Premier League draw could spell trouble for Bayern Munich and Bundesliga | Bayern Munich

FFrom 2013 to 2022, the title winner in Germany bears the same name. Bayern Munich is celebrating a 10th championship in a row. A decade of dominance is new to Europe’s five strongest leagues. Such statistics are also only known in Europe from clubs such as Skonto Riga, Dinamo Zagreb, Rosenborg or Dynamo Berlin from the former East German Oberliga.

Bayern is a club that wins titles. In the last 50 years of the Bundesliga, they have finished in the top 30 times. They owe it to their unique identity: as a club of players. A successful generation takes over from another. And former players have been at the helm for a long time.

The foundation was laid by Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller, local players and world-class footballers. They were a gift for the club and the nation of football. From their team, which won the European Cup three times, the leadership of the following decades was recruited.

At the end of the 1970s, a footballer, Uli Hoeneß, took over the management of the club. He led it for more than 40 years, long with former teammates Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. They combined an understanding of football with leadership qualities and helped the club achieve an outstanding position in Germany.

Since then, the club has relied on a principle that only it can afford in Germany. The best Germans or the best in Bundesliga are identified and purchased by Bayern. There, they must assert themselves in the face of strong competition.

A regular German player at Bayern practically automatically plays for the national team. In the early 80s they were called Rummenigge and Paul Breitner, in the late 80s Lothar Matthäus, Andreas Brehme and Klaus Augenthaler, from the mid-90s Oliver Kahn, Jürgen Klinsmann, Matthäus again and later Michael Ballack.

If the players come from the city or the region, it triggers a power, an additional identification with the club. This is how great teams are formed. From 2005, just like 40 years before, a team of world-class local players was formed. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller and I gave the Bayern motto a special touch”mia san mia“: the attitude that the club always trusts each other with everything and everyone always trusts it with everything. Today, Müller and Manuel Neuer guarantee titles with Robert Lewandowski. In 2020, the team repeated the treble of 2013.

Manuel Neuer celebrates this season's Bundesliga title.
Manuel Neuer celebrates this season’s Bundesliga title. Photography: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Bayern and Munich have everything to succeed: a modern stadium, a big city, lots of supporters. In fact, there are enough locations in Germany with similar potential. But Hamburg borrowed money from supporters and were relegated like Schalke, Frankfurt, Berlin and Cologne. Dortmund nearly went bankrupt two decades ago, hanging drip Bayern Munich. And so the Bundesliga, the second most financially powerful league in the world, has been waiting since 1997 for someone other than Bayern to win a European Cup.

On the one hand, it makes things comfortable for Bayern. Because domestic competition is no match for international competition, they benefit more than anyone else in Germany from the economic growth of top-flight European football. Since 1998, they have more than sixfold their turnover. Hardly anyone else is bidding for the players they want. This enormous advantage even allows phases of weakness.

On the other hand, the danger now hovers. From the late 1980s, when Italian industrialists subsidized football as patrons, Serie A was the dominant league for a good decade. Matthäus, Brehme, Klinsmann, Rudi Völler and Thomas Häßler, the bulk of Germany’s 1990 world champions, played in Italy in their prime years. During this period, when barely a final was played without Juventus or Milan, Bayern did not win the Champions League.

Lothar Matthäus played for Internazionale in the 1991-92 season.  Several of the best German players of this period moved to Italy.
Lothar Matthäus played for Internazionale in the 1991-92 season. Several of the best German players of this period moved to Italy. Photography: Action Pictures

Now we may be facing a decade of the Premier League, funded by very wealthy entrepreneurs around the world, but also states who want to improve their reputations with big sporting events. This year we may witness the third English final in four years. Only the 2019-2020 season, where the Champions League was played in a mini format and under complicated pandemic conditions, was an exception, and Bayern managed to win it again.

This parallel with the Italian era could have consequences. In 2014, Lewandowski came to Bayern from Dortmund. Today, the best managers in the world succumb to the lure of England and the most sought-after players in the Bundesliga no longer routinely switch to Bayern. Erling Haaland is likely to go to the Premier League, like Kai Havertz two years earlier, and there is speculation that Serge Gnabry will leave.

If several of the exceptional talents of this generation see greater appeal in the English league than in the German league, it will become a problem for Bayern and the Bundesliga.

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Bayern will not be able to count on the support of Germany in this competition between championships, and the weakness of the Bundesliga could also weaken the club in the long term. Perhaps this process is already underway. From 2010 to 2016, Bayern reached the semi-finals six times and the final three times in seven attempts. From 2017 to 2022, they have made the last four twice in six attempts. This season they were eliminated before the semi-finals for the second time in a row, this time against foreigners Villarreal.

This comes at a time when the older generation of executives is saying goodbye. For a long time, Hoeneß, for whom Bayern was his life’s work, ran the club like an owner. Today, two former players are back in charge, Hasan Salihamidzic and Kahn, winners of the Champions League in 2001.

Their mandate is to strengthen the squad now that everyone is clamoring for investment and no one is talking about their own young talent – in a way that suits club and nation, with national and international stars settling in in Munich. Belonging to the top of Europe, such is the aspiration of Bayern Munich.

Philipp Lahm’s column appears regularly in the Guardian. It is produced in partnership with Oliver Fritsch at Zeit onlinethe German online magazine, and is published in several European countries.

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