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EXCLUSIVE:
Dietmar Hamann on the Bundesliga title fight, Der Klassiker and Nagelsmann's start as Germany coach

By Rune Gjerulff   @runegjerulff

In an exclusive interview with Bulinews.com, Dietmar Hamann discusses Bayer Leverkusen's great start to the season, Saturday's 'Der Klassiker' between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, Julian Nagelsmann's start to life as Germany coach and much, much more.
At the top of the Bundesliga after winning eight of their first nine league games this season, Bayer Leverkusen have "every chance" of putting an end to Bayern Munich's run of 11 consecutive title wins, according to German football pundit and former Bayern Munich and Liverpool star Dietmar Hamann.


Didi Hamann, speaking to Boylesports, who offer the latest Premier League odds, and Bulinews.com, shared his thoughts on the Bundesliga title race, Saturday's 'Der Klassiker' between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, and Julian Nagelsmann's early days as Germany coach, among other things.

Read the full interview here:

Leverkusen are having a really good season so far to say the least. How impressed are you by them and how do you see their chances of beating Bayern to the title?
”I’m very impressed. When Xabi (Alonso) took over last year, I think he lost the first three games, but then he had a very good run, and they finished the season really well and ended up qualifying for Europe. They’ve been absolutely brilliant this season. They’ve won all their games bar the one against Munich, are top of the league and going well in the Europa League. I think they’ve got every chance, because they don’t only win their games, they also play good football. They showed against Bayern Munich that they’re at least at the same level. The question is: Are they consistent enough over 34 games to beat them to the title? But from what I’ve seen so far in the first 8-9 games, I think they can (win the title).”

As for Bayern, they’re getting the wins, but they’ve probably not been up to their usual standards, and I’ve seen you’ve been quite critical of them recently as well. How do you rate their performances so far this season?
”It’s not that easy to be too critical, because they haven’t lost since the Super Cup. But their football has been pretty underwhelming at times. And I just wonder how long this is going they can carry on getting these results. At some point, they have to start playing better football. That’s not happened yet. They haven’t got the biggest squad and have a couple of injuries now. They’ve got a big game against Dortmund over the weekend, and I think we’ll find out a lot more about them in the coming weeks.”

You recently said you were a bit tired of hearing Thomas Tuchel complaining about his squad depth at Bayern. Tuchel reacted by saying he feels you’re getting a bit out of hand with your criticism. What's your reaction to that, and can you understand why he thinks you're being too harsh?
“Of course he has to defend his club and his team, I fully understand that. But the reason I said it is that he was part of the transfer committee they put together. They sold (Benjamin) Pavard three or four days before the end of the window, and they also let (Josip) Stanisic go. Stanisic didn’t even want to go, but still went to Leverkusen. Recently, there was a report coming out that Bayern wanted to cut the loan short and try to get him back in January, which is not possible. Leverkusen won’t agree to that because they’ll have a couple of players at the Africa Cup of Nations early in the new year. I just feel that if you let these players go, you need to have cover, you need to have somebody lined up you know you’re going to get. If they had Stanisic now, it would have made an awful lot of difference because he’s a very versatile player who can play full-back, center-back and in midfield. So I don’t really understand why he always complains when he was part of that transfer committee. They are probably one or two players short, but it is what it is now and they just have to get over it.”


After the cup game in midweek, they're facing one of the biggest matches of the season against Dortmund on Saturday. What are your predictions for the game?
“It's going well for Dortmund. (Gregor) Kobel will be a big miss if he can't play. (Felix) Nmecha also didn’t play the last game. I think it’s an equal game. Bayern have had the upper hand in recent years, but I think it’s a very good opportunity for Dortmund to possibly beat them because they (Bayern) are not playing that well. First, they have a cup game in midweek.”

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Joshua Kimmich will be unavailable for Bayern after receiving a red card against Darmstadt. How big a blow will his absence be for Bayern?
“It’s a big loss. Obviously he’s very low on confidence, and the manager hasn’t been too complimentary about him, saying he’s not a number six and can’t play the holding role. You can see it in his performances. He’s been doing okay, but gets caught in possession quite a lot. It happened in Istanbul in the Champions League and again the other day, when he brought his opponent down and was sent off after 3-4 minutes. But he will be a big loss, especially if Goretzka is out as well, because then the only recognized central midfielder would be ‘Konny’ Laimer."

Manuel Neuer finally returned to action against Darmstadt. Do you think Bayern made the right decision by waiting for him to return rather than signing a top-class replacement in the summer?
“I think we’ll find out in the next weeks or months whether he gets back to his best and they’ve made the right decision. If not, then you might have a case to say they should have bought somebody. But at the same time, you have to say (Sven) Ulreich did really well when he stepped in. He hasn’t done anything wrong and has been been brilliant. We just have to wait and see. He (Neuer) didn’t have a lot to do (against Darmstadt) except for saving a long shot. Fingers crossed he can get back to where he was.”

Could you see him reclaiming his number one spot for Germany as well?
“I don’t think that’s on his mind. He just wants to play games now and stay injury-free. I guess this is something for March-April. Nagelsmann said ter Stegen is the number one now. If Neuer plays out of his skin in the new year, I still think there’s a chance. At the moment, it’s likely that ter Stegen will be the number one. But if Neuer is better, I think Nagelsmann will have to rethink and make a change.”

Speaking of Nagelsmann and Germany, how would you rate his start as Germany coach, and how far can you see the team going at the Euros?
“I think they need a bit of confidence back. They need to get the support of the people back, because they haven’t been doing well in the last three or four years. It was a good start against USA and Mexico, who are decent, but not top of the world rankings. You saw that we’re not as bad as we’ve been made out to be. I think we’ve got some exceptional players, and the team is a lot better than they’ve shown at the last two or three tournaments. Pretty encouraging, I’d say, but there’s still a long way to go. I think we should play a good role next summer. France and England will be the two teams to beat. We’re not at their level, but with the home support, who knows?”


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