Bayern imploding after setbacks
With Bayern Munich all but out of the Champions League, falling behind in the Bundesliga and its players now criticizing management, the famous German club seems to be imploding. Bayern was hoping for quiet - and successful - times when it pursued and finally signed experienced Dutch coach Louis van Gaal after a turbulent season under novice Juergen Klinsmann, who was fired with five games to go. Van Gaal came with a pedigree that includes the Champions League title but a third into the season his position looks wobblier by the day. After losing 2-0 to Bordeaux last week, Bayern has only an outside chance of advancing to the knockout stage of the Champions league. A 1-1 draw with Schalke in the Bundesliga on Saturday dropped van Gaal's team six points behind the leader, Bayer Leverkusen. On the day of the match, Munich's biggest newspaper, the Sueddeutsche, published a full-page interview with Philipp Lahm, a respected Germany defender and Bayern's deputy captain, who criticized the front office for its transfer moves and the coach for his constant switches in formation. While Bayern's managers were still coming to grips with the public ripples triggered by Lahm's interview, Italy striker Luca Toni caused more friction by walking out of the stadium after being substituted at halftime and driving away without returning to watch the rest of the game. General manager Uli Hoeness was livid after the game, saying the content and the timing of Lahm's interview was "not clever" and promising that Lahm was "going to regret it." The interview, contrary to Bayern's policy, had not been cleared by the club. "You can talk about everything with us, but at home behind (closed) doors. He definitely broke the rules," Hoeness said. Hoeness appeared to back van Gaal despite recent setbacks. "We are going to wait calmly until Christmas and look at the situation then," he said. Lahm and Toni both had to report to Bayern boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and van Gaal on Sunday and were fined undisclosed sums. A statement said Lahm had violated club rules in a "striking, unforgivable manner" and had broken an "absolute taboo" by publicly criticizing the club, the coach and teammates and that he would be fined an unprecedented sum. Toni's departure from the stadium without permission was an "unacceptable lack of discipline," the statement said, describing his fine as "substantial." The turmoil comes shortly before a Nov. 27 club members conference that is scheduled to install Hoeness as president to replace Franz Beckenbauer, who moves on to become supervisory board chairman. What was supposed to be a smooth transition could become an unpleasant affair if the notoriously loud club members start asking uncomfortable questions. In his interview, Lahm touched on topics that are likely being debated hotly by most supporters. Among other things, Lahm said: "If you compare our team to the top sides from the Champions League, they have top-class players in seven, eight positions, and we lack that. "If you want to compete with Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United, then Bayern needs a playing philosophy. That has to be the goal of the club. "In the past, the transfers were not always very successful ... clubs like Manchester or Barcelona have a system and then you buy personnel for the system. You bring specific players and then you have a team. Something like that doesn't exist here. "The club has to say, when a new coach comes, this is how we play ... We have many players that have no position now in a 4-3-3 system that our coach would like to use, for example our strikers. We have really good forwards but if you play 4-3-3, two or three of them are always on the bench. "If you buy Mario Gomez, then you have to say, OK, we play with two strikers. We played the entire preseason with two strikers. And then suddenly, we get (Arjen) Robben, a great player who fits with us - and who prefers the 4-3-3 system. You can't simply buy players because they are good." Lahm said many players had trouble adjusting to van Gaal and that he was still treated with a mixture of "respect and fear." Van Gaal prefers using two wingers and one striker in his attack, which has left Gomez benched, even though he cost Bayern about ?35 million ($51 million). With Franck Ribery and Robben on the wings, Bayern produced some of its best football this season, but Ribery has played few games because of knee tendinitis and Robben is only coming back after knee surgery.