However, Christoph Freund did not move alone from Salzburg to Munich. At Bayern, Freund can rely on a trusted colleague: According to “Salzburger Nachrichten”, Richard Kitzbichler is following his compatriot to Munich and is supposed to serve there as a connection to the “Bayern-Campus” academy.
On Thursday, an era ends with Christoph Freund’s last day at work at Salzburg’s champion of the series. The sporting director, who is rising to the top of football at Bayern Munich and has signed a four-year contract, looks back on “a very special journey”: a 17-year trip that took him from team manager to designer and not only brought the club notable successes, but also brought significant transfer income.
On average, coaches are history in Salzburg after two years. Sports directors are a little different. In the case of Freund, who has his roots in the country and has been with the club since 2006, it is a very special liaison anyway. On the occasion of his emotional farewell at the home game against Wiener Austria, tears flowed on August 14th.
The fans gave him warm words (“found a friend 17 years ago and connected with him for eternity”), he returned the favor at the beginning of last week with a farewell gift: the contract extension of goalgetter Karim Konate, who took on the dizzying transfer dimensions of the recent past could blow up again.
Erling Haaland, Dominik Szoboszlai, Brenden Aaronson, Karim Adeyemi and Benjamin Sesko – they were all brought in by Freund and sold at a great profit. During his tenure, a rumored transfer surplus of around 400 million euros was brought in, thereby reducing the dependency on sponsor Red Bull, who also acted as the owner for many years after joining in 2005.
Even then, Freund was already part of the party. A year after the drinks company got involved, the 57-times second division kicker (Untersiebenbrunn, Wattens) from Leogang signed on as a team manager – just a few years after he had to reorganize his parents’ carpentry shop following the sudden death of his father. “I thought it would be cool to work with a club in the identification phase,” recalled Freund, who used to organize the hotels for European Cup trips, among other things. Where that would lead was anything but clear for the career changer at the time. “I didn’t have a clear career plan.”
The advantage: “I learned everything from scratch. And suddenly I was able to work with many people who I only knew from TV at the time, such as Giovanni Trapattoni, Lothar Matthäus or Alex Zickler.” Few would have predicted at the time that he would one day be the man who would break the “Champions League curse” with Salzburg.
Even in 2015, when he inherited today’s ÖFB team boss Ralf Rangnick (“You can call him my teacher. I’ve learned to rethink football through Ralf and I’m very grateful to him.”) After his groundbreaking decisions as sports director, the public seemed unconvinced. In the Europa League qualification they failed at Dinamo Minsk and later separated from coach Peter Zeidler. “Many have already said that the footsteps are too big for me. It was a hard, formative time. But I never doubted myself.”
Seven years later, Freund is an internationally sought-after man. In 2022 he still resisted the lure of Chelsea, but he has now weakened at Bayern. “I really had no intention of moving.
But then came the request from FC Bayern. The club stands for values with which I can identify very well. It is a great honor and a dream for me to be able to work for this club now. FCB is the best club in the German-speaking area,” said Freund at the presentation in Munich on Wednesday.
Rooted in Salzburg
The proximity to Salzburg and to the family, who stays at home, also played a role. “It’s going to be very, very exciting. It’s a different approach, a different orientation,” said Freund, who will not be able to succeed with the commitment of Rohdiamanten in Munich alone.
In Munich, however, people expect similar successes and achievements from the valued talent discoverer and young talent promoter. “He has a very good reputation in the industry and very good knowledge of the industry. We hope to continue to have the eye he has had in recent years,” said CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen. Freund, who, according to Dreesen, has “the sporting authority to set guidelines”, knows that the jump for talented players into the professional team at FC Bayern is significantly greater than at his former club. Nevertheless, he said: “From a long-term perspective, it is important to discover talent and not just to get expensive stars.”
Under much greater pressure than in Salzburg, Hasan Salihamidzic’s successor may have to draw on the wealth of experience he gained in 2015. “It may be the same, in Germany they don’t know Christoph Freund that well either,” he said shortly before taking office on Säbener Strasse, where he met an old acquaintance, Konrad Laimer. Stylistically, Freund doesn’t want to change his style – not even when it comes to pronunciation. “I want to remain as authentic as possible,” he said. “In Bavaria there’s a dialect anyway.”