During Marco van Basten’s reign over the national team, the name of Mark van Bommel was a forbidden name. Van Bommel was deemed persona non grata in the national side, despite being one of Bayern Munich’s best players last season. Van Bommel missed out on Euro 2008 because of his row with Van Basten.
With the start of a new season came new hope for the tenacious Dutch midfielder. First of all in the form of his new manager at club level. New Bayern manager Jürgen Klinsmann made Van Bommel the new captain.
It was the first time ever in Bayern’s history that a foreigner was made “Kapitän,”the skipper of the team. Klinsmann went as far as calling Van Bommel “der neue Kahn”, a player with the same iconic value as legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
Second of all, he had high hopes for a fresh start in the national side. His father-in-law Bert van Marwijk was appointed as Marco van Basten’s successor and a new dawn brought a second chance for the ever-ambitious midfielder to win more trophies.
A few months into the new season however, it appears that Van Bommel’s dreams of glory are quickly turning into a nightmare. Klinsmann rewarded Van Bommel with the captains armband after an exceptional pre-season career, but right now “der Kapitän” is a captain without a ship to steer and a crew to command.
Choosing the right team captains always was an important point in football, but somehow “Klinsi” thinks he has made the wrong choice. It’s a pretentious assumption, but one based on facts.
Why else would a manager keep his skipper on the bench for seven consecutive matches? No injuries and bans during that period, Klinsmann just opted to field someone else in Van Bommels position.
To make it worse, the players that are fielded in his position were never any real competition for him in the previous season. Andreas Ottl was used as a wing-back, Martin Demichelis played as a central defender and midfielders like José Sosa, Toni Kroos and Tim Borowski were just not good enough to threaten his spot in the team.
At the start of the season, Klinsmann appeared to agree. How else could one explain his decision to grant Van Bommel the captaincy of one of the biggest clubs in European and World Football… You don’t make someone captain, only to drop him from the squad soon afterwards… Unless you feel you have made a mistake ofcourse.
It’s a question Dutch and German reports have been asking themselves over the past few months. Initially, Klinsmann claimed he was using a rotation-system and it was Van Bommels turn to sit on the bench. However, you don’t keep your captain on the side-lines for such a long period unless there’s something else going on.
Klinsmann’s second explanation sounded logical too, at first. Van Bommel wasn’t used to the new tactic Klinsmann wanted to use. He needed his skipper to get accustomed to the new tactic in training but he would get his spot back. The same rule, claimed Klinsmann, applied to every other player in the squad as well.
Now that sounds fair enough, but looking at Bayern’s disastrous start of the season, Van Bommel isn’t the only player that hasn’t quite adapted to the new tactics. International stars like Luca Toni, Lucio and Miroslav Klose have all handed in awful performances for the Bavarian side so far, yet they haven’t lost their spot, despite the presence of worthy replacements.
My guess is that Klinsmann has full confidence in Van Bommel and his capacities as a player and as a captain, but someone at the club cynically referred to as “FC Hollywood” hasn’t… It would explain why chairman Franz Beckenbauer claimed Bayern was interested in Italian pitt-bull Gennaro Gattuso last summer.
Chairman Franz Beckenbauer, “der Kaiser” or “the Emperor” of German football, is not an avid fan of Van Bommel. According to the ageing German legend, Van Bommel is too aggressive on the pitch and not in complete control of his emotions.
Someone like that, claims Beckenbauer, should not wear the captains armband and even though he doesn’t say it out loud, what he means is that someone like that shouldn’t even play for a club like Bayern.
Now regarding his behaviour, Beckenbauer has a point. Van Bommel is a player who constantly plays on the edge. He’s aggressive in his duels with other players, he dives, he moans, he fouls, anything to win the match. Players that play like this tend to get booked and Van Bommel is no exception to this rule.
Everything that Beckenbauer has said about Van Bommel so far is correct. But aren’t those the qualities you want for a defensive midfielder?
Your defensive midfielder is the hard man of the team, not afraid to get stuck in, throw himself infront of a shot to block it, or face off with opposition players. He’s the guy you expect to be a nasty bastard at times and Van Bommel does just that, and more.
He’s not just a hard tackling defensive midfielder, but he can deliver a great long range pass with his right foot, he’s got a considerable amount of creativity and he has the ability to be a match-winner with his penetrating runs forward and devastating shots. A total of 69 goals in just over 400 games is an impressive tally for a midfielder.
The question remains, what does the technical staff at Bayern expect from Van Bommel? He is fielded in the position of defensive midfielder, yet he is not allowed to play in an aggressive fashion. A defensive midfielder who keeps the gloves on at all times? Sounds like a pretty useless player to me.
Van Bommel is a player who is driven by his emotions and his fighting spirit. He can be a leader when things are looking bad for the team, his fighting spirit has worked inspirational when he was captain at PSV Eindhoven. Why would anyone want to take these qualities away from him?
Either way, he needs to reclaim his spot at Bayern, or he risks losing his spot in the national side as well, which would restore the status quo he was in back when Van Basten reigned supreme in Zeist (the offices of the KNVB are located in Zeist and this is the place where the squad always gathers).
To sum it all up, it looks like Van Bommel’s dreams of a new dawn are turning into a nightmare. Perhaps a move away from Bayern is the answer?