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 By Mark Lovell

Bayern Munich have not become a 'retirement home' - Uli Hoeness

Uli Hoeness has dismissed suggestions Bayern Munich are too old for success in the Champions League, insisting that the team is not a "retirement home."

After losing in extra-time against holders Real Madrid in the quarterfinals last month, ex-Bayern defender Willy Sagnol said his former team "is too old" to win the Champions League.

Carlo Ancelotti's side included veteran wingers Arjen Robben, 33, and Franck Ribery, 34, alongside captain Philipp Lahm, 33, and Xabi Alonso, 35, who are both retiring at the end of the season.

"The media create a storm as if we are a retirement home. Admittedly, our team is getting a little old, but I don't believe there are old or young teams, only good or bad ones," Bayern president Hoeness told reporters.

Hoeness looked to Juventus' serene progress to this season's Champions League final to justify his comments.

"If you look at Juventus' defence, they have nobody under the age of 33," he said. "In my opinion, Juve will probably win the Champions League, beating Real. Nobody will ask if they are too old then."

Commenting on Bayern's veteran wingers, Hoeness said: "If Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben play as they have done for the large majority of this season, then I'm not bothered in the slightest how old they are. Every time Ribery anyway goes off after 70 minutes, he calls me in the evening and says, 'I've had enough now, I'm leaving.'"

Uli Hoeness is in his second spell as Bayern Munich president.

Speaking about the lack of opportunity for youngsters such as Joshua Kimmich, Renato Sanches and Kingsley Coman this season under Ancelotti, Hoeness said: "The problem is that they aren't getting a chance at the moment. Younger players must succeed in emerging from the older ones' shadows. They have to get opportunities and be ready when the others stop playing. That's the secret."

Hoeness has previously described the spending in the Chinese Super League as "sick," but he believes it is only a matter of time before the German giants field a Chinese talent of their own.

"The Chinese are new to market because their president decided to make football the number one sport in this enormous country," he said. "And in the schools too. We have built three or four football schools in China. At some stage, a Chinese player will play for Bayern.

"When we have this Chinese player, it will generate amazing interest. If we play on a Saturday, probably at 2 p.m., so it will be primetime in Shanghai or Beijing. Then 300 million Chinese can watch via iPhone, each paying a euro each. You can imagine where we are heading."

Hoeness was originally Bayern president between 2009 and 2014 but had to give up the role when convicted of evading millions of euros in tax through an undeclared Swiss bank account.

But Hoeness, a former Bayern player and general manager, was released from prison last year after serving half of his three-and-a-half-year sentence and was re-elected unopposed as president for a second spell in November.

Discussing his prison sentence, he said: "I'm the only German to report myself to the authorities and end up in prison anyway. An acquittal would have been absolutely normal in this case, but I lost this game to the media. Between 10 and 12 journalists were camped outside our house day and night, staying the night in VW transporters. We could have appealed, but I didn't want to put my family through it any longer.

"My balance at the Vontobel bank from 2001 to 2010 showed a loss of €3 million. I paid over €40m in fines, including €18m in interest and €2m in church tax. I decided to accept the prison sentence. There was only a real fuss until I was in prison; the press left me alone after the second or third house visit.

"I made experiences for life but a lot of things happened that I don't wish to talk about. But I always approached people and adapted to the situation. The prison director, renowned for being tough, paid the biggest compliment on my last day. She said, 'Mr Hoeness, you are the first person to ever leave here with two fan clubs, one the prison officers and the other the prisoners themselves.'"

Discussing his return to public life after his prison sentence, Hoeness added: "I thought I would be stained and perhaps an outcast. However, it turned out the opposite. When I used to come to Bremen, people used to scream, 'Hoeness you arsehole' for 30 minutes. But on my last visit, 500 people wanted a selfie with me. Then I knew it was the correct decision to accept the verdict."

Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.


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