MADRID - Bayern Munich could not have reached the Champions League final for the first time in nine years without Louis van Gaal as coach, former player Paul Breitner said on Thursday.
Breitner played in the first of Bayern's hat-trick of European Cup successes in 1974 and won the World Cup and European Championship with West Germany.
"The reason we have been so successful is that after about eight, 10, 12 weeks, the team began to understand what he meant, his system, about winning the ball, controlling the ball, by having 60 to 70 percent of possession throughout the 90 minutes," Breitner told reporters before Saturday's final against Inter Milan.
Breitner, now an advisor to Bayern's board, translated his own answers to reporters' questions from German to English and the Spanish he learnt while playing for Real Madrid.
"Our team is now playing completely different football than it did before," he said. "And it is playing completely different football compared to the other 17 teams in the Bundesliga.
"We are not playing like my old Bayern team of the 1970s. We are playing in a different way, more like Barcelona do today.
"It is attacking, it is attractive, the team go looking for goals - there is no real comparison to the 1970s - it is a more modern approach."
Bayern made a bad start under Van Gaal, winning only one of their first four matches and by early November were lying eighth in the Bundesliga, but the performances had been improving.
Bayern were top of the table by the end of February, went unbeaten for 19 matches from Oct. 3 to March 20 and wrapped up the title with a match to spare. They completed the domestic Double by crushing Werder Bremen 4-0 in the Cup final.
After losing two Champions League group games to Bordeaux, the wider world began to notice Bayern's improvement when they swept into the last 16 with a 4-1 win at Juventus.
They are now bidding to become the first German side to win the two major domestic honours and the Champions League in the same season.
Van Gaal is a product of the Dutch school of coaching which can be traced back through Leo Beenhakker to Rinus Michels, the father of the Netherlands' "Total Football" philosophy of the 1970s.
The idea that every player on the field was part of a fluid team movement and could play in any position carried the Dutch to the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals and Ajax Amsterdam to three successive European Cup wins in the 1970s.
Breitner played and scored against the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup final and Bayern succeeded Ajax as European champions, but Breitner does not see the fusion of the Dutch coach's methods at a German club as a new Total Football.
"It is different now," said Breitner. "Every player has had to learn a new style, a new way of football, but this took time.
"Louis Van Gaal needed time to convince the team that his ideas of football are the right ideas. They would not be here without him.
Breitner does not expect an individual player to decide the outcome of Saturday's game.
"This is a match which will only be won by the team in which every one of the 11, or 14 if the substitutes are involved, will reach 100 per cent of their potential, their athleticism," he said.comments