Jupp Heynckes is back but Bayern Munich remain in boardroom disarray
If Bayern Munich were so unhappy with Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season, why didn't they move on from him there and then? The answer is because they had a succession plan in place. They would persist with him, despite all the misgivings, in the hope that the squad's quality and some additional measures -- such as the appointments of assistant coach Willy Sagnol and sporting director Hassan Salihamidzic -- would continue to produce acceptable results. The necessary overhaul of the squad in the summer of 2018 would then coincide with the appointment of a younger, more innovative coach: Julian Nagelsmann.
Ancelotti knew that he would not see out his three-year contract, that the Bavarians didn't trust him to build a new team of talents and prospective stars. His cold treatment of Kingsley Coman, Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches -- who all saw limited game-time in 2016-17 because Ancelotti favoured players who were "ready for the first team," as he put it -- had made it clear that he was not interested in developing players.
By the time Bayern were humiliated by Paris Saint-Germain a week ago, Ancelotti seemed to have stopped caring about things altogether. Even his greatest backer on the board, executive chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, felt that the club had no option but to let the 58-year-old go straight away. His loss of authority and the team's confusion on the pitch had become too great to put up with any longer.
So, enter Nagelsmann? Alas, it's not that easy. Bayern (or to be more precise, president Uli Hoeness, his champion on the board) had earmarked the 30-year-old for July 2018, not October 2017. Hoeness was playing for time. He wanted to make sure that the self-professed Bayern supporter would gather more experience with TSG Hoffenheim 1899 during his first season in Europe, only the second full campaign of his career.
If Nagelsmann found a semblance of success in the spotlight or led Hoffenheim back into European football again at the end of 2017-18, it would have been easier to "sell" the novice to the star-studded dressing room, the supporters and most importantly, to Rummenigge. The former world-class striker has reservations about Nagelsmann's suitability after such a short time in the coaching business.
Under the unspoken rules of the delicate power-sharing agreement between the two "alpha males" at Sabener Strasse, it would now be Hoeness' turn to get his wish on the bench, as Ancelotti had been very much Rummenigge's appointment. But the the fall-out of the debacle in Paris has put that natural order into question.
Nagelsmann's inexperience has strengthened the case for Thomas Tuchel, who has already coached at a top club, won a trophy, undoubtedly plays the kind of tactically astute football that Bayern crave in their bid to get closer to Europe's elite and, of course, is available straight away. The 44-year-old, who fell out with some players and the Borussia Dortmund board at the end of his two-year-tenure because of his perfectionist streak, would uneasily fit into Hoeness' vision of Bayern as a bastion of togetherness and shared values. But Rummenigge, a much more pragmatic and emotionally detached operator, isn't overly concerned by that side of things. It is no secret that Tuchel would be his choice.
The 2-2 draw under interim coach Sagnol at Hertha has taken away "wait and see" as a viable third option. Therefore, the club have decided they had to act fast to try to stop the rot: enter Jupp Heynckes -- the man who led Bayern to the Treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal before retiring to make way for Pep Guardiola.
Heynckes' return is a compromise, a name that was acceptable to both Hoeness and Rummenigge who know just how complicated and political it could be inside and outside the Bayern dressing room.
But it remains a sticking plaster for many cracks at the club, a decision that is sure to win universal approval from the supporters and the public.
It allows Bayern to take stock and evaluate the next man, who is still most likely to be Nagelsmann, and maybe for the two club chiefs to iron out their own differences.
Irrespective of the man on the bench, the past few days have shown that Bayern's leadership crisis is worse than anticipated. As long there's no unity of purpose at boardroom level, the next full-time coach and his team will continue to struggle.
Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC's German football expert. Follow: @honigstein