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Uli Hoeness considering Bayern return after release

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Disgraced ex-Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness is due to be released from prison on Monday as he contemplates a return to the club he built into a European powerhouse. The 64-year-old has served 21 months of his three-and-a-half year sentence after being convicted in March 2014 of having evaded paying at least 28.5 million euros ($31.5 million) in taxes.

Hoeness, the son of a German butcher who became a millionaire businessman, rose to fame as the driving force behind Bayern's rise before his fall from grace.

Even behind bars, Hoeness was never far from Bayern. As soon he as he was granted day release in January 2015, he immediately started working in the club's youth academy. "It's not over!" was Hoeness's battle cry to FC Bayern in May 2014, shortly before starting his sentence. He has said he will announce his future plans on July 1.

The date coincides with the start of Carlo Ancelotti's reign as Bayern's coach to replace Pep Guardiola, but until then Hoeness says he 'just wants to be a fan again'. His first public engagement will be at a ceremony to honour Jupp Heynckes, who coached Bayern to the 2013 treble, in Moenchengladbach on March 13.

Three days later, Hoeness will be at Munich's Allianz Arena to watch Bayern's Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Juventus. During his playing career, Hoeness was a central midfielder at the heart of the Bayern team which won the European Cup three times between 1974-76. A persistent knee injury forced the 1974 World Cup winner to retire at just 27 and he became the club's youngest-ever manager.

When Franz Beckenbauer stood down as Bayern president in 2009, Hoeness succeeded him after a 30-year apprenticeship. But behind the scenes, he was obsessively gambling millions on stocks and currencies via his Swiss bank accounts.

He served his sentence in Landsberg prison, where Adolf Hitler wrote 'Mein Kampf'.

After six months, he started worked in Bayern's youth academy under a parole system which meant he returned to jail every evening. He worked for 14 months, without missing a weekday, including Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, as the alternative was sitting in his cell.

Behind bars, he dropped 25 kilos (55lbs) through daily exercise sessions and with his beloved red wine off the menu. But the first six months clearly took a toll. "I have to admit I was shocked at the time, because Uli did not look good," his brother Dieter Hoeness told Sport1.

In the summer of 2014, Hoeness was treated for a heart problem in a Bavarian hospital and took the chance to improve his health. The general feeling around Bayern's senior figures seems to be that Hoeness has done his time as they await his release.

"I'm looking forward to it, I saw him during the time [in prison]. For his family and him, this is the best," Bayern's director of sport Matthias Sammer told Sky. "There will be a lot of personal factors on the day and for everything else, that is up for Uli to decide."

The moral question of whether a convicted criminal should resume as club president has not been discussed publically. From a legal point of view, there is nothing preventing Hoeness's return to office. "There would be grounds if there were significant property offences, such as fraud, embezzlement or a delay in filing for insolvency," legal expert Christian Steinpichler told magazine Focus.

But tax evasion is not included in the list and during his remaining three years of probation, he must only provide the authorities with any change of address.

Karl Hopfner became Bayern's president after Hoeness resigned and his term of office runs until club's annual meeting at the end of the year. He has said he will not stand in his way if Hoeness decides to run for president again. "I was democratically elected until the annual meeting at the end of the year. I haven't given it any thought past that date," said Hopfner.


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