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September 25, 2017

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Bayern plan to welcome back their ex-president after his prison sentence

BERLIN -- Despite his conviction for tax fraud, Bayern Munich are planning to welcome back ex-president Uli Hoeness after he has served his prison sentence.

The 62-year-old resigned as both Bayern president and chairman of the club's supervisory board on Friday and was a noticeable absentee for Saturday's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

He stepped down less than 24 hours after being sentenced to three and a half years in jail by Munich regional court having cheated the state out of 28.5 million euros (US$39.5 million) in unpaid taxes.

He admitted to hiding his wealth in secret Swiss bank accounts while obsessively "gambling" on stock and currency markets for years.

But while Hoeness waits to start his time behind bars, the Bavarian giants already hope he will be back at the Allianz Arena soon.

"This club is one of the best in the world and that is down to the personality of Uli Hoeness," said coach Pep Guardiola.

"He deserves our respect. I hope he can come back in the future and help us."

On Saturday, Bayern named Karl Hopfner as Hoeness' successor as club president.

Adidas' CEO Herbert Hainer, the CEO of German sportswear giants Adidas, takes over from Hoeness as chairman of Bayern's advisory board.

Both positions must be ratified by a vote on May 2 at the club's general assembly.

But Edmund Stoiber, head of Bayern's management board, implied there will be a role for Hoeness with the European champions following his release.

"A door is always open and Uli Hoeness will always be the soul of the club," Stoiber told Die Welt.

"Whatever he wants to do, anything is possible."

Hoeness's fall from grace comes with the club he built on the ascendancy and confirmed as the world's best domestic side after winning the Club World Cup last December.

There has been zero condemnation from within the tight-knit Bayern camp, even after the guilty verdict.

Chants of "Hoeness - you're the best man!" could be heard at Munich's Allianz Arena during the win over Leverkusen.

Sky television underscored his absence when zooming in on the empty seat next to chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge where Hoeness normally sits and there were a few banners of support from fans.

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