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Rummenigge: “Now Real Madrid is Bayern’s bogey team”

Bayern legend and former club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge sat down to chat to AS on the eve of the Champions League semi-final second leg.

Bayern legend and former club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge sat down to chat to AS on the eve of the Champions League semi-final second leg.
Alexander HassensteinBongarts/Getty Images

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is a living legend at Bayern Munich. The former player and CEO, who marked an era both on and off the pitch, is now acting as a member of its Supervisory Board. He sat down to talk to AS ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg between Bayern and Real Madrid at the Bernabéu with the tie at 2-2. Apart from discussing about the eternal rivalry between the two clubs, he also sent a message to Florentino Pérez, asking the Madrid president to reconsider his plans regarding the Super League.

What were your thoughts after the first leg?

Both teams played a great game. I would have liked to have won 2-1, but I have to admit that Madrid was also good and deserved to draw.

What went through your mind when you saw Kroos play Vinicius through on goal?

To be honest with you, it scared me a little that he was able to play a ball like that from that distance and thread it through our entire defense. And then there was Vinicius, a difficult player to stop if you give him even an advantage of even half a meter.

Musiala wasn't bad either...

Yes but we need him to keep his feet on the ground, we must avoid giving him too much worship at this stage of his career. God has given him an excessive talent, but he has not yet reached his ceiling. We’ll be doing him a disservice if we start revering him now, because it doesn’t help. The only thing we will achieve with that is creating expectations that are counterproductive.

Rummenigge, in 2013, together with Uli Hoeness, former president of Bayern.
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Rummenigge, in 2013, together with Uli Hoeness, former president of Bayern.Alexander HassensteinBongarts/Getty Images

What do you think of Bellingham?

Real Madrid must be congratulated for his signing. He scores, he assists, he runs, fights, recovers the ball... He does everything well. He made the decision to join Madrid early on and I can only say that Dortmund were very happy when they understood that Bayern no longer had the option of getting involved.

What does Bayern need to do in the return?

I know what awaits us because I have experienced it many times, both while active and during my time on the board of directors. Surviving at the Bernabéu is complicated, but possible. Leipzig showed it in the round of 16 and my friend Pep Guardiola also recently proved that you can cause problems for Madrid at the Bernabéu. What helps us is that goals scored away from home no longer have double value, so we start again with 0-0. I trust in the version that Bayern has been showing throughout the entire Champions League campaign.

“Bayern-Madrid is the classic of European football, history says so”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, to AS

In Spain, the general opinion was that getting past Manchester City was the most difficult task for Real Madrid.

With all due respect, Bayern-Madrid is the classic of European football. And I'm not saying it, history says it. We have faced each other a total of 27 times in the highest continental competition, no confrontation has occurred more. That was precisely what my friend Florentino Pérez wanted, right?

Are you referring to the Super League?

I have always maintained a great relationship with Real Madrid, especially with Florentino Pérez and vice president Pedro López. That appreciation and respect is still there, the only thing I ask of them is that they bury their plans regarding the Super League. That’s all. Do you know what’s happening?

No, tell me...

We have a common problem, but we have different solutions. We live in a world in which there are more and more clubs in the hands of investors. And be careful: we are no longer talking just about billionaires, but rather billionaires whom the Premier League continues to welcome with open arms. Then there are television revenues in England. They are infinitely larger than in Spain or Germany. For clubs like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, this is a major problem for the simple fact that we do not start on equal terms with the English clubs. And I am convinced that therein lies Florentino’s problem. Theirs is not a war against UEFA, but against the inequality that we have suffered for many years because of the Premier League.

Saudi Arabia also wants to join the party.

We have to be patient. What happened in the recent transfer markets does not worry me. In short, they spent a fortune mostly on veteran players. Don’t get me wrong, I can perfectly understand a footballer going to Saudi Arabia at the end of his career. The real problem would arise if our young people decided to follow in their footsteps, but I don’t think they will succumb to money and be willing to put their careers on the line for it.

Do you think Florentino will change his mind?

On Tuesday I asked him: “Florentino, come back to the football family! “Our family needs Madrid and it needs you.” It should be remembered that Florentino is a very important figure in the world of football. I remember those times when we all admired Santiago Bernabéu and his work at the head of this club, he was one of the best presidents in history. Today I have to say that Florentino is at his level - he’s on the same level. Together with Bernabéu, he is one of the most important people who have passed through Real Madrid. I know him very well from all these years at the head of Bayern and the ECA. I traveled annually to Madrid to meet with him and Pedro Sánchez and agree on a multitude of issues. The only thing we disagree on is the Super League. The Champions League is the best competition for clubs. Good money is earned. The image is top. Everyone wants to play it. Hence, my only wish is for Florentino and Real Madrid to consider under what circumstances the club could return to our family under the roof of UEFA.

“My friend Florentino is on par with Santiago Bernabéu”

Rummenigge, on how important the Real Madrid president is in world football

A family that witnessed epic confrontations between both clubs. Isn’t that right?

And all because of a major mistake that we made.

