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Tough taskmaster van Gaal starts work on Bayern

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal begins his tenure in charge of German giants Bayern Munich on Wednesday with demands for more silverware and Champions League glory never far from his ears.

The last time Bundesliga big-boys Bayern lifted Europe’s top domestic honour was in 2001, but the Germans have consistently failed to reach the last four of the tournament ever since.

Ex-Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked by Bayern in April after just ten months in charge following a string of poor results, so van Gaal arrives from Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar knowing he does not have the luxury of time.

Bayern look to have temporarily fought off interest from Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea for French play-maker Franck Ribery, but only a good Champions League campaign this season will keep the wolves away.

Ribery will report with the rest of the squad for training on Wednesday, but has made no secret he wants European success and van Gaal plans to have him as the chief play-maker in his side when the Bundesliga starts on August 7.

“We want to build around Ribery who Louis van Gaal absolutely wants under his command,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge with Munich bidding for their 22nd Bundesliga crown after Wolfsburg won last season’s title.

Van Gaal could not have wished for an easier opening to the season with Bayern set to face SpVgg Neckarelz, the lowest ranked side in the competition, in the first round of the German Cup which takes place on the first weekend in August.

The sixth division side will be the first serious opponents for van Gaal and give him the luxury of looking at combinations before the league begins.

But while Klinsmann tried – and failed – to bring innovative ideas and more dynamic football to Munich, van Gaal is expected to bring fierce discipline and he has to make a few decisions.

The goalkeeper issue has to be resolved after Michael Rensing, tipped to be Oliver Kahn’s replacement after the ex-Germany captain retired, lost his place to veteran Hans-Joerg Butt.

And van Gaal has plenty of selection in attack with last season’s first-choice pairing Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni facing tough competition from new signings Mario Gomez, Ivica Olic and promising youngster Thomas Mueller.

Toni struggled for form last season and has said he must play regular football this season if he is to win a place for Italy at next year’s World Cup.

With Germany veteran Klose – the top-scorer at the last World Cup – likely to start alongside rising star Gomez, Toni will have to work hard to guarantee himself first-team football next season.

“I am lucky, I earn a lot and I am not a slave to my salary,” Toni told Italian television earlier this week hinting he might be prepared to leave for a club where he would be paid a smaller salary.

Whoever van Gaal picks in his team, the Dutchman will be expected to do better than last season when Bayern finished second in the Bundesliga and were dumped out of the Champions League by eventual-champions Barcelona.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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