Guide to the 98/99 DB – The Dream of the Return: TSV 1860 München

We continue with our search for the most fun saves in the MadScientist’s 1998-99 Database and this time it will be quite the trip. Last we left, we joined Guy Roux at Auxerre to understand just how big a pair of shoes we would have to fill if we were to take over the French side. Now, we cross the Rhine and the Black Forest into Germany to take a look at a club that’s been living under the shadow of their neighbours for a little too long: TSV 1860 München.

A slap and a missed train

Nowadays it seems almost impossible to think of Bayern Munich as anything but the most dominant football club in the German game, but there was a time when it wasn’t even the biggest club in Bavaria, and perhaps not even in Munich. In the days before the Bundesliga, FC Bayern’s single league title (won in 1932), paled in comparison to FC Nürnberg’s 9 crowns. In the city of Munich, 1860 München, known as Die Löwen,  rivalled Die Roten in popularity and glory; when they were crowned Oberliga Süd (the league for southern Germany) champions in 1962–63, it was them that were chosen to be part of the new and unified German league, the Bundesliga. There, under the guidance of the Austrian coach Max Merkel, they won the DFB-Pokal in 1964 and were even the first club in the city to win the new championship, lifting it in 1965-66.

Their 1964 DFB Pokal win secured 1860 München a spot in the 1964-65 Cup Winners’ Cup, where they’d lose the final to West Ham United

However, something was brewing on the horizon, and while no collapse can trace its roots to a single cause, there’s every chance that it’d be Bayern that lingers in the lower reaches of German football had 1860 München had not missed on two generational talents: Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller. 

Young Franz Beckenbauer dreamed of playing for 1860 München like his idol Kurt Mondschein. However, his youth side SC München would meet Die Löwen in the final of an Under 14, and it would prove a tense affair. Beckenbauer protested after he received a bad tackle and was slapped by an 1860 München player. The bad will proved enough to convince Beckenbauer to join Bayern instead.

In the case of Gerd Müller, things would be even more incredible. The goalscorer had come through his hometown club TSV 1861 Nördlingen, and Die Löwen had offered the best deal for the player. However, on the day they were supposed to meet up, the 1860 München manager missed his train and was unable to make it. When an FC Bayern representative showed up at his home, the striker signed with them instead. The myth has it that it wasn’t until everything was said and done that Müller realised he wasn’t singing with 1860 München.

While Gerd Müller (front) and Franz Beckenbauer (back) propelled Bayern München to the top of Europe, Die Löwen struggled to remain in the second tier

Perhaps had they managed to get those signings over the line the 1970s wouldn’t have proven such a big stumble for Die Löwen, as economic problems lead to trouble on the pitch. They were far from the only club struggling; German football experienced financial troubles in the 1970s, to the point where Helmut Schmidt, chancellor of the Social Democratic Party, had to intervene with the banks to save his favourite club Hamburg from going bankrupt. Erich Riedl, a senior member of Bavaria’s dominant conservative party CSU, became president of 1860 München and used his position to lobby for funds. After finishing runners-up to the Bundesliga in 1967, three poor seasons would see them relegated, the start of a seven-year stay in the second tier. They returned to the Bundesliga in 1977, but were immediately relegated, and would yo-yo between divisions until 1982 when the club was denied a licence due to financial problems and were relegated to the amateur divisions.

Things began to change in 1992. Under the guidance of a new president, restaurant businessman Karl Heinz Wildmoser, 1860 München saw back-to-back promotions in 1992–93 and 1993–94 and returned to the Bundesliga. With signings like Daniel Borimirov, Peter Nowak and Harald Cerny they survived the transition, and by 1998 they had established themselves as a mid-table side. But Wildmoser didn’t think that was enough. “They didn’t want to just stay there, they wanted to really cement their place and be a top Bundesliga side”, explained later Australian striker Paul Agostino, who played for Die Löwen between 1997 and 2007.

Coach Werner Lorant (left) and Karl-Heinz Wildmoser (right) proved key in 1860 München’s revival in the 90s

Thomas Hässler and Martin Max joined in from Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 in 1999, as 1860 München prepared to make a push. Initially, it worked. They got a place in the top four in 1999-00 as Max topped the Bundesliga’s goal-scoring list with 19 strikers. With it, they also got a ticket to the following season’s Champions League preliminary rounds, but most importantly, they beat FC Bayern home and away that season: things were looking up. “We’d actually thought we’d keep going further up. That was the pinnacle of 1860, where the club, president and coach, once we’d qualified, they wanted to make Champions League qualifying the norm”, explained Agostino. However, much like that 2nd place in 1967, it’d be the beginning of the end.

