With Bayern Munich running away with the Bundesliga title race, the main question now is who will replace Jupp Heynckes and become the club's new manager next season.
The Bundesliga returns this weekend after its winter break to a collective shrugging of shoulders by the blind, who cannot see past Bayern Munich’s predictable lead.
Where’s the entertainment in a race that’s already run? Or so the arguments go ad infinitum. But this short-sighted view could not be further from the truth.
An intriguing game of thrones is set to play out in Bavaria and beyond in the coming months as the identity of FC Hollywood’s next permanent head coach comes into view.
Unlike the title race, in which the perpetual champions hold a nine-point advantage ahead of Friday’s trip to rapidly improving Bayer Leverkusen, there is no obvious candidate in view as 290,000 Bayern club members and millions of fans across the globe achingly await developments.
Will the ongoing charm offensive towards caretaker Jupp Heynckes convince the 72-year-old to further interrupt his retirement? If it doesn’t, a viable alternative has to emerge in the second half of 2017/18 – a position complicated by an avowed decision to go for a native German speaker after Italian Carlo Ancelotti’s winter implosion.
This is where considerable interest lies and why the Bundesliga remains essential viewing, in its entirety.
No matter the inevitability of a sixth-successive “Deutsche Meisterschale”. Hoffenheim’s “wunderkind” Julian Nagelsmann, RB Leipzig’s Ralph Hasenhuettl and Eintracht Frankfurt’s former Bayern stalwart Niko Kovac all appear potential candidates, to varying degrees. Beyond them, could another World Cup win, or even a flop, convince Joachim Low to break a contract that runs until 2020?
Will it be the coaching brilliance or ensuing baggage that prevails when judging the merits of combustible ex-Borussia Dortmund tactician Thomas Tuchel? It’s a long shot, but could Jurgen Klopp be prised from the Premier League and Liverpool?
Loved by the players, cherished for his treble in 2012/13 and immensely valued after winning 17 of his 18 games since inheriting a rabble from Ancelotti in October. It is clear why Heynckes is the favoured option for returning club president Uli Hoeness.
Seemingly, these merits do not matter to the content Heynckes.
“There won’t be a change of mind regarding my future,” he said. For a club which prides itself on forethought, Bayern appear surprisingly ill-prepared for the apparent inevitability of a summer exit.
A dawning realisation as the Bundesliga chugs on will take hold. It has to.
Nagelsmann appears next in line, but doubts are obvious. How will World Cup winners and living icons such as Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer react to a 30-year-old boss?
The Hoffe revolution has also taken several wayward turns after last term’s historic run to fourth.
Nagelsmann was out-thought by Klopp as Liverpool prevailed in the Champions League’s play-offs, while domestically they are slightly off the pace in seventh.
An improvement in form will be essential to ease doubts, beginning with Saturday’s trip to rebounding Werder Bremen.
Dortmund would seem a better fit at present if Nagelsmann decides to disobey Dietmar Hopp’s call to stay where he is until at least 2019.
A further complication which could then impact Bayern is how Peter Stoger gets on at BVB. With four wins and one loss after replacing the disastrous Peter Bosz, contentment could emerge.
Then, we move onto the outsiders. Hasenhuettl’s self doubt and feverish tactics appear an ill-fit despite Hoeness’ recorded admiration.
Kovac’s candidature is weakened by a lack of experience. Even less is certain when it comes to assessing the prime cuts of Low, Klopp and Tuchel. Contenders for the crown are spread throughout the league and beyond. Yet none are nailed on.
Their fates will ebb and flow as the games fly by. This footballing soap opera is not to be missed.