Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said that signing Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski were his best decisions in close to 20 years as CEO of Bayern Munich.
A former Bayern player, Rummenigge will step down from his role at the end of 2021 after watching his club win a remarkable sextuple of trophies over the past year.
This season the reigning European and FIFA Club World Cup champions look set to secure the Bundesliga title for a record ninth consecutive time, and Rummenigge believes that Germany goalkeeper Neuer and Polish striker Lewandowski were the keys to that success.
Watch: Find out what makes Neuer so good
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (c.) commiserated with Rorbert Lewandowski (r.) when Bayern beat Dortmund in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final at Wembley – before signing him a year later. – imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst
A 2014 FIFA World Cup winner, Neuer joined Bayern from Schalke in 2011, while current world player of the year Lewandowski moved from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer three years later.
“We got the world’s best goalkeeper and the world’s best centre-forward – that has been the foundation of our success in the last six, seven years,” Rummenigge told The Athletic.
“There’s a nice blend of players in the squad but those were outstanding in the season gone by. Without Manuel in top form we might go 1-0 down in the [UEFA Champions League] final in Lisbon – PSG were very good in the first half.”
Rummenigge, who was elected vice-president of Bayern in 1991 before becoming CEO in 2002, has also been central to many important coaching appointments.
He credits Louis van Gaal with setting the ball rolling on Bayern’s decade of domestic dominance, but also had high praise for Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola and current head coach Hansi Flick.
Bayern – and Neuer – won a magnificent Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League treble in 2012/13 under the calm guidance of Heynckes, and the veteran returned for another successful spell in charge during the 2017/18 season.
Like Heynckes did when he was reappointed head coach in October 2017, Flick began turning Bayern’s fortunes around when he took over from Niko Kovac in November 2019.
With Lewandowski helping himself to a staggering 55 goals in 2019/20, Bayern claimed another treble on Flick’s watch. In an unprecedented period of sustained success, however, they went on to add the DFL Supercup, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
Watch: How does Lewandowski score his goals?
Rummenigge, who will be replaced as CEO by ex-Bayern and Germany goalkeeping great Oliver Kahn, sees plenty of similarities between Heynckes and Flick.
“Hansi has the same philosophy and same empathy as Jupp,” the 65-year-old – who twice won the European Cup as an attacker with the Bavarians in 1975 and 1976 – said of the two former Bayern players. “I said to him, ‘You could be Jupp’s brother or his son. Take your pick’.”