Flick kneads Bayern with the help of a Dutch whisperer: ‘Danke Marcel, with a thumb’

If coach Hans-Dieter ‘Hansi’ Flick’s Bayern Munich competes with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final on Sunday evening, at least one Dutch football coach with above-average interest will follow the performances of the German formation. The 58-year-old Lucassen met Flick when they both worked for the German Football Association and has since been regularly consulted by him.

In Lisbon, where the final of the Champions League is played, Bayern Munich can conquer the most important European Cup for clubs for the sixth time in its existence. It would be the ultimate crowning glory for the revival that Flick has managed to bring about at Bayern in just a few months.

Born assistant

Flick, who played for Bayern Munich between 1985 and 1990, looked like a born assistant. The Bayern management saw him in the same way at first.

Since the end of last year, however, everything is different. A series of lousy games with a 5-1 defeat against Frankfurt as a low point then plunged the top Bavarian club into a crisis, resulting in head coach Niko Kovac being sacked and assistant Flick being put forward as a temporary replacement.

Toppers called

In the media, a laundry list of big names from the international trainer guild passed by, which could pull Bayern out of its scrape. Massimiliano Allegri, Erik ten Hag, Arsรจne Wenger, Mauricio Pochettino, they would be at the top of Bayern’s list. But it remained Hansi Flick. And it’s still Hansi Flick.

The appointment of the coach turned out to be a bull’s-eye. Under his leadership almost depreciated players flourished again and the schwung returned to the team. Bayern became champion and won the national cup.

And so this remarkable advance is partly thanks to Marcel Lucassen. He, a globetrotter from Venlo, helped Flick develop his philosophy of football.

We go back to November 2018. Hans-Dieter Flick reports to the Arsenal training complex. He flew there specially to spend a day sparring with Marcel Lucassen. One day later Flick will travel on to Manchester City trainer Pep Guardiola for a similar session.

Soundboard

Lucassen is the prototype background figure in the glamorous world of global football. Unknown to the general public, but highly appreciated by clubs and players with whom he has worked or who have hired him as a consultant.

A look at his CV: Hertha BSC, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich, PSV, Vitesse, Club Brugge, Guangzou Evergrande, Al-Nasr and the football associations of Finland, the Czech Republic, Japan and South Africa.

The connection with Flick goes back to Lucassen’s period at the German Football Association, where he worked between 2008 and 2015 as ‘coach of coaches’ to help develop a style of play for the national youth teams. From the conversations that both of them had at the time, a more than collegial bond arose. And so it could happen that Lucassen recently received a phone call from the Bayern coach.

Session

“He’s very eager to learn,” says Lucassen.

“It was an intensive day. He wanted to philosophize about ways of playing. How to train that. How to coach. He had his own thoughts and I sent him in a little bit.”

Who Lucassen speaks, notices: it’s about the deeper layers of the football game in no time. So too that afternoon.

Players become coaches

“Football is not a coaching sport, football is a player sport, I told him that”, said Lucassen. “That’s why it’s important that players take over your role on the pitch. You have to be very clear about how you want to attack, defend and switch. You translate that into training, because that’s where you can stop situations and work on details.”

Lucassen: “If the translation from the coach brain to the player’s brain works, you have a self-regulating team that makes its own choices on the pitch. Or, in the ultimate case, a team that is able to respond to each other’s body language during the game within the principles of play.”

Perfect plough

“This team understands each other very quickly, they are on top of each other. If you also have a coach who can communicate very clearly and create the right atmosphere, what Hansi has done, then trust comes. Then you get these kinds of results,” Lucassen refers to the recent Champions League series of Bayern.

The Arsenal trainer is always in close contact with Flick. “This morning he happened to send an app. “Thanks Marcel, with a thumb”, says Lucassen with a smile.

On the other hand, to continue in earnest: “I had sent him a message that he should watch out for Paris Saint-Germain. Because look, you may want to defend high, but there are still too many mistakes. Especially the residual defense, the defensive thinking, in ball possession, they still have to work on that. Especially when they lose more ball, which was better taken care of in other matches.”