The Downward Trend

The 2000-01 season was probably the best season since the 1960s to be an 1860 München fan. That year they’d meet the likes of Leeds United in the third round of Champions League qualifying, and despite falling 3-1, that would earn them a spot in the UEFA Cup, where they would make it to the Third round, falling to a star-studded Parma that boasted the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram. 

World Cup winner in 1990 Thomas Hassler was a key man for Die Löwen in their Champions League qualyfication

As Paul Agostino put it, they were getting used to it: “Top-flight football was normal for 1860. We were regularly mixing it with the big boys. We had a very good squad, with big-name players”. However, things would unravel quickly, and unlike 1860 München’s first fall from grace, this time the cause can be easily traced to one moment and one decision: that of joining FC Bayern in the Allianz Arena project. 

The decision made some sense at the time. Munich’s Olympiastadion, the venue that had been home to both clubs since 1972, was nearing 30 years since it was opened and had never been a great football venue due to the athletics track around it. Plans for a football-specific stadium first started to be discussed in 1997, and Die Löwen had already established themselves as Bundesliga mainstays when in 2001 the option to start a joint venture with their neighbours to build what would become the Allianz Arena.

Things went wrong from the start. The new building would cost an outrageous 340 million euros, financed by a company jointly founded by the two clubs. Karl-Heinz Wildmoser Jr, the son of the 1860 München president, served as the company’s general director. Far from careful management, it was discovered that the Wildmosers had been taking bribes, as a scheme to support the family companies, and both were detained in March 2004. This forced Wildmoser to resign as president of Die Löwen, while his son would face four and a half years in prison. Just two months later, after three seasons of mediocrity, 1860 München would be relegated, ending their 10-year spell in the Bundesliga.

The Allianz Arena shining in 1860 München blue; the stadium would prove a heavy burden for the club at the worst time possible

As a second-tier side, they were unable to support the 71,000-capacity Allianz Arena, which proved to be too large and expensive. In April 2006, facing economic crisis once again, they sold for €11 million their stake in the Allianz Arena, which had never hosted a Bundesliga game for 1860 München, to FC Bayern.

Despite remaining one of Germany’s best-followed clubs (with around 20,000 members, they have a better following than several Bundesliga clubs), they faced trouble again in 2011. This time, the saviour would be Hasan Abdullah Ismaik, who purchased 60% of the shares of the club for 18 million euros.

The relationship would prove a toxic one. Despite owning 60% of the club, German football’s 50+1 rule meant Ismaik could only ever boast 49% of the voting rights. This, in turn, created the situation where the 1860 München would go to him for funding, but alienate the owner from the decision-making, sure in their knowledge that they could never be outmanoeuvred. As Michael Sailer explained in his article for These Football Times, “The relationship between Ismaik and 1860 was ill-fated from the very start. For a long time, the club’s executives refused to cooperate with Ismaik and only used him as a financial source, knowing they will always have the last word thanks to 50+1. Whenever the club was low on funds, they would flatter Ismaik and tap him up for more money”.

The relationship between 1860 München and Hasan Ismaik showed the importance of the 50+1 rule to save guard a club from an unhappy owner, but it also showcased how it can stand in the way of a willing investor

However, the abundance of funds provided no advantage on the pitch, as 1860 München struggled to remain a mid-table side in the 2. Bundesliga, with agents like Kia Joorabchian, who was friends with the owner, becoming central to the recruitment strategy. The relationship between the club and owner soured even further, to the point where, after Die Löwen were relegated again in 2016–17, Ismaik sent a message to the media gloating that his decision not to provide the funds necessary for a 3. Bundesliga had resulted in further relegation.

While the club finds itself in a much better status nowadays, with a new CEO, refusing any more loans from Ismaik and back playing at the Grünwalder Stadion, where they lifted the Bundesliga in 1966. However, they are a long way from returning to the highs of 1999.

“We’d actually thought we’d keep going further up. That was the pinnacle of 1860, where the club, president and old coach, once we’d qualified, they wanted to make Champions League qualifying the norm”, Agostino explained, “They made some investments but it just didn’t work out the following season and it spiralled downhill. Everyone thought we’d continue on our rise but in the end, it went the opposite way”.

Die Löwen are still looking for a way back to the good old days

“Unfortunately, building the Allianz Arena with Bayern, there was a big financial burden there, which caused a lot of strain on the club. The club had to play second division and still had these high running costs. They weren’t prepared for that. There were some calculation mistakes there. They were going big guns and it didn’t pay off. Quick rise and a quick fall I guess”, added the Australian forward, who contributed eight goals of his own in that 1999-00 season, “No one saw it coming. All the more disappointing it was. Sometimes, football is disappointing and you don’t know why it happened. Like, how come it clicked to finish fourth but not when the team slipped down the ladder? It’s hard to stop the downward trend”.

