Game changer: every game needs a daring player to change it
Robert Lewandowski: the super sportsman
Lewandowski’s game excels in many different areas. He is as technically adept with the ball as any Brazilian star and as athletic as an Olympic decathlete. He can score from any distance, leaves world-class defenders in despair, is an initiator and a driving force. Athleticism is a crucial factor in Lewandowski’s game – his physical power intimidates every opponent.
How and at what point did you realise that athleticism was at least as important as technique?
Robert Lewandowski: I was 23 or 24 when I first became really aware that my physical fitness had an effect on my performance on the field. That was a groundbreaking moment for me.
Can you calculate what contribution your fitness makes to your scoring record?
I think every goal is 50% athleticism.
Have you been influenced by other players in the past?
Of course I had role models, but I think it’s much more important to go your own way and not to watch others too much – after all, everyone is unique.
What advice would you give to young sportsmen and women?
It takes a lot of discipline and positive thinking. No matter how much talent you have, you must work hard to be successful. But at some point, the work will pay off.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: world-class at all levels
In the 1980s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was considered one of the best players in the world. Since 2002 he has been chairman of FC Bayern Munich, responsible among other things for the areas of sport, media and brand, and has shaped an era in the club’s history. One of the most important decisions for the future of the club was the construction of the Allianz Arena, which was opened in 2005.
Has there been a particular moment when you felt that you could give people at Bayern Munich a special boost?
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: I believe that, as chairman, you must support your employees and players, especially in difficult times. The most recent example is the coronavirus crisis. It was and is important at this time that we deal seriously with the crisis, that we fulfil our function as a role model for employees, players and supporters, that we create and communicate safety and perspective.
When did you know that you would shape an era at FC Bayern?
When the professional football operation was spun off into a joint-stock company in 2002, Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, Karl Hopfner and I had the feeling that something very special could now emerge here. The reason for establishing FC Bayern Munich AG was the construction of the Allianz Arena, which was in development at the time. It was perhaps the most important key to our current successes.
How do you make progress in a club?
Basically, you always have to keep your eyes and ears open for modern developments. You must recognise and anticipate trends on and off the pitch and select and take those that are relevant to your own success. That is the only way to establish yourself as a benchmark.
What role does the joy of success play in your second career?
The joy of success was more directly tangible in my time as a player – you were responsible for success on the pitch and, of course, you felt the joy in that immediately. In management you bear overall responsibility for other issues too. The marketing, the finances, the values that the club communicates. But that also only works if success makes you happy. And I enjoy winning titles today just as much as I used to.
Serge Gnabry: inspired all-rounder
Creative, smart, brilliant on the ball – that’s Serge Gnabry. For the young winger, FC Bayern was the game changer. Not only has his outstanding game been nurtured here, but he has also achieved great success. That’s precisely because a progressive mindset is part of the famous Bayern DNA, and the club therefore becomes a game changer for young talent.
Can you remember the moment when you felt that your career would get a very special boost at Bayern Munich?
Serge Gnabry: At my first training session I immediately noticed that the ambition here is quite different. The intensity and the extremely high quality have already impressed me. I felt from day one that FC Bayern was something special and that I really had to up my game.
What has helped you make this great step forward in terms of development?
The realisation that I need to accept the competition, that I must work even harder to be able to keep up here. Here you learn that you have to live it.
What made you decide to play for Bayern Munich?
The club’s history, its great successes and the players who play here. I always want to play at the top level and to win as many titles as possible – Bayern is the perfect club for that. Another reason was that I already knew some of the players from when I was younger, which of course made it easier for me to start here.
Have you any advice for young sportsmen and women?
You must enjoy what you’re doing, whatever sport you play. You should set yourself goals early on and be aware that you’ll have to give up a lot of things in order to achieve those goals.
Bernd Hofmann: the super fan
Bernd Hoffman has been a Bayern Munich fan from the start. His love for the club came to the fore in 1969 when Bayern won the German Championship and around 30 years ago led to his decision to set up a supporters’ club. Hoffman’s motivation was to bring people together, to take everyone along, to celebrate being fans together. Today the Nabburg/Oberpfalz FC Bayern Supporters’ Club has well over 5,000 members, making it one of the biggest Bayern supporters’ clubs in the world.
Can you recollect a special moment that made you, as an FC Bayern fan, especially happy?
Bernd Hofmann: The moment when, together with 75 fans in Nabburg, I was able to set up a Bayern supporters’ club, of which I’m still the president to this day. This year we’re celebrating our 30 th anniversary as a supporters’ club and to date we have 5,755 members.
How has the fact that you are a die-hard Bayern Munich fan influenced you as a person?
We take guest supporters with us to almost all home and away games – that has turned us into a close-knit community of supporters. You get to know new people and supporters from around the world on such trips. This solidarity across national borders has greatly influenced me.
Can supporters be game changers for the players, and can you think of an instance when supporters may have decided the match?
The 2013 Champions League win against Dortmund at London’s Wembley Stadium comes to mind. When I remember our boundless enthusiasm and how we cheered on the team until the last minute, I still get goose bumps. Sportsmen and women, including footballers, need their supporters, need the closeness, need their enthusiasm and their cheering. We’re only strong together! This is particularly evident in difficult times. The 2012 ‘home final’ (UEFA Champions League Final played at the Allianz Arena) which we lost is a good example. Defeats have always helped us supporters to develop an even stronger bond with the team and the club – solidarity knows no bounds!
The current coronavirus situation has turned everything inside out for fans. What’s your perception?
The whole thing is already getting to fans. In what was one of the club’s most successful seasons, we weren’t allowed to attend either the Championship, the DFB Cup, the UEFA Champions League final or the two Super Cups or to celebrate them live – that hurts! That’s why I write a newsletter to members every week, thank them for their loyalty to the supporters’ club, try to motivate them and call on them to keep going.
Manuel Neuer: the sweeper keeper
A goalkeeper who turns the world of football on its head and redefines the role into that of a sweeper keeper can claim to have revolutionised goalkeeping. Manuel Neuer has thus become a game changer who gives Bayern’s attack an 11th option as an outfield player. But how did this reinterpretation of goalkeeping come about?
How and at what point did you have the idea that this style of play would change the goalkeeper’s game?
Manuel Neuer: We often played indoor tournaments when I was with the youth teams. I always tried to speed up the game. I became an outfield player, as it were. The trainers always liked that and encouraged it too, so I tried to keep improving my ball skills.
Was there a specific moment when you realised that this game idea could be a real game changer for you and for FC Bayern?
No, there was no such moment. It was more of a gradual process. But it’s always been in my nature to think about the attack, to play in an attacking way. Both FC Bayern and the national team expect this from a goalkeeper. You must be part of the game, always ready and always able to pass the ball. And you have to show presence on the pitch.
What role does the competition in the Bundesliga and Champions League play in your development?
I’m motivated by the thrill of a competition. The tension also helps me to push myself beyond my limits. You experience special moments and surprise yourself with positive events and achievements.
Your mastery of the ball is exceptional. Is there a recipe for success?
Naturally, it takes a bit of talent. Above all, it takes a lot of hard work. It’s important that you always try to develop your abilities.
Ideas create the future. The cooperation between Audi and FC Bayern Munich began with the idea of creating a partnership of equals – an initiative that has been the starting signal for a success story. And the next game changer is already in the starting blocks.