Julian Nagelsmann has given his approval to RB Leipzig's choice of Jesse Marsch as his successor and future Bundesliga rival.

American coach Marsch will arrive from Salzburg, close affiliates of the German side, at the end of the season to take over from Bayern Munich-bound Nagelsmann.

The 47-year-old has spent two years as Salzburg boss and previously worked as an assistant coach with Leipzig so knows the club well.

Marsch was also head coach of New York Red Bulls from 2015 to 2018, and Nagelsmann sees him as an easy fit at Leipzig.

"I'm very happy that RB Leipzig have been able to quickly find a successor in Jesse Marsch," Nagelsmann said. "It was important to me that the club find a good coach and that they wouldn't have to deal with too much uncertainty following the news of my departure.

"Jesse Marsch is a very emotional coach and has a good connection to his players. I will definitely look to speak with him at the end of the season. I wish him all the best here and that he continues the club's success."

Nagelsmann will perhaps be mindful of being too helpful as the coaches cross and he leaves for Bayern as Marsch arrives at Leipzig, given they have been Germany's top two sides this season.

Bayern look like scooping the Bundesliga title for a ninth consecutive year. With 71 points from 31 games, they head Leipzig by seven points with three rounds of games remaining.

However, Leipzig are very much in the hunt for cup glory as they head into Friday's DFB-Pokal semi-final against Werder Bremen.

The winner of that tie will face either Borussia Dortmund or Holstein Kiel, the second-tier team that knocked out Bayern in the early stages of the tournament.

"Of course, it would be nice to end my time here by winning the DFB-Pokal," Nagelsmann said on Thursday.

"The pressure is there, but that's normal. If you've reached the semi-finals with your team, then it's obvious that you want to advance to the final and win there."

Quoted on Leipzig's official website, Nagelsmann said: "There's nothing worse than losing a final. If we have the chance to win the trophy, then we'll do everything possible to make that happen.

"We don't need any extra motivation for Friday night. The cup is motivation enough. The team will give it everything they have to meet the expectations. They are highly motivated.

"I still have a good relationship with the team and spoke to the lads. All the outside noise won't affect them. All of my players want to continue improving.

"Our goal is to make it to [the final in] Berlin. We also want to break the 67-point mark in the Bundesliga, in order to set a new [club] record this season."

Bayern Munich have made a good habit of getting their house in order promptly, and 2021 would seem to be no different.

Having already agreed a deal to sign centre-back Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig, the Bundesliga leaders have followed up with an agreement to make Julian Nagelsmann their next head coach.

The Leipzig boss, a boyhood Bayern fan from Bavaria who is still attempting to stop his new club win the title this season, will take over from Hansi Flick on July 1.

A five-year contract and a reported fee of €20million – the most ever paid for a coach – represent a significant investment on Bayern's part and show just how highly they regard Nagelsmann.

The 33-year-old is not exactly taking the wheel of a sinking ship, either: Bayern won six trophies in under two years under Flick and look set to be crowned German champions again.

However, the Bundesliga's youngest ever coach will still face a few crucial tasks upon his appointment that could go a long way towards making or breaking his first term in charge...

Get on with the board

Flick had few serious problems during a remarkably successful spell at the helm, but one notable issue lately has been his relationship with the club's hierarchy.

His decision to announce in public this month that he would be leaving at the end of the season enraged those in charge given they had agreed to keep the news quiet. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, one of Flick's biggest allies, even saw fit to issue a statement criticising the coach.

Flick is said to have got on poorly with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, with disagreements over transfer targets and a general mistrust turning the relationship volatile. Salihamidzic himself has come under scrutiny, with plenty of fans unhappy to see the coach being the one to depart.

Having landed Bayern's top target through a not-insignificant outlay, Salihamidzic will be almost as desperate to see Nagelsmann succeed as the new man himself. A better working relationship between coach and superiors would be a positive way to start.

Fix the defence

Flick has spent much of this campaign trying to solidify a Bayern defence that has conceded 40 Bundesliga goals this term, already eight more than in the whole of 2019-20.

Frailties at the back were exposed in a DFB-Pokal loss at the hands of second-tier Holstein Kiel and more brutally in the Champions League quarter-final exit to Paris Saint-Germain.

