The past few years have been among the best in recent memory for fans of Bayern München. With a treble in 2013, the most sought after coach in the world running sessions at Säbener Straße, and a number of World Champions alongside a smattering of the game’s biggest names, there’s very little to complain about, at least from a fan’s perspective.
For general fans of the Bundesliga, however, Bayern’s current success is troubling. Bayern’s success is also troubling for other clubs, who seemingly try vainly to keep up with a club who dominate everything – from the league’s transfer market dealings to their games on the pitch.
In recent weeks we’ve seen some of the league’s sporting directors coming out to discuss Bayern’s domination of the Bundesliga, and how this might affect the success of the league moving forward.
In a recent interview in kicker, Bayer Leverkusen’s sporting director Rudi Völler has suggested that Bayern have now reached an unassailable status in the Bundesliga, and that even clubs such as Leverkusen (or Dortmund, Schalke, Wolfsburg, or anyone else for that matter) have no chance to mount a long term challenge on the Rekordmeister.
“The gap between Bayern [and the rest of the Bundesliga] isn’t able to be closed any longer,” remarked the former Germany coach. “When we tried to keep up with Bayern, we met our natural boundaries” said Völler in reference to Bayer’s spell as Bayern’s challengers-in-chief just over a decade ago. Leverkusen managed a spate of second-placed finishes in the late 90s and early 00s, heartbreakingly missing out on the title on the final matchday on two separate occasions; leading to their “Neverkusen” moniker.
Wounds of bygone seasons aside, Völler believes that “you can’t scout as well as they can, not even to the extent where you can hold a candle to what they do. They’re simply worlds apart.” If Völler’s right, the gap between Bayern and the rest of the league will only continue to widen as the Bavarians continue to pluck the best young players from around the globe from their current employers.
Others may argue that the cornerstone of Bayern’s recent success has been their academy – players such as Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Müller all being famous graduates – alongside a ruthless recruitment policy which often sees Bayern picking up players from their rivals – Lewandowski and Götze from Dortmund are the recent examples, but the trend goes back years, past the signing of Manuel Neuer from Schalke, to one of the most obvious examples, with the signings of Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl from Karlsruhe in the early nineties. Players such as Javi Martinez and Thiago were also world stars before joining Bayern. The vast gap between Bayern and the rest of the league could be attributed to the available resources of Bayern versus the rest of the Bundesliga as much as anything else.
In the same interview, Völler’s counterpart at local rivals 1.FC Köln, Jörg Schmadtke, also weighed in on the debate. He stated: “We’ll see [if the dominance of Bayern is damaging to the league]. At the moment it’s fine – if Bayern keep winning the league in the middle of March over the next five or six years, it could become damaging.” Obviously, neutral football fans grumble that there’s hasn’t been much of a title race in recent years, and there doesn’t look to be one coming for the next few years either.
On Bayern’s dominance, Schmadtke continued: “It’d be clearly positive for German football overall, if Bayern were to win the Champions League over the next five seasons,” highlighting the importance of the European game on the Bundesliga at this point in time. “However in the long term, it’s not great if the rest of us are playing for the second to eighteenth places. In the summer, one should be able to presume that Dortmund, Leverkusen or Schalke have a shot at the title.”
One man in opposition to the 1.FC Köln sporting director – both as a rival and on the topic of Bayern’s dominance – is Borussia Mönchengladbach’s sporting director, Max Eberl. In interview with the Westdeutsche Zeitung, Eberl opined that “German football has taken a fantastic development. Bayern have been the crowd-pullers, and can keep up with the payments of the Spanish and English. However, in the Bundesliga, things come in waves, and Bayern won’t be a lasting champion.” Bayern’s hierarchy might continue to run their club well, and have everything in place for sporting success, but that’s been the way for many years, and yet clubs such as Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund have all grabbed their hands on the Meisterschale in the past decade. “At the moment they have an incredible stability,” continued Eberl. “Nevertheless, other teams can reach that – or at least act as irritants.”
As such, it appears that conclusions in the debate about Bayern’s domination aren’t clear-cut. The sporting directors of the league aren’t in unanimous agreement: all three having different perspectives on the situation – and as such, we can’t expect fans of the league or neutrals across the world to have unanimous agreement either. Nonetheless, at least over the next few seasons, the other seventeen clubs can attempt to match Bayern’s brilliance, and as we’ve seen, they’re not quite an unbeatable outfit. Yet.