Robert Lewandowski (l.) continues to play a big part of Bayern Munich's success under CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (r.). - © imago
Robert Lewandowski (l.) continues to play a big part of Bayern Munich's success under CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (r.). - © imago
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Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Diego Maradona and more

Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has told bundesliga.com that striker Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer are the best in the world in their respective positions.

In an exclusive interview, Rummenigge also discusses head coach Hansi Flick, Bayern's insatiable will to win, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and the late Diego Maradona...

Rummenigge on Hansi Flick...

... "Firstly, he has quality. Quality in a coach is very important. He has a clear plan. In his daily work, his - 'daily work' for me is what happens from Monday to Friday, and then what you see on a Saturday is ideally the result of that - they work really hard every day in training to make the game on Saturday positive and successful. You can see that. From the start he’s had a very clear plan, he found a common thread, an empathy with the team straight away - that was very important, we needed that back. So what he’s done is all good. It would be nice if we can keep progressing, or even I could say, keep it where we are at the moment."

on managing Bayern...

... "I’ve always said one thing: 'The coach is the most important member of the club'. If the coach can create unity with the team, if the coach has a clear plan, if the coach is good in the day-to-day work, then in my experience that usually leads to success, and Hansi has achieved that here. I’ve experienced some great coaches here, whether it’s Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Goal, Pep Guardiola, all of whom have contributed greatly to what we could call the FC Bayern way, and that’s something that Hansi has cultivated again. The coaches who have had success here haven’t had it by accident - it’s because they’re simply good coaches, or they were. Hansi belongs in that category. He’s played a really important role in our recovering of the FC Bayern way, or rather, he’s recovered it himself, and it’s no accident that success has followed him."

It's not just Hansi Flick's (l.) growing collection of trophies that have impressed Rummeniggge (r.) in the Bayern tactician's time as head coach. - imago

on the FIFA Men's Best Player and Robert Lewandowski...

... "Firstly, I think it’s good that FIFA are continuing with the vote this year. It wasn’t clear whether it would happen. I spoke with the FIFA president about it a couple of times, I told him that we have this vote every year and football has been played this year, you can’t forget that. The Bundesliga was completed, the major leagues in Europe were all decided, the Champions League was completed, and I told him, if in ten years it says '2021 he won, 2022 he won' but there’s a gap in 2020, for me that would be a mistake that you could still correct. And I’m happy that FIFA have brought it back, I hope that Robert wins, he’s had an amazing year, I think Robert Lewandowski is in the form of his life, despite the fact he’s 32 now, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. I would like him to win, I hope he wins, he’ll have earned it, but we’ll have to wait and see if he does win it at the end of the day."

Watch: The best of Robert Lewandowski at Bayern

on the transfer window...

... "In these times, when finances are tighter too, we had a good transfer window, I think. Without doubt, we lost an important player in Thiago, but it was his wish and, among friends, you have to be able to give them the chance to say goodbye, and you should do that. I think we handled that well from our side. We signed a very important player in Leroy Sane, but then the coach also wanted to make up for the loss of loan players [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ivan] Perisic, and at the end of the day we decided that in [Douglas] Costa and Leroy, we’d signed two wide players that bring that level of quality that we need. Our style of play is obviously very focused on the wide players, the left and right wingers, and that’s an important element for us: they have to be quick, they have to be able to dribble, they have to create goals or goal-scoring chances, or score themselves. We’ve done a bit there, and I think overall we’ve got a good squad. The players we’ve brought in, I think the squad is absolutely ready to challenge and that was our aim."

on ambition...

... "Firstly, it’s incredibly important, I learnt that here myself when I arrived at FC Bayern, the team back then in 1974 were German champions, European champions and eight players in the starting XI had just won the World Cup. So I think I can say their level of ambition was a bit lower. But I have to say, what has really surprised me and what I find great, is that the level of ambition among us at the moment is as high as it was before. We’re top of the Bundesliga, we’ve qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League early, the team isn’t taking their foot off the gas. The character of the team is - surprisingly, I must say - at a really, really high level."