Bayern's defence could look very different next season. Upamecano is arriving from Leipzig but David Alaba is expected to sign for Real Madrid, Jerome Boateng is leaving after a decade in Munich and there is still uncertainty around Niklas Sule's future.

With Bayern said to be pursuing a new right-back, there could well be a new-look backline in front of Manuel Neuer next season – one that Nagelsmann will need to hone quickly in pre-season.

 

Support Lewandowski

As talk of Nagelsmann continued on Monday, Sky Sport reported "several" European clubs had made enquiries over the possibility of signing Robert Lewandowski.

Europe's leading marksman in 2020-21 with 43 goals in all competitions, Lewandowski needs four more in the final three games to equal Gerd Muller's record of 40 in a single Bundesliga season.

Should he match or surpass that milestone, and having finally got his hands on the Champions League last season, the Poland star could be tempted to try his hand elsewhere – and has made clear previously that Bayern may not be his final club.

Signing a replacement would be no easy task, particularly in the coronavirus landscape, so Nagelsmann would be wise to make sure Lewandowski feels Bayern's objectives match his own moving forward.

Ignore the noise

For a coach, learning to deal with critics is part of the territory at Bayern Munich, more so than at any club in Germany.

With famous ex-players in positions of power at the Allianz Arena and others prominent figures in the media – former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus chief among them – Bayern coaches will never be far from an opinion or two, whether successful or not (just ask Pep Guardiola).

Matthaus was even rebuked by former team-mate Stefan Effenberg this month for encouraging talk of Nagelsmann replacing Flick, suggesting such comments simply placed further pressure on coaches "that is no longer okay".

Flick had actually handled the persistent Bayern background noise rather well, and Nagelsmann will need to do likewise: the scrutiny on his performance as the world's most expensive coach – at such a young age – will be intense.

 

Blood the youngsters

Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff specifically praised Nagelsmann for improving individuals and strengthening the collective in his time at the club.

The progress of players such as Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, Dominik Szoboszlai and captain Marcel Sabitzer highlights the positive impact Nagelsmann's methods can have on young talent.

He will be under pressure to produce similar results at Bayern. Alphonso Davies is already an elite left-back at 20, Jamal Musiala is established in the senior squad at 18 and there are high hopes for young centre-back Tanguy Nianzou.

Given Bayern's pedigree for developing global stars, Nagelsmann will be under pressure to keep the production line going at full speed.

Julian Nagelsmann says he is leaving RB Leipzig for "a unique opportunity" at Bayern Munich with "a heavy heart" but vows he will give everything to finish on a high.

Leipzig head coach Nagelsmann is to become the new Bayern boss and has agreed a five-year contract beginning on July 1, both clubs confirmed on Tuesday.

Bayern, who are on the verge of a ninth successive Bundesliga title, have agreed to terminate the contract of Hansi Flick, who informed the club he did not want to stay in charge beyond this season.

Nagelsmann has Leipzig on the brink of sealing second place in the Bundesliga, which would be their best finish.

There also remains a chance he will guide the club to their first major silverware with Bayern already out of the DFB-Pokal ahead of Leipzig's semi-final against Werder Bremen on Friday.

The 33-year-old finished third in the top flight and reached the Champions League semi-finals with Leipzig last season – his first after joining from Hoffenheim - but revealed the Bayern job was too difficult to turn down.

"I will leave RB Leipzig with a heavy heart," Nagelsmann told Leipzig's website.

"I’ve been able to coach a special team here at a club with huge opportunities and the best possible conditions to work in.

"Our run to the Champions League semi-finals was definitely the highlight of our time together. It was a moment that I'll never forget.

"We're currently enjoying the best Bundesliga campaign in the club's history too. We want to make sure it ends up our best finish and then also lift a major trophy for the first time as well.

"It's too early to say my goodbyes and speak about my memories because I'm not done here yet in Leipzig.

"My mission may end here in the summer, but I will give my absolute all until then. We've grown into a real tight-knit bunch that finally wants to win a title.

"Leipzig are a special club – nevertheless, I am leaving. I made no secret of the fact that the head coach position at FC Bayern appealed to me and that I would like to take on this job if the opportunity ever arose.

