same time, they have more income. It is clear that UEFA will follow the matter very closely, but it is worth remembering the following: the balance that counts with respect to financial fairplay is that of June 2022, not now. It is what the regulation dictates. It will be then when expenses and income are compared exactly, at this point in the season we only know about expenses. When the time comes, UEFA will examine the numbers and we will know more.

Does the financial fairplay need a reform?

It must be adapted to the times. The way of trading and finances have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. I also hope that politicians are willing to guarantee legal support for football, which has not happened in the past.

Is the Super League dead?

There are three clubs that keep her alive, at least in legal terms. In sports, it is difficult for me to see a competition with three members. I do not know why the three continue to cling to it, what I do know is that the Super League, as it was organized at the beginning, is dead. That’s not what I say, it was said by football fans all over Europe. His reaction was clear and caused no club in England, France or Germany to ever again be tempted to play with fire. Without taking into account that it was a hasty act on the part of the alleged founders.

Please continue.

I am convinced that they wanted to precipitate the foundation to alleviate the effects caused by the Pandemic in the short term. We are talking about 250 and 350 kilos in hand for each club, which would have been the famous drop of water in the ocean because, in the long run, that money would have even worsened the economic situation of more than one.

He does not know Florentino Pérez from yesterday. Did you know of their plans?

Let’s just say it didn’t catch me out of the blue. Florentino was always a supporter of the Super League. We are talking about a great businessman who had not agreed with FIFA and UEFA decisions for a long time and acted accordingly. The idea of ​​the Super League was not born in April, but much earlier.

Did you also insist so much for Lewandowski?

He never dropped his name in any of our conversations. He knows me very well and knows that a player like Lewandowski is not sold. I always said that the two best signings I made in 30 years at the helm of Bayern were him and Neuer. The best at the back and the best at the top, without whom recent successes would not have been possible.

Nor did he sell to Ribéry in 2008.

We wanted to send a message to the world of football. They offered us 75 million for Ribéry, at that time he would have broken all records. I remember that we all sat down and began to discuss the matter to come to the conclusion that we were not going to sell for that money or for more. Our intention was to show the world that Bayern is not a buying or selling club. It was a clear signal, both to the clubs and to our players who, from that moment on, understood that contracts are signed here to fulfill them.

Borussia Dortmund are taking the same stance towards Haaland.

I know Aki (Watzke) and I know he is a man of his word. He said they weren’t going to sell him and they did. Although it will be very difficult to retain him in the Bundesliga beyond 2022, at which time I understand that a termination clause enters into force. He does not stop dialing and the clubs are already lining up to convince him and his agent. We will live a real auction in which, taking into account that the amount for the transfer is already set in the contract, it will be taken by the one with the highest salary. I don’t think it’s acceptable for any Bundesliga club, not even Bayern.

Let’s conclude with another great striker: Gerd Müller left.

Yes, sadly and unfortunately. I remember my speech just a year ago on Franz Beckenbauer’s 75th birthday. I described him as the most important player in the history of Bayern. He thanked me, but did not hesitate to correct me. He said that he had not been the most important, but Gerd. We all looked at each other in surprise. But he was right. Without Gerd, nothing would have been possible. We will never forget you and we will always remember you.