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Apr, 27, 2009

Klinsmann's night of shame

The writing had been on the wall for some time. The chants of "Klinsmann Raus!" (Klinsmann out) after the 4-0 hammering against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final was not the first time Bayern Munich fans had expressed their disapproval this season, but what has since been dubbed ''The Night of Shame'' acted as a catalyst for one of the easiest decisions in football.

'Klinsi' never stood a chance after the humiliation of the Nou Camp; and a home defeat to Schalke 04 this weekend proved the final straw for a side that have struggled to impress under the legendary former striker.

Arriving in July, Klinsmann inherited a side who are used to success. Few have come close to them in the Bundesliga in the last four years (barring a disappointing 4th place in 2006-07) and, last year, they had won the double. The Bavarian fans demand immediate success and, with the likes of Franck Ribery and Luca Toni on show, they do not harbour unrealistic expectations.

But a 5-2 home defeat to Werder Bremen in mid-September proved Bayern were not as invincible as they once were. It was followed by losses to the likes of Hannover 96, Hamburg, FC Cologne and Hertha Berlin and, by the time Bayer Leverkusen knocked them out of the cup and shock leaders VfL Wolfsburg hammered them 5-1 in the league, the obituries were already being written.

But, despite the euphoria of their Champions League campaign in March - when they put 12 past Sporting Lisbon in two legs - Bayern had only led the league once (for a day or two in December). The team had not played well and a heavy defeat was on the cards, with Barcelona proving an altogether different prospect to the poor Portuguese.

The fact that the board backed their manager in public proved little solace. He was a dead man walking and, as Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger wrote his coroner's report, decisions were undoubtedly being made over his future.

Klinsmann had come under fire for his training methods while with the German national team for the 2006 World Cup and his unusual style - including getting his players to clasp hands and put their heads together for "bonding purposes" - proved as unpopular as his flying visits back home to America.

Unfortunately for Bayern, he appeared to take on his new club role with the same ideas as he had approached the national side.

The club adopted his new training methods with gusto, and it was reported that up to six coaches attended sessions, while yoga and language courses were offered to players to help them to "improve" themselves - although they were cancelled due to lack of interest.

He struggled with injuries, Miroslav Klose proving the most damaging of late, but did not cover himself in grace with his tactical moves. Abandoning his attempts to play three up-front early on, Klinsmann also fell out with some of his players.

A bust-up with captain Mark Van Bommel and his treatment of young goalkeeper Michael Rensing, whom he dropped before the fateful night at the Nou Camp, did not show his man-management skills in a good light; while it became painfully obvious that his side were not producing the goods on the pitch.

The air of invincibility they possessed in recent years evaporated, and even the stats have been against them as they have lost seven times in the league compared to twice last season. While their 37 goals conceded (compared to 21 in 2007-08) suggests that one of the many problems comes from a porous defence - something highlighted all too easily by Lionel Messi and company.

After the "Night of Shame", Bayern trainer Udo Lattek was pictured on television in tears. Few Bayern fans will display such sentiment for Klinsmann's departure.

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