"The position at FC Bayern is a unique opportunity for me. I would therefore like to thank Oliver Mintzlaff and the rest of the board at RB Leipzig for finding a solution with FC Bayern and making this possible for me.

"Now we're shifting our full attention to the remaining three Bundesliga games and of course the DFB-Pokal semi-final, to try and finish the season as successfully as possible."

Talk emerged on Monday that Bayern and Nagelsmann had quickly agreed terms but that a fee to release him from his RB Leipzig contract was proving a sticking point.

According to widespread reports, an agreement has been reached between the clubs that would make Nagelsmann the world's most expensive head coach.

The Athletic indicated Bayern will pay around €20million, while further reports suggest add-ons could take the total closer to €25m.

Nagelsmann, 33, had also been linked with Tottenham after their decision to sack Jose Mourinho last week.

However, as a boyhood Bayern fan from the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, the Allianz Arena has long been touted as his dream destination.

When Nagelsmann does finish at Leipzig, he will do so with a sense of pride.

He added: "Since my first game in August 2019 against VfL Osnabruck, RB Leipzig, the whole region and all the staff and players here have meant so much to me.

"We've experienced so many special things during our eventful time together.

"Everybody here, including the staff who work alongside the team, have ensured that we've written plenty of stories for the club's history books and are continuing to do so now. I'm really proud of that."

Julian Nagelsmann can keep the trophies coming for Bayern Munich, with Oliver Kahn forecasting a "very successful" future under the leadership of the incoming coach.

The 33-year-old Nagelsmann will leave RB Leipzig at the end of the season after agreeing a five-year contract with Bayern.

A world-record fee for a coach was reportedly agreed to secure the man who will take over from Hansi Flick, with Bayern expected to hand over at least €20million.

They may recoup some of that if Flick, who asked to be released from his contract, is appointed head coach of Germany.

By hiring such a young coach, Bayern are making a major statement about their intentions, seeing Nagelsmann as a long-term prospect.

Kahn, who will step up from his role on the board to become Bayern CEO at the end of the year, said: "Julian's contract length of five years alone shows how committed he is to FC Bayern.

"I am convinced that FC Bayern's sporting future will be a very successful one with Julian Nagelsmann."

Goalkeeping great Kahn believes the team are in safe hands with the incoming boss, but he also praised Flick for his contribution.

Since taking over from the sacked Niko Kovac in November 2019, Flick has steered Bayern to six trophies, including a treble of the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League last season.

A seventh trophy of Flick's brief reign should arrive in May, with Bayern on the brink of a ninth successive Bundesliga title.

"My thanks go to Hansi Flick," Kahn said. "He's led FC Bayern to great successes with great football. We have now fulfilled his wish to leave FC Bayern before the end of his contract. All the best, Hansi!"

Reports suggested Flick and Hasan Salihamidzic have been at odds over team matters, including player recruitment.

With Flick no longer needing to concern himself with such matters, they may be able to part on peaceful terms.

"I want to express my thanks to Hansi Flick," said Salihamidzic.

"After taking on the role of head coach nearly one and a half years ago, we have celebrated many victories and titles, with the treble in 2020 being the high point. His name will always be associated with these successes. I wish him all the best for the road ahead."

Clearly, Salihamidzic is looking forward to working with Nagelsmann, having been impressed by the discussions with the coach that have led to this point.

In 90 games with Leipzig, Nagelsmann has earned 53 wins and 21 draws and suffered 16 defeats - achieving a healthy win percentage of 58.9 per cent.

"The talks with Julian have been very cooperative and constructive," Salihamidzic said. "We are going to have a lot of joy with him – of that I am sure."

Julian Nagelsmann told RB Leipzig the Bayern Munich job was his lifelong dream before they agreed to his exit, club CEO Oliver Mintzlaff has revealed.

Mintzlaff revealed the decision to sanction Nagelsmann's departure took place after open and honest talks with the highly rated 33-year-old, who is nearing the end of his second season with Leipzig.

Leipzig head coach Nagelsmann is to become the new Bayern boss and has agreed a five-year contract beginning on July 1, both clubs confirmed on Tuesday.

