When Hans-Dieter Flick returned to Bayern Munich as Niko Kovac’s assistant at the beginning of the season, he was asked what he hoped the partnership could achieve.
‘Above all, I hope that we can have fun and be successful together,’ came the reply. ‘I believe there’s a good level of harmony.’
Alas, three months on and unfortunately none of those statements have proven to be the case amid a turbulent start to the campaign for the reigning champions.
Hans-Dieter Flick (second left) on the Bayern Munich bench during their match with Hoffenheim earlier this season. He was assistant to the now sacked Niko Kovac
He gives the thumbs up during training on Tuesday ahead of the Olympiacos match
Flick consoles Jerome Boateng after his red card in the 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt
Fun and harmony have been in short supply as Kovac’s Bayern lurched from one bad result to another in the Bundesliga, culminating in the manager’s sacking following Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation at Eintracht Frankfurt.
The early red card shown to defender Jerome Boateng, leaving Bayern playing with 10 men for 81 minutes, should have served as mitigation for the club’s heaviest defeat in over a decade.
But by Sunday night Kovac was gone after just 17 months at the helm, leaving Flick to take over the top job on an interim basis.
While Bayern’s hierarchy begin the search for Kovac’s successor – with Jose Mourinho, Massimiliano Allegri and Erik ten Hag the frontrunners – Flick will take charge this week.
They can secure passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League if they defeat Greek club Olympiacos on Wednesday night before facing their rivals Borussia Dortmund in ‘Der Klassiker’ on Saturday.
The Bayern team seemed happy enough during their annual Oktoberfest celebrations recently but poor form in the Bundesliga led to the end of Kovac
Flick arrives at the Bayern training ground on Monday having been appointed interim manager
Bayern find themselves fourth in the Bundesliga table, some four points off the leaders
Bayern Munich fixtures
Bundesliga unless stated
Wednesday Olympiacos (H)
Champions League group stage
Saturday Borussia Dortmund (H)
November 23 Fortuna Dusseldorf (A)
November 26 Red Star Belgrade (A)
Champions League group stage
November 30 Bayer Leverkusen (H)
December 7 Borussia Monchengladbach (A)
The good news is that Flick understands what makes Bayern tick, having played in their midfield for five years during the late 1980s, and that makes him a good man for a crisis.
And his role as Joachim Low’s assistant with Germany between 2006 and 2014 kept him in touch with the modern day Bayern, from whom a substantial number of national team players were drawn.
His appointment as assistant to Kovac in July also re-immersed him in the daily ways of Germany’s biggest club.
‘When they asked me, I didn’t have to think too long about it. Bayern Munich is a club that is close to my heart, a top destination,’ Flick said upon his return.
‘Hansi’, as he is better known, was spotted by Bayern at the age of 20 and went on to make 137 competitive appearances for the club.
This was a Bayern team, featuring the likes of Lothar Matthaus, Klaus Augenthaler and Hansi Pflugler, that dominated German football in that period.
Flick won four Bundesliga titles and the German Cup in that time but they would lose 2-1 to Porto in the 1987 European Cup final in Vienna.
Kovac has a word with Javi Martinez on the Bayern bench during a game against Hoffenheim
The coach certainly isn’t afraid to get hands on, as forward Thomas Muller discovered here
Bayern manager odds
Jose Mourinho 5/2
Massimiliano Allegri 6/1
Arsene Wenger 9/1
Erik ten Hag 9/1
Ralf Rangnick 12/1
Hansi Flick 14/1
Mark van Bommel 25/1
Unai Emery 25/1
Adi Hutter 25/1
But his career trajectory could easily have been different. Aged 18, he was part-way through an apprenticeship to become a bank clerk when Stuttgart wanted to sign him.
‘I wanted to finish my training at the bank,’ Flick told Rund magazine in January 2014. ‘But VFB said that if I did that, I’d have to play for the reserve team and I didn’t want to do that.
‘I just wanted something to fall back on because I didn’t know how long I’d be able to play football for.’
Flick’s later success with Bayern made up for missing out on winning the 1983-84 Bundesliga with Bayern and, when he finally did hang up his boots, he didn’t have to fall back on banking after all.
While playing for amateur side Victoria Bammental late in his career, Flick completed his coaching badges and made the transition.
Indeed, such was his natural acumen for coaching, he finished joint-top of his class with the former Hamburg and Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Doll when completing his professional licence in 2003.
Flick was a midfielder who spent five years with Bayern Munich in the late 1980s
It was a successful time for the club, with Flick winning four Bundesliga titles
He was appointed Hoffenheim coach in 2000, helping them from the fourth to the third division and beginning the cycle of success that now sees them established in the Bundesliga elite.
However, it was a call out of the blue from Low in August 2006 that transformed his life. Low had just replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as national team boss and wanted Flick to assist him.
Between them, they nurtured a talented generation of German footballers to the top of the world in 2014 via second place at Euro 2008 and third place at the 2012 World Cup.
Everything came together in 2014 when a German squad containing seven Bayern players defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time to lift the World Cup for the fourth time.
Flick (right) and Germany coach Joachim Low take an Underground train during a visit to London for an international match against England in November 2013
After that, Flick was the German Football Association’s sporting director from September 2014 until January 2017, a role that included developing a new academy structure for the national side.
Now he’s very much back in the dug-out at a time of difficulty for Bayern. It’s possible Flick could remain as interim boss until the end of the season if Bayern can’t get their desired manager now.
A couple of positive results this week will certainly help get their season back on track leading into the final international break of the year.