Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp and Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer are not exactly on amicable terms. This much has been well known ever since the two were involved in a sideline altercation last spring in a 1-1 draw.
Relations between their clubs have been rather chilly for quite some time, but Sammer and Klopp were not found to be at odds again until recently.
Over the last few days, Klopp and Sammer rekindled their feud following some controversial remarks the Bayern man made. In the end, it was Klopp who came out on top, sending a strong message to the rest of the Bundesliga as he called out Sammer for some very ill-advised words.
Speaking on television channel Sport1 on Thursday (via ESPN), Sammer suggested factors other than budget, individual quality and squad depth accounted for Bayern's dominance of the Bundesliga:
"Maybe we are superior in quality and also in mentality right now. And maybe the message to the other clubs is: Do they train every single day with utmost care as if there was no tomorrow?"
Klopp was quick to rebut venomously. At a press conference, the trainer (via ESPN) said:
"Let me put it this way: If I were Matthias Sammer, I'd thank God every day that somebody had the idea to bring me in. I think that Bayern would have no fewer points without Matthias Sammer."
Klopp's response was strong but indirect, a personal attack that was dismissive of Sammer's proposal. And to be fair, the Bayern director may not have deserved a response for a statement that was convenient to make given Bayern's position in the league table and ignorant of factors like the vast discrepancies in wages and transfer fees paid by the Bavarians as opposed to the rest of the league.
For Sammer to suggest that other teams were not working hard enough was the height of snobbery. And on Saturday, Bild (in German) published a round-up in which an overwhelming majority of Bundesliga club officials agreed that he had stepped too far.
Hannover's Dirk Durfner deemed the former sweeper's comments "highly arrogant" and asserted that "it is an insult to insinuate that the other teams do not train enough."
Christian Heidel of Mainz said: "If we had the opportunity to spend €130 million on players in two years, we would be champions without Matthias Sammer's advice."
Whether or not Klopp was exactly accurate in his assessment of Sammer's influence, the Bayern Munich sporting director's role is to manage his own club, not advise others.
Despite the Bavarians' competitive dominance on the pitch and in the financial sector, it cannot be forgotten that they are just one club; the other 17 in the Bundesliga are autonomous and each needs to actively resist all competitors, big and small.
Wolfsburg, like so many other teams this season, did not put up a fight: They saw an early lead over Bayern turn into a 6-1 rout in front of their home fans on Saturday. Similarly, Frankfurt recently seemed to give up before kickoff when Armin Veh announced his intent to rest key figures Sebastian Rode and Carlos Zambrano for their clash with Bayern.
Klopp's sharp reply was a rare rebuttal against a Bayern side that will have gone 50 games without defeat in the Bundesliga if they avoid a loss at home to Leverkusen this weekend. And the trainer's comments may have sent a message to teams around the league that they must stand up and fight, as they once did, even against the most difficult opponents.
Although populist in origin, Klopp's message is welcome especially as Bayern are close to wrapping up their second consecutive Bundesliga title with several matches left to play and following heavy defeats for Schalke and Leverkusen against Real Madrid and PSG, respectively, in the Champions League.
The most recent feud will go down as a win for Klopp in his long-term feud with Sammer. The BVB trainer was the first of many to put Sammer back in his place and for setting a precedent and paving the way for others to rebut, he helped the league as a whole.
Perhaps now more trainers will be emboldened and rediscover the passion that used to characterize matches between Bayern and their scrappy, lesser domestic opponents.
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