Nagelsmann said he is leaving RB Leipzig for "a unique opportunity" at Bayern with "a heavy heart" but vowed he would give everything to finish on a high.

Discussing the announcement, Mintzlaff said: "There has been a lot of activity over the past few days regarding the role as head coach of FC Bayern Munich.

"Following this, Julian Nagelsmann approached us and expressed in open talks that it is a lifelong dream of his to become coach of FC Bayern, and that he would like to make the move to Munich if the opportunity presented itself after the end of this season.

"Julian has taken a fantastic path in Leipzig and developed the club very successfully.

"He has not only improved individual players but has also taken the team as a collective to the next level.

"We signed a long-term contract that did not originally include an exit scenario.

"However, Julian's strong desire to coach FC Bayern has led us to the decision that the door is open after intensive talks, provided certain prerequisites are met."

Following reports on Monday that Bayern and Nagelsmann had quickly agreed terms, a fee to release him from his RB Leipzig contract was said to be proving a sticking point.

An agreement has been now reached between the clubs that will reportedly make Nagelsmann the world's most expensive head coach.

The Athletic indicated Bayern will pay around €20million, while further reports suggest add-ons could take the total closer to €25m.

Mintzlaff confirmed the club had met their financial target during talks with Bayern.

He added: "In the negotiations with FC Bayern representatives, we have been successful in obtaining our financial goals.

"Now we have to tackle the remaining games of this season with Julian and his team so that we can make this the most successful campaign in our club's history." 

Bayern, who are on the verge of a ninth successive Bundesliga title, have agreed to terminate the contract of Hansi Flick, who informed the club he did not want to stay in charge beyond this season.

Nagelsmann has Leipzig on the brink of sealing second place in the Bundesliga, which would be their best finish.

There also remains a chance he will guide the club to their first major silverware, with Bayern already out of the DFB-Pokal ahead of Leipzig's semi-final against Werder Bremen on Friday.

The 33-year-old finished third in the top flight and reached the Champions League semi-finals with Leipzig last season – his first after joining from Hoffenheim.

But he revealed his new job was too difficult to turn down. As a boyhood Bayern fan from the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, the Allianz Arena has long been touted as his dream destination.

Leipzig added that a statement regarding the successor to Nagelsmann would be made "soon".

Julian Nagelsmann is to become the new Bayern Munich head coach and has agreed a five-year contract beginning on July 1, the Bundesliga club announced on Tuesday.

Bayern, who are on the verge of a ninth successive Bundesliga title, have agreed to terminate the contract of Hansi Flick, who informed the club he did not want to stay in charge beyond this season.

"Julian Nagelsmann represents a new generation of coaches," Bayern president Herbert Hainer said in a statement.

"Despite his young age, he has had an impressive career. We are convinced that, with Julian Nagelsmann, we will build on the great successes of the past few years."

Talk emerged on Monday that Bayern and Nagelsmann had quickly agreed terms but that a fee to release him from his RB Leipzig contract was proving a sticking point.

According to widespread reports in Germany and Europe, an agreement has been reached between the clubs that would make Nagelsmann the world's most expensive head coach.

The Athletic indicated Bayern will pay around €20million, while further reports suggest add-ons could take the total closer to €25m.

Nagelsmann, 33, had also been linked with Tottenham after their decision to sack Jose Mourinho last week.

However, as a boyhood Bayern fan from the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech, the Allianz Arena has long been touted as his dream destination.

Nagelsmann, who cost Leipzig a reported €5m when he joined from Hoffenheim in 2019, has helped to establish the club as Champions League regulars and Bundesliga title challengers.

He guided them to the Champions League semi-finals last season, where they lost 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain, and a third-place finish in the top flight.

Leipzig are comfortably second in 2020-21 but trail leaders Bayern by seven points with only three games remaining.

Flick, who has been tipped to succeed Joachim Low as head coach of Germany, leaves Bayern after delivering six trophies in under two years, including the treble last season.

Hainer said: "I would like to expressly thank Hansi Flick on behalf of FC Bayern. He took over our team in a difficult phase in 2019 and then won six titles, with the seventh hopefully following soon.

"He will always have a place in the history books of FC Bayern."