TSV 1860 München in the 1998/99 MadScientist Database

The year is 1998 and 1860 München are now a firmly established Bundesliga side. However, as we’ve seen, within six years they’ll take the first tumble downwards and nearly 20 years on they still haven’t recovered. For any prospective new manager, the challenge lies in keeping the ship steady while making progress in the league.

Without knowing it, 1860 München are standing at the edge of the precipice in 1998. They felt the dream of the return ever increasing, but it was actually the call of the void; can you keep the ship steady at this key moment?

Two seasons away from their best-ever Bundesliga finish since the sixties, Die Löwen have everything in place to start challenging for bigger and better things, and the 1998/99 MadScientist Database offers you that possibility. Just don’t overdo it.

Economy and Facilities

Facility-wise, 1860 München are on solid ground. Nothing to write home about, but good enough not to prove a liability. Still, some investment going forward could prove handy, and with solid economic numbers and the Bundesliga’s generous prize money, there will be an opportunity.

The one big advantage you’ll have is, ironically, the lack of an Allianz Arena project. The fantastic new stadium is still an idea in some Bavarian minds, so you still play in Münchner Olympiastadion. At over 69,000 capacity, it’s one of the biggest venues in German football, and luckily FM spectators don’t mind about the viewing experience, at least for now.

Club Vision

Karl-Heinz Wildmoser is still at the helm, but his FM self holds no delusions or over-the-top ambitions. The goal initially will be to keep the gains that 1860 München has gotten over the last few years, and stay a top-half Bundesliga side.

Somewhat ironically, the goal is also to remain within the wage budget, which as we’ve seen the real-life Wildmosers weren’t really fond of.

Squad Review

Holger Greilich

Die Löwen have a fairly competent squad throughout most positions, but perhaps their most impressive player is Greilich. The former Mainz 05 man did not have a stellar career, but he was at the top of his game in 1998-99, and it shows.

Fast, tall and strong, the 26-year-old centre-back is also a tireless worker and a very smart player. Great technique and a decent passing range mean he could be at the forefront of the ball-playing defenders, and he can even deputise as a right-back.

Bernhard Winkler

A leader in the dressing room for 1860 München, the experienced striker is one of the very last fox-in-the-box type strikers that would be effectively retired by more complete forwards like Ronaldo Nazario, Thierry Henry and Michael Owen.

Still, at 32 in 1998, he’s very much a useful player, with clinical finishing, a cool head in front of the goal and excellent reading of the game. You’ll have to manufacture chances for him, but his anticipation and off-the-ball movement mean he’ll be at the right place at the right time more often than not.

Harald Cerny

Key in that chance creation could very well be 24-year-old Austrian Cerny. Having been with Die Löwen since their start to life in the Bundesliga in 1995, the right winger is very much a one-trick pony. Killer pace and brilliant crossing ability mean he’ll always bolt off down the right and throw it in the mixer.

However, being very good at one thing often means you don’t need to be a jack of all trades and if you can get Winkler on the receiving end of those crosses, you won’t need much else.

Potential Signings

Despite their bright economic future, 1860 München starts with a fairly depleted transfer budget, meaning we’ll have to be a bit thrifty when it comes to finding the right players to reinforce our squad.

Mads Jorgensen

As key as Cerny could be, you’re a bit lacking in rotation options for him. 19-year-old Jorgensen offers just that. Pacey, extremely hardworking and very solid all-around in his mentals, he also provides that deadly crossing necessary to occupy the Austrian’s spot should it be needed.

You’ll find him at AGF, where you can sign him for around €950k, although you need only to pay about half of those up front. He’ll settle for a role in the rotation and average wages.

Frederic Garny

The right wing isn’t the only spot in need of some help. Horst Heldt in the left is a terrific inverted winger, but you’ll need other options in behind; Garny could be that man. 

A great dribbler with brilliant off-the-ball movement and pace, he’s most at home on the right, but at just 23 years old you can certainly teach him to use his favoured right foot on the other flank. Montpellier want just €450k for him, 250k of which you pay upfront. His wages are a tad steep, but nothing you can’t manage.

Nicky Eaden

Think not, you only need help up front. I mentioned that Greilich could be a cornerstone upon which to build your defence, but you’ll first need him available to play centreback, which he isn’t at the start of the save, given he’s by far the best option for right back.

To change that, we look to Barnsley’s Nicky Eaden. With Cerny covering the flanks, you don’t need someone pumping forwards like a madman, and at 25 years old, the Englishman is entering his prime as a very well-rounded right back to provide defensive solidity in behind. The best part? Barnsley want just €40k for him, and his wages are extremely affordable.

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