Rummenigge scored 217 goals in 422 appearances for Bayern between 1974-1984, before returning to the club as vice-president in 1991 and being appointed CEO nine years later. - imago sportfotodienst

on Manuel Neuer...

... "Manuel Neuer is 34 now, and he’s just getting better and better. He’s like a red wine that matures each year. He anticipates pretty much every shot, wherever it comes from, and makes the save. We’ve seen that in the last couple of weeks in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League. He’s the best goalkeeper in the world, I think he’s even the best goalkeeper of all time. We’ve always had good goalkeepers in Germany, at Bayern, when you talk about Sepp Meyer or Oliver Kahn, but I think Manuel Neuer has taken goalkeeping to a new level, and we’re really happy that he’s lining up between the sticks for us."

on the upcoming top-of-the-table clash with RB Leipzig on Matchday 10...

... "I think Leipzig’s development has been good. I think it’s good for the Bundesliga as a whole. They’re doing a good job there. I think they have a good set-up - my peer Oliver Mintzlaff is a great man for the management team over there, he’s got the responsibility, they’ve brought a good coach to the club in Julian Nagelsmann, and the result is continuous good work and development of the club, and they’ve really become the third great power in the Bundesliga nowadays. You always heard about Bayern and Dortmund, and now you have to say that RB Leipzig is a club that do a good job, and when you do a good job, you can earn your stripes in the Bundesliga and in Europe. Three draws in a row against them as well, I can’t remember the last time we drew three times in a row against a single Bundesliga side, and that’s proof that it won’t be easy for us against them. It’ll be an important game, a decisive game, both of us have Champions League games to play beforehand, so it’s an important highlight of the season. We’re at home, we want to win to defend our lead at the top of the table, so we’re taking it very seriously. It’ll be a great game for the spectators."

on Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund...

... "It’s become a Klassiker. We all looked a bit jealously at Spain when Real and Barca were playing each other in the Spanish Clasico, but I think now Dortmund-Bayern is a Klassiker in itself. I think we saw that recently when we played, a great game by the way, 3-2, it could have been 5-4 looking at all the chances. It was just a great game, and the day after I think it was Real vs. Barca, and it wasn’t comparable in terms of the quality. So you can say the Bundesliga version is just a level above at the moment."

Watch: Highlights of Bayern's thrilling 3-2 win at Dortmund on Matchday 7

on Diego Maradona's passing...

... "It shocked us all, those of us who knew him or perhaps didn’t know him; I was quite shocked, before the game, I found out he’d died from a heart attack. We were all so sad. I knew him personally for three years in Italy, when he played for Napoli and I was at Inter Milan. Obviously, the most important game I played against him was the World Cup final, 1986, Germany vs. Argentina in Mexico City in front of 100,000 fans. He was captain of Argentina, I was captain of Germany, and I can still remember before the game, I went to the halfway line, the referees were all there already, ready for the coin toss. He winked at me and I thought 'wow, he’s confident', and I said to him in Italian 'we’re not here to make it easy for you, Germany aren’t going to be a comfortable opponent for you today!' It was a good game, it was 2-2 before we unfortunately lost 3-2 late on. But he had an amazing tournament, he was the best player of the tournament, so you were happy to see him leave the pitch as a deserved world champion.

Watch: The Bundesliga pays tribute to Diego Maradona, who died on 25 November 2020, aged 60

He was so happy. I thought about him on Wednesday when the news broke, I was remembering back, and I thought about how good a guy he was, as long as he was playing football, he was the happiest guy in the world. You got the feeling that when his football career ended, so did his happiness a little bit. We all regretted that. I can only recommend that everyone watch the documentary about him: I’ve never seen anything as honest or as good as the documentary about Diego Maradona."