Flick said: "The past two years have been unforgettable for me.

"A coach is nothing without his team and I was lucky enough to meet fantastic players and staff here in Munich, and a team of coaches who did incredible things.

"One disappointment remains: that we weren't able to celebrate the greatest successes during this time with the fans. I've missed them in every game.

"I wish the Bayern family the very best for the future. It's not an empty phrase when I say it was a very great honour for me."

Julian Nagelsmann is to become the new Bayern Munich head coach and has agreed a five-year contract beginning on July 1, the Bundesliga club announced on Tuesday.

Will Cristiano Ronaldo still be at Juventus next season?

Ronaldo's future appears to depend on Juve's Champions League participation.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain loom large for the Portuguese superstar.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD OR PSG FOR RONALDO?

Cristiano Ronaldo is weighing up whether to return to Manchester United or join Paris Saint-Germain if Juventus fail to qualify for the Champions League next season, according to Tuttosport.

Ronaldo's future has dominated headlines amid speculation the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is set to leave Serie A giants Juve at the end of the current campaign.

Initially linked with Real Madrid, Ronaldo is reportedly eyeing either United or PSG in order to play in the Champions League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano reports RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann is set to replace Hansi Flick at Bayern Munich. Despite interest from Tottenham and other clubs, Nagelsmann has agreed a five-year contract with the Bundesliga champions, who must negotiate a fee with Leipzig.

Raphael Varane wants to leave Madrid amid links with Chelsea, United and PSG, claims Diario AS. The France international defender is contracted to the Santiago Bernabeu until next season but Madrid are believed to be willing to cash in on Varane as they look to fund moves for PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with Liverpool, United, Manchester City, Juve, Bayern and Barcelona.

- Manchester Evening News says United are interested in Slavia Prague's 21-year-old forward Abdallah Sima.

- The Sun reports England centre-back John Stones is in advanced talks with Premier League leaders City over a new five-year contract.

- Antonio Conte is dreaming of prising Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul to Inter, says Calciomercato. The Argentina international has also been linked with Napoli and Leeds United.

Does a Premier League switch beckon for Raphael Varane?

Varane has starred for Real Madrid, winning LaLiga and Champions League titles.

But Varane could be sacrificed in the Spanish capital, with Chelsea reportedly interested.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS FOR VARANE

Chelsea are ahead of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain in the race to sign Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Varane has been linked with a move away from Madrid, who are looking to raise funds as they target PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

United have reportedly emerged as strong suitors but Chelsea are believed to be at the front of the queue to land the France international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal, Sport1 and other outlets report Bayern Munich have opened talks with RB Leipzig to hire head coach Julian Nagelsmann. With Hansi Flick set to depart at season's end, Nagelsmann is wanted in Munich.

Jose Mourinho is ready to return to Inter should Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte exit, claims Calciomercato. Conte is poised to lead Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10, when Mourinho oversaw a treble, but the former Italy coach's future is far from certain. Mourinho is available after he was sacked by Tottenham.

- According to Gol Digital, Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.

Roma are targeting Maurizio Sarri as their next head coach, says Corriere dello Sport. Paulo Fonseca is currently at the helm but he is under pressure in the Italian capital. Roma have reportedly already met with ex-Chelsea, Juventus and Napoli coach Sarri to discuss finer details.

Milan have given star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma one month to decide on a contract extension, reports Tuttosport. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Italy international is yet to re-sign. The likes of United, Chelsea, Juventus, PSG and Madrid have been linked. Milan are reportedly eyeing Lille's Mike Maignan as a possible replacement.

- Bild claims Arsenal are lining up a move for Dortmund's Julian Brandt as a replacement for loanee Martin Odegaard, who is attracting interest from elsewhere. Brandt could be one of many Dortmund players to leave in the off-season as clubs circle Haaland, including Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona, United, Chelsea, PSG and Bayern.

Bayern Munich have reportedly made a first move for RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, but prising him away could prove an expensive operation.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern, who stand on the brink of a ninth successive title, are set to lose head coach Hansi Flick at the end of the season after he asked to be released from his contract.

While Flick is seen as a possible successor to Joachim Low with the Germany national team, the 33-year-old Nagelsmann is considered one of Europe's best young coaches.

