Discovering the talent of Erling Haaland might elevate someone to heroic status in football. For Christoph Freund, the discovery of the Norwegian standout isn’t the only reason Bayern Munich took notice.
In eight years, Freund transformed RB Salzburg into one of Europe’s prime talent factories. He’s credited with finding stars like Sadio Mane from Senegal, former Liverpool striker Naby Keita, Japanese International Takumi Minamino, and French international Dayot Upamecano.
Starting this Friday, the 46-year-old will step into his new role as Bayern Munich’s sporting director, succeeding the departed Hasan Salihamidzic. He has inked a deal that lasts until 2027.
Freund’s arrival fills a significant gap for Bayern. The team hasn’t seen a homegrown talent rise to its first team since Bavarian favorite Thomas Muller in 2009.
While there’s no guarantee Freund will uncover another Haaland, the bar is set high. The 2020 treble-winning side recently underwent a substantial leadership shuffle. Beyond Salihamidzic’s exit, chairman Oliver Kahn left after some unsuccessful transfers and a strained relationship with the club’s youth academy.
Bayern’s chairman, Jan-Christian Dressen, commented on the new director’s tasks. The club hopes Freund can apply his talent-finding acumen once more.
Freund articulated a two-pronged approach for Bayern: “It does not mean must be either or. We will keep on signing top stars but at the same time increase the number of talents we get to the first team,” the former midfielder shared.
Recent signings under Freund’s watch include South Korean international Kim Min-Jae and England captain Harry Kane.
In his new role, Freund aims to bridge various club departments, driving efficiency. He acknowledged the challenge in maintaining an elite level while fostering club talent, indicating that dialogue and collaboration would be key.
Though he’s joined Bayern, Freund said he still needs to acquaint himself with the club’s core essence. He plans to work closely with the club’s head coach, the 2021 UEFA Champions League winner, Thomas Tuchel.
For Freund, joining Bayern is a pinnacle moment. Despite Salzburg’s achievements and Haaland’s current trajectory, he recognizes that Bayern operates on a different magnitude, with inherent pressures and expectations. Unlike Salihamidzic, Freund envisions his role more behind the curtains. ■