What do you mean?

It was a friendly one. I remember it perfectly, because I also played that day. We beat them 9-1 and it seems to me that they fired Boskov that same day (it was not like that, in fact, that Madrid would reach the final of the European Cup). It was a complete humiliation, also because we caught them practically on vacation and we had already spent time in preseason. But we were wrong. Paul (Breitner) came to the locker room after scoring his goal just like me and said: “We’re crazy to do this. The next time we play at the Bernabéu they are going to kill us.” And that day came. Shortly after we played the Santiago Bernabéu Trophy and I saw myself playing alongside Klaus (Augenthaler) as a center back because, if I hadn’t, Camacho would have really killed me. That’s where it all started. Then the myth of the black beast arose, although I have to admit that the last time we were a black beast was in the 2012 semi-finals. Since then, they have become more of our white beast.

And Real Madrid continued winning Champions League trophy after trophy.

Real Madrid is the most famous and successful club in the world. There is a lot of talk about the UEFA club coefficient, but the club coefficient of the last decade is more interesting. The first is Real Madrid, followed by Bayern in second place. We haven’t been that bad either, we lifted the Champions League in 2013 and 2020. Let there be no doubt that on Wednesday the two most successful teams of the last decade will meet.

The Bundesliga is also getting a lot of attention right now.

I remember saying in 2013 that we would not experience a German final in the Champions League again for a long time and, eleven years later, it is theoretically possible again. Then there is Bayer Leverkusen, who already have a foot and a half in the Europa League final. The Bundesliga has played a great role this season at an international level and will be rewarded with that fifth place for the next edition of the Champions League. If not, Borussia [Dortmund] would have had a difficult time playing it again.

“I was always convinced that Xabi would be a successful coach”

Rummenigge, seguro con Xabi Alonso

Were you surprised by Xabi Alonso’s year at Leverkusen?

Yes and no. Yes because he took charge of Leverkusen when they were second to last, no because I know him well from his active time at Bayern and I was always convinced that he would end up being a successful coach. Let’s not forget that he worked with the best coaches in the world: Guardiola, Ancelotti, Benítez, Mourinho. Since he is a very intelligent person, he absorbed every detail and then created his own formula based on it. The title is deserved.

After eleven years of Bavarian hegemony.

That's right, that's why it doesn't seem like a drama to have come second to the finish line this time. Half the country was crying out for a champion other than us and this season their wish finally came true. Now we have to get ready to become champions again next year.

But Xabi is still there.

And it doesn’t surprise me. Xabi is a gifted guy, but at the same time very grateful too. I remember we gave him a two-year contract when he arrived in Munich. Then I met with his representative. Iñaki, also very nice by the way. It was all very serious at all times, but it only took us five minutes to agree to continue one more season with us. He made it clear to us that he wanted to hang up his boots at Bayern and that’s how it happened. That day our captain Philipp Lahm also said goodbye and I asked all the club employees to give them a standing ovation after their last training session. Not one was missing. Bayern knows who Xabi is. And Xabi knows who we are at Bayern.

"Nothing makes Ancelotti lose his temper, he is a gentleman from head to toe (...) There was no need to sign any contract because his word is worth more than ink"

Rummenigge y su relación con el técnico italiano

What does your Bayern have to do to get back to the top in Germany?

First, we must take into account that we have returned to the Champions League semi-finals after three seasons of being eliminated in the quarterfinals. That's already a positive thing. Before thinking about next year we have to give our all to take the two remaining steps to get it back up. There will be time to think about everything else.

Are you worried about how things have been going at Bayern?

The most important thing is continuity and we have to be self-critical. Lately we have strayed a little from our path, both on the bench and out on the pitch. Bayern has to recover that stability at all levels that has always characterized it. You have to keep in mind that people like Uli (Hoeness), Franz (Beckenbauer) and myself have been at the helm of this ship for a hundred years, at least that was my feeling. It is difficult for this type of longevity in a high position to happen again, but Bayern must return to the path of continuity.

Also on the bench.

These are issues that no longer directly concern me since I took a step back as CEO. My only advice is to be a little more watertight again. When we signed Pep, we spent a total of six months working on the operation and no one found out. You have to move around the board, yes, without your next move appearing every day in all the newspapers.

His successor was Ancelotti, whom they face on Wednesday.

Carlo is a beautiful person. What impressed me most was his stoic serenity. Nothing ever makes him lose his temper. He is a gentleman from head to toe. I remember that he shook our hands when we were negotiating for him to become coach of Bayern and there was no need to sign any contract because his word is worth more than ink. There were also no agents like you find today in droves when you meet with a footballer and they want to get a cut. I have never heard anyone say a bad word about Carlo in my entire life. And with his slow character he fits perfectly into a club, sometimes also as turbulent, as Real Madrid. It’s a shame that we were forced to part ways and I remember very well that I was the one who had to tell him. We both shed a few tears and then left a phrase that I will never forget. He told me that he was no longer my boss, but that he would still be my friend. And to know that we will continue to be friends forever.