His name has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Tottenham and many others at various times, but Bayern have also kept a close eye.

Bayern are said to be chasing a fee for the release of Flick to the German Football Federation (DFB), while it has been reported that Leipzig want up to €30million to free up Nagelsmann.

Bavarian newspaper TZ puts the fee being sought in the region of €20million, while Sport1 suggests the higher sum was quoted by Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff after an initial approach from Bayern.

Nagelsmann's contract with Leipzig, who sit second in the Bundesliga, runs until the end of the 2022-23 season.

The former Hoffenheim coach joined Leipzig in 2019 and helped the team reach the semi-finals of last season's Champions League, the competition that Bayern won to complete a famous treble under Flick.

Nagelsmann has yet to declare his wishes amid the discussions about his future.

Former Bayern and Germany star Lothar Matthaus recently suggested Nagelsmann was a shoo-in for the Allianz Arena job.

Nagelsmann has won 53, drawn 21 and lost 16 of his 90 matches in charge of Leipzig.

Speaking on April 18, he said there had been no talks with Bayern.

"There is simply nothing I can report," Nagelsmann told a media conference on that day. "I think it's totally wrong to then sit down and say what if, and maybe get yourself talked about somewhere and make yourself important on things that aren't there.

"I can't sit down and say, I'm going to break up with Lena Gercke [German model] tomorrow, because I've never dated her, for example.

"I'm sorry to say that there are no new developments compared to the last press conference. The same things apply that I said there.

"There are and were no discussions and no offer. That's why I don't know what Bayern's wish is. I have said I don't want to start a war with my employers - that's still the case."

Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says the club are working closely with Hansi Flick to "find a solution" after the head coach announced his intention to leave.

Flick revealed in a television interview after last week's win at Wolfsburg that he has asked the Bavarian giants to cancel his contract, which runs until 2023, at the end of the season.

Bayern's board subsequently voiced its disapproval at Flick for the timing of his comments, with a ninth successive Bundesliga title still not yet officially wrapped up.

However, amid talk of a possible stand-off between the two parties, Rummenigge hopes an agreement can be reached before Bayern's next game against Borussia Monchengladbach on May 8.

"We have agreed that we would sit down after the game in Mainz," he told Bild. 

"If we are to meet Hansi's request, all parties have to work together to find a solution that FC Bayern is also happy with."

Flick has been strongly linked with the Germany job, which will become vacant when long-serving boss Joachim Low steps down after this year's delayed Euro 2020 tournament.

The 56-year-old last week declared that succeeding Low is "an option" he is considering, but no talks have been held with German Football Association (DFB) officials.

Asked if he has given any extra thought to his future plans ahead of Bayern's 2-1 loss to Mainz on Saturday, which delayed his side's title celebrations, Flick told Sky Sport: "I can't say.

"I don't know what the next week looks like. As coaches, we only have a rough plan for what we want to do for the next week, the next 14 days."

Meanwhile, Rummenigge reiterated that Bayern would never consider forming part of a breakaway division following the furore surrounding the European Super League fiasco.

Twelve clubs from England, Italy and Spain signed up to the league, but the plans are now in tatters - despite the best efforts of Florentino Perez and Andrea Agnelli - after the majority of those teams withdrew their support 48 hours later.

"Bayern are not up for such an event," Rummenigge said. "We all have a clear stance here. You cannot separate yourself from the football family by organising your own event at the expense of others.

"In the end, it might even have been a good thing that we saw this whole circus fall through within 48 hours, which put the whole world in an uproar. 

"People have understood forever that football is something different than just business."

Hansi Flick admitted his Bayern Munich team were tired and ripe to be punished after a 2-1 defeat at Mainz delayed title celebrations.

Chasing the win that would have clinched a ninth successive Bundesliga title, Bayern gave a lethargic display and a last-gasp goal from Robert Lewandowski was as much as they deserved.

Mainz seized advantage as the one-time strugglers took their points tally to 28 from 16 games under new head coach Bo Svensson, soaring five points clear of the relegation zone.

Bayern boss Flick said: "We all know that just as the team has often shown its quality, something like that can happen. It's a shame we couldn't take the step today.

