Goodbye, Mark van Bommel

Yesterday it was announced that team captain Mark van Bommel’s contract was terminated so that he can join AC Milan for the rest of the 2010-11 season. This put an end to the era of the first ever non-German Bayern captain. Here’s a look back at the 4 1/2 mostly successful years:

It was August 2006, three months after Barca won the Champions League final against Arsenal, when the rumor appeared that Bayern wants to acquire Mark van Bommel, allegedly to replace Owen Hargreaves (who, in the end, was sold to Man United a year later, mainly due to van Bommel’s outstanding performances in his first season). The Barcelona midfielder couldn’t be sure of a guaranteed starting spot anymore because the locals Xavi and Andres Iniesta, you might have heard of them by now, continued to impress coach Frank Rijkaard. The rumor turned out to be true, Bayern paid €6m for the Dutch.

Not only was he voted Player of the Year in his first season in Munich, he also made himself popular among Bayern fans by scoring an important late goal against his former rivals Real Madrid and taking a rather offensive approach to celebrate (a video can be found here: )

When the legendary Oliver Kahn retired in 2008, the newly appointed coach Jürgen Klinsmann had the difficult task to find a new captain. Surprisingly, he decided for van Bommel instead of a local player like e.g. Philipp Lahm. The “aggressive leader” (Ottmar Hitzfeld) was the first foreign captain in team history.

His first season as captain (and Klinsmann’s only season as Bayern coach) was a chaotic one. Bayern were crushed by his former team, FC Barcelona, and almost missed the 3rd spot in the Bundesliga what would’ve meant another Champions League season without Germany’s record champion (this already happened in the 2007-08 season). Fortunately, they finished 2nd and, led by Louis van Gaal, made it to last season’s Champions League final in (where else?) Madrid. Even though Bayern lost this match against Inter 0-2, this season was considered a success by most.

An up-and-down domestic season so far forced the team to make some changes. With the acquisition of Luiz Gustavo and often great performances by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, the ageing Mark van Bommel was aware of his doubtful future in the Bayern midfield and looking for a new challenge. There were lots of rumors, as you’d expect when a player of his caliber is looking for a new club, but he decided to join AC Milan. Whether he’s gonna stay there for more than six months, join another club or return to Eindhoven can’t be said yet. What can be said though is that his time in Munich was a successful one for him.

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