I had a long conversation with Mani Honigstein, who is the brains behind the football social networking site Footbo. An avid Bayern Munich fan, I talked to him about the summer transfers and his views on the season ahead for the Bavarian giants.
Tell us a little about Footbo, and what you are trying to accomplish with it.
In 2007, when social networking was really taking off, we combined my access to venture capital through work with Rafael’s access to players. We added Gabriel Marcotti and Guillem Balague to the advisory board and started Footbo. We are doing a lot to change the layout of the site and we are we are constantly improving the interface.
In general, Footbo is really trying to bring a lot of the online football needs to one place. We are on the crossroad of being a social network and a content site. Now that we have the concept right, we are moving into new languages, such as Portuguese because Brazil is such a social-networking savvy country, as well as moving into new markets with improved features, such as player ratings with commentary. The feedback and usage patterns are very encouraging.
So for a little clarification, if you don’t use Footbo, you really should. You can really do a lot via setting up teams your fans of (I have every Bundesliga side as well as Malmo, Tottenham and Rubin Kazan) as well as players. In addition it has a friending system much like a Facebook or MySpace. But unlike Facebook, here you won’t have to read about your friend’s baby’s eating patterns. There are a lot of unique and fun features and it is a great repository of news. I highly recommend the site and feel free to friend me.
How do you feel about Van Gaal’s hiring and do you see it petering out or leading to properity?
I feel good about it. Van Gaal is probably a bit old school, but I believe he will bring to Bayern what we need most: continuity. It was a mistake to fire Magath in the third season and Bayern needs a coach that can be with the team for the long haul, 5 years or so. Bayern will always always have the pressure to be German champion and I believe with Van Gaal we can have have a long streak of championships.
Considering the lineup you currently have, what kind of formation do you see Van Gaal employing?
4-4-2 for sure.
Do you see differing formations for the league and Champions League?
Not really. Last year we played against Barcelona with only one real striker, Toni. It was a disaster.
Is there a formation you would prefer?
I would love to see Bayern move to a 4-3-3, but we do not have the players for it. So it looks like it will be 4-4-2 again. Gomez and Klose will play up front.
Can the dressing room deal with 5 forward, 4-5 attacking mids and 3 holding mids?
This will be one of the major challenges of for Van Gaal. Nerlinger said that the squad is too big. I assume that some will leave us in the winter. My guess is Toni, Ottl and maybe Lell.
Defensively how will you cope with the loss of Lucio?
I loved Lucio, but he had played poorly for the last two years. He was a danger for Bayern, as his forays forward left us exposed too often. I do not think that we will miss him much. The new defense looks solid. Van Buyten was amazing at Hamburg, but never really made it at Bayern. Maybe this is his year. And while Van Gaal has said he prefers a left foot at LCB, he has used DiMichelis and Van Buyten so far. Gorlitz isn’t good enough. Niether is Lell. And Breno needed time on loan to get experience, but that won’t happen now as he will be called upon along with Braafheid for depth in the league and Europe.
Who worries you the most in the league?
To be honest no one really worries me. Last year showed that it was Bayern who simply could not win the Championship. No other team is strong enough to beat us in the long run. Whenever, Bayern is somewhat weak (like last season) there is the chance for a surprise. But it always depends on Bayern. I do fear Schalke, because I really believe in Magath. But not this season. He needs time to build something there.
Your first 5 game include 4 teams that could challenge for the title, including Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg, Dortmund and Werder. How important will a good start be to your chances of regaining the title?
It is very important, because the media at Bayern is crazy. You lose three games and everybody gets nervous. Then you have Rummennige, Beckenbauer and Hoeness all sending different messages, ex-players such as Matthaeu giving their opinion and here you go: the crisis is there. But Hoffenehim is not stable enough, Wolfsburg will have a hard time to adjust to the new situation, Dortmund is still middle class and Werder lost the best player of the league !
You got most of your transfers done early in the summer. The rest of the league was significantly behind you. Will that aide or abet you as you seem to need to cull a few players? And what do you make of these transfers?
Well Gomez is good, but way too expensive. For that kind of money you could have had a Benzema. I do not know why we bought Olic and Tymoschuk. These are the kind of transfers that have never worked out for Bayern in the past. Overall I was a bit angry at Bayern, because it seemed they do not have a clear vision. They wanted Diego, but only tried once it was too late. Diego has been the best player of the league in the last three years and only at the very end did they make a move for him. And once they realized they couldn’t get him, they didn’t try to get someone else. The same for goalkeepers. It is obvious that both Butt and Rensing are not good enough.
So do you think there will be a move for a keeper?
No, while they realize that Rensing is not the successor to Oliver Kahn, they feel they can get away with him for another year. They made a soft bid for Manuel Neuer this past summer, but in the long run, they are going to go for Neuer or Adler so that they have the best German keeper.
will Ribery be at the Allianz on September 1st?
Yes. It looks to me that Bayern will have Ribery for one more year and then he is off to Real Madrid. This could help the league in viewership as people will be interested in seeing him.
Considering that Van Gaal is a major fan of Wesley Sneijder, does it suprise you that Bayern haven’t made a move for the Real playmaker?
Yes. At one point I was sure that Ribery would go to Real and we would get both Sneijder and Van Der Vaart. This chapter is not over and I am sure the transfer of Ribery will happen latest next summer.
What other deals do you see happening before September?
Not much to be honest. The Bundesliga starts next week and I think this is the current squad. I believe that if Toni will not play, he will move to Italy in Winter. That is a safe bet in my opinion.
Muller and Budstuber make the jump this year from BMII. What can you tell us about these two youngsters?
I do not know much about them, but I like both. I wish Kroos had stayed with Bayern and not moved to Leverkusen. Budstuber could make it to the first 11 on occassion. Muller will probably not be able to make it with Ribery, Schweinsteiger and the rest already in place. But it is good to see some young talent at Bayern.
How will you fare in the Champions League?
Good question. Well, you always need a bit of luck. Last year we got Barca early….in the Quarter Finals and had obviously no real chance. The team and the coach have a lot of experience. With a bit of luck we could reach the Semi-Final, but I can’t see us advance any further. Not yet, at least.