"But you have to understand that the team is tired. We were too harmless.

"We want to win every game, that was also the case today. We didn't perform well, you have to accept that.

"The team have many minutes in their legs. We just weren't strong enough."

First-half goals from Jonathan Burkardt and Robin Quaison put Bayern in a tangle, and the stoppage-time reply from Lewandowski, returning from injury, came too late to spark anything more.

Lewandowski now has 36 goals for the season, meaning he trails Gerd Muller's Bundesliga record by four with three rounds of games remaining.

His goal in Saturday's game was a gift rather than the result of any great personal endeavour, with a poor defensive header leaving Lewandowski the task of stroking the ball past cruelly exposed goalkeeper Robin Zentner.

Bayern slipped to a first Bundesliga defeat at Mainz since 2011, having won all eight of their away games against the 05ers since that 3-2 loss a decade ago.

Manuel Neuer was unusually at fault for the third-minute opening goal, getting in the way of the powerful shot from Burkardt but only being able to divert it into the corner of his net.

"I wasn't blinded by the sun," said Neuer, according to TZ.

"The ball was close to [David] Alaba, I couldn't see it well. I tried to put my arm up, I was unlucky."

Bayern have been hit by a Champions League quarter-final exit, the announcement from Flick that he wants to be released from his contract at the end of the season, and criticism from fans aimed at Hasan Salihamidzic.

That may have been a contributing factor to Saturday's below-par effort, but Neuer pointed to Mainz's qualities.

"We weren't surprised," said the goalkeeper. "It was clear that they went into the game with a high level of motivation. Our body language was bad."

Bayern could still be crowned champions this weekend, but RB Leipzig would need to lose to Stuttgart on Sunday.

"I would have preferred to have got it done ourselves," said Neuer. "The defeat hits us hard after the last few weeks."

Bayern Munich came looking for a title party and were served with a cold dose of reality as survival scrappers Mainz earned a stunning 2-1 win over the Bundesliga leaders.

First-half goals from Jonathan Burkardt and Robin Quaison put in-form Mainz in charge, and a leggy Bayern side - who would have been crowned champions with a victory - lacked the zip in their game to overturn that deficit.

Manuel Neuer was at fault for the opener, but also produced some big saves to keep Bayern in touch with their impressive hosts, who have been the most-improved team in the league in the second half of the season.

When Quaison headed the second, he showed the aerial threat that was rarely seen from Bayern's fit-again talisman Robert Lewandowski in this game. Lewandowski snatched a last-gasp consolation after a defensive clanger, but it came too late to be significant.

Burkardt stunned Bayern in the third minute when he was left unattended on the edge of the penalty area and fired a thumping shot that Neuer could only help into the left corner.

Bayern had Lewandowski back in their ranks after a knee injury absence, but before the Polish striker could show any threat they were almost two goals behind, Neuer producing a fine save at full stretch to touch a 20-yard header from Danny Latza against the left post.

Lewandowski fired waywardly from his first chance before Neuer again prevented Bayern slipping two goals behind, Quaison turning Jerome Boateng far too easily and hitting the target with a thumping shot that bounced away off the well-placed goalkeeper.

Bo Svensson's Mainz side, having won four and drawn two of their previous six games to surge out of the relegation zone, doubled their lead in the 37th minute when Quaison headed past Neuer after Philipp Mwene's free-kick from the left proved a perfect, teasing delivery.

Hansi Flick's reaction was to bring on three substitutes at the start of the second half, hauling off Leon Goretzka, who was perhaps fortunate to avoid a first-half red card, plus Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane, and introducing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Jamal Musiala and Tanguy Nianzou.

A stray arm from Lewandowski caught Mainz midfielder Leandro Barreiro in the face, drawing blood, but it appeared accidental. It was nevertheless not the impact Bayern were looking for from their star striker.

Bayern trailed 2-0 in the first meeting of these sides this season but recovered to win 5-2; however, until Lewandowski's stoppage-time strike, their second-half goal threat in this game was limited to half-chances that the likes of Choupo-Moting and Joshua Kimmich could not convert.

Bayern Munich will try to help Robert Lewandowski make Bundesliga history but securing the title is the top priority, says Hansi Flick.

