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Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 6:58:27 PM
Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 6:58:27 PM
by brian homewood
(Reuters) - Bayern Munich have often been labelled as FC Hollywood and coach Pep Guardiola, still a relative newcomer in his first season at the club, may have started to discover why this week.
While club president Uli Hoeness went on trial for tax evasion this week and faces a possible jail sentence of up to ten years, sports director Matthias Sammer contrived to upset most of the other clubs in the Bundesliga by suggesting they should train harder.
Saturday's match at home to third-placed Bayer Leverkusen (1730 GMT), which appears almost a formality given Bayern's run of 16 consecutive league wins, has taken a back seat to the off-field drama.
Sammer's comments led critics to question his influence in Bayern's treble winning campaign last season in a row that involved all sorts of personalities, ranging from former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn to current Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp.
"Maybe we are superior in quality and also in mentality right now," said 46-year-old former Germany midfielder Sammer, who makes a point of sitting on the Bayern bench at games, in a television interview.
"Maybe the message to the other clubs is: Do they train every single day as if there were no tomorrow?"
Hanover 96 manager Dirk Dufner described the comments as a "cheek" and his Mainz 05 counterpart Christian Heidel, referring to Bayern's lavish spending, added: "If we could spend 130 million euros ($180.76 million) on players, we would be champions without Matthias Sammer's advice."
Klopp, who had an angry touchline exchange with Sammer during a Bundesliga match last season, was even more outspoken.
"I find it very important in life that one recognises when one has been lucky," he said. "I don't know that Bayern would have got one point less without Sammer.
"If I were him, I'd thank God that someone had the idea of hiring me every time I walk into the Bayern training ground."
That in turn provoked more reaction from Bayern sympathisers including their former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who described Klopp's comment as "disrespectful and impertinent."
Franz Beckenbauer also chipped in: "I dare say that Bayern would not have achieved this kind of success without Matthias Sammer," the former West Germany captain and coach told Sky.
"Matthias came to Bayern at just the right time, Bayern were seemingly dying."
However, Sammer's predecessor Christian Nerlinger, who left the club following the 2011/12 season, said he also deserved credit for Bayern's current success.
"Of course, I would like to have been there when we picked the fruit," he said, adding that it was under his stewardship that the likes of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger established themselves.
"(Previous coach) Jupp Heynckes called me after they won the Bundesliga and the Champions League last season and thanked me," he added. "Jupp is a great man."
Meanwhile, Bayern's players have been ducking questions about Hoeness.
As his trial opened on Monday, Hoeness admitted to evading more than five times the 3.5 million euros he had been charged with, around 18.5 million, hoping his admission and apology would mitigate his punishment.
The judge was expected to rule on the case on Thursday, possibly passing sentence the same day.
Amid all this, Bayern, who have dropped only four points all season, have a 22-point lead at the top, are set to better last year's record when they wrapped up the title with six games to spare.
They could still win another treble, having reached the Champions League quarter-finals by completing a 3-1 aggregate win over Arsenal on Tuesday and the German Cup semi-finals.
In other games at the weekend, Huub Stevens will make his debut as relegation-threatened VfB Stuttgart's third coach of the season as they face Werder Bremen, having taken only one point from their last eight games.
Meanwhile, Hamburg SV, battling to maintain their status as the Bundesliga's only ever-present team, host Nuremberg on Sunday (1430 GMT).
Stuttgart are 15th with 20 points and are ahead of Hamburg, who occupy the relegation playoff spot, on goal difference.
Freiburg, one point behind the pair in 17th, visit Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday (1630 GMT).
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