When the end came, it came quickly for Carlo Ancelotti. Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani – PSG’s all-star if occasionally dysfunctional front three – delivered the coup de grace but, in truth, the storm clouds had been gathering.
Bayern have never exuded the same type of intensity or fluidity under Ancelotti as they did under his predecessor Pep Guardiola, who won three consecutive Bundesliga titles.
Ancelotti’s sole full season in charge did indeed bring another shield to the Bayern trophy cabinet but the consensus would suggest that that title win had more to do with individual flashes of brilliance from the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Thiago Alcantara than anything Ancelotti was doing from the bench.
More alarmingly, standards have been slipping in the Champions League, where Bayern won only two of the six away games in which Ancelotti coached the team. They lost all of the other four including the bitter, devastating loss to PSG on Wednesday.
“That was not Bayern,” sniped CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the aftermath. His side had just produced their worst performance of the season and, in truth, their worst in the Italian coach’s 15 months in charge.
That was symptomatic of a team who could impose themselves on hapless domestic competition one week but deliver a wildly inconsistent display the next.
PSG were masterful in picking Bayern off time and again on the break, with Ancelotti unwilling – or more accurately unable – to arrest the on-field decline.
Arjen Robben refused to back his manager following the game, insisting any word spoken about the 57-year-old’s tactics would be one too many.
Robben had started the game on the bench where he sat, shockingly, beside Franck Ribery and World Cup-winning central defensive duo Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
Replacement centre-backs Javi Martinez and new signing Niklas Sule fared horrifically, with Martinez making the error leading to Neymar’s goal and Sule being given the run around all night by Mbappe.
Ancelotti took plenty of criticism for his line-up, with neither width nor pace in attack and goalscoring-threat-in-chief Robert Lewandowski hopelessly undersupplied throughout.
Bayern under Ancelotti have been lacking in speed and sharpness; exacerbated, according to club insiders, by a gentler training regime than was in place under Guardiola.
This is a successful Bayern – of that, there is no doubt – but one which was permitted to grow old together.
For that, Ancelotti avoids his share of the blame. Rummenigge and jailbird president Uli Hoeness have been complacent, with only Hummels looking anything like a trump card from those players signed in the past two summers. Even the signing of Ancelotti’s dream player, James Rodriguez, has made little or no difference to their fortunes thus far.
Bayern deserve recognition as one of the only super-clubs absenting themselves from the excessive bidding wars involving the game’s new generation of top talent but it’s beginning to bite, as Lewandowski warned.
And he wasn’t the only one disgruntled, with Ribery, Robben and Muller all critical of their coach so far this season.
PSG are around €400m lighter for the signings of Neymar and Mbappe, while Bayern still cannot get by without 33-year-old Robben and his 34-year-old counterpart Ribery.
Succession plans have not been put in place for those two, with Douglas Costa departed and Kingsley Coman failing to reach his potential. Thomas Muller’s season-long slump in the last campaign now extends into this.
Philipp Lahm had to retire before Ancelotti was persuaded to trust Joshua Kimmich on a regular basis in the big games. There is too much of a drop off in quality between Manuel Neuer – injured all year – and next best goalkeeper Sven Ulreich. There is no back-up let alone world-class support up front for Lewandowski.
For that Rummenigge, Hoeness and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic must carry the can.
Maybe Bayern were lulled into a false sense of security after the Bundesliga success enjoyed under Guardiola and Jupp Heynckes. Maybe they thought that Ancelotti’s light touch would guide them through. They never expected it would fray at the seams so quickly.
The truth, however, is that Ancelotti never gave this team its own identity just as Bayern did not give him a truly high-class squad with which to work.
Either way, Ancelotti’s failure is a symptom of the disunity around Bayern right now and not the cause. Key personnel like Matthias Sammer, sporting director alongside Guardiola, and Michael Reschke, the technical director who left this summer for Stuttgart, have not been replaced adequately. This was a club coasting on its reputation and succeeding through its repeated ability to weaken domestic rivals in the market.
But that strategy has its limitations. Bayern were in need of a complete overhaul last summer and they neglected to do so. Ancelotti has paid the price with his job but appointing a replacement and expecting the club to simply pick up where they left off would be merely papering over the cracks.