Lewandowski returned to full training this week after suffering knee ligament damage while away on international duty with Poland last month.

The striker missed both legs of Bayern's Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain as the defending champions were knocked out on away goals, while an extended absence hampered his chances of surpassing Gerd Muller's record tally of 40 league goals, achieved back in the 1971-72 season.

Sitting on 35 with just four games remaining, the 32-year-old is set to make his comeback when Flick's table-topping side visit Mainz on Saturday.

A win on the road will secure a ninth successive league crown and while Lewandowski is also so close to achieving personal glory, the team still comes first for Flick.

"I think we all agree that's his major goal," the Bayern boss told a news conference on Friday.

"He's going to be part of the squad, Leon Goretzka is going to be part of the squad, Serge Gnabry is probably going to be part of the squad. The squad is slowly but surely filling up again – we are returning to normal, which is good of course.

"It's important for us to win the championship - we want to do that as quickly as possible."

On Lewandowski's impending return, he added: "Don't forget that he was out for four weeks.

"He's in very good shape, he showed that in training, but we have to wait and see how he handles the training sessions and the comeback attempt, how his body reacts.

"Of course we will all try to support him, but first of all our focus and priority is the success of the team and the club."

Lewandowski was badly missed as Bayern scored just three goals from 45 shots and eight 'big chances' against PSG. In the 3-2 home defeat in the first leg, the German club's tally of 31 attempts were worth 3.8 expected goals (xG).

Out of Europe, the Bundesliga is the solitary focus for Flick and his squad - but the outgoing head coach expects in-form Mainz to make it difficult to get over the line.

"It's definitely a very deserved championship," he said. "We hope we can win it in Mainz, but we know that they are in really good shape, unbeaten in six games – four wins and two draws – and against some teams who are at the top as well.

"They are a team who are aggressive in defence and very compact. When they win possession, they transition very quickly. These are the things we have to be wary of."

Bayern fought back to record a 5-2 win against Mainz in the reverse fixture, making it the first time since 1988 - and just the fourth occasion overall - that the Bavarians had come back to triumph after being at least two goals down at half-time in the league.

Hansi Flick has spoken out in support of Hasan Salihamidzic after the Bayern Munich sporting director's family were targets for online abuse, with the outgoing head coach making clear the issues between the pair were never personal.

Both Salihamidzic's wife and son, who plays for the Bundesliga club's under-19 side, posted Instagram messages calling for the personal attacks to stop being sent to family members.

Flick made clear such actions are unacceptable during his media conference on Friday, insisting there are more important things in life than football.

The Bayern boss stated that while the pair have had differing opinions on certain topics, Salihamidzic has still played a crucial role in a hugely successful spell working together.

Victory at Mainz on Saturday would secure a ninth successive league title, making it seven major trophies since Flick's appointment.

"What we are experiencing is a no-go situation. There are lines, borders, that are being over-stepped," Flick said of the online comments sent to members of the Salihamidzic family.

"The history between me and Hasan was never personal. If you look at the press conferences, it was always about the path we were on together. I like working more on being successful than the success at the end.

"In two years we can now win a seventh title – I don't think a lot of people have achieved that. He contributed to that greatly, of course. Not many people in the history of Bayern can say they have won seven titles in two years – and in future that is not going to happen every other year either.

"It's important to focus on the path we went down together. We have a different approach, a different attitude. There are certain topics we have different opinions about, but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate each other personally.

"Each one of us here would want to protect our family. It's a no-go situation [to involve them] and I empathise with him. We have to be really, really careful these things don't become normal.

"This is about football. Of course football is important, but it's not the most important thing in life. Family is more important than football. Health is more important than football.

"These things should never be part of the game. With everything that has gone in with Hasan and me, this is something that I find awful. It's totally unacceptable."

Bayern president Herbert Hainer had condemned the attacks towards Salihamidzic and his family in a statement released by the club on Wednesday.

"FC Bayern stands united and emphatically against hostility towards Hasan Salihamidzic," Hainer said.

"Objective criticism is, of course, always permissible. However, we condemn personal attacks and agitation in the strongest possible terms. There is no place in the slightest for that at FC Bayern."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.