The Five Biggest Bayern Transfer (Robberies) of my Lifetime

After hearing about the “Mats Hummels to Bayern” breaking news, young Bundesliga fans were outraged, veteran fans just thought “Damn, it has happened again, hasn’t it?”.
Bayern (again) gets two jobs done in the move: they will improve an already superior roster and weaken their fiercest rival.

While I respect that Bayern only does what’s best for them and isn’t breaking any rules whatsoever, these transfer-heists leave a bad taste in any (non “mia san mia”) mouth.

For teams that have to give up their best guys to Bayern, it’s often is the start of a tough rebuilding process (BVB, Bayer 04). Too often, it marks the beginning of a steep decline that lasts decades (Werder Bremen, KSC).

bayern k

(Above: Bayern’s transfer loot in 1996: Coach Rehagel and Andy Herzog from Werder Bremen, Thomas Strunz from Stuttgart and Sforza from K’Lautern, Klinsmann and Kostadinov joined from outside of the Bundesliga). 

Bayern never pays market value, they are extremely stingy with their money. The Bavarians have developed a scheme, that gets them world-class players on the cheap while the rivals never get enough money in return to replace their departed players.

A Bayern executive first talks a player and his representatives into joining Bayern and only Bayern. That player then tells his club “Hey, I want to join Bayern! I’m not signing anywhere else”. Bayern makes a lowball offer and the mind games begin.

Thing is, if Hummels doesn’t want to join City and Barca, it doesn’t matter if these clubs offer three times as much as Bayern. “Sellers” like Dortmund only have two choices: a) accept Bayern’s lowball offer or b) make Hummels play out his contract and watch him join Bayern for free.

(Hummels homecoming -- he came up in the Bayern system, and was with the club from 1995-2009, seems inevitable)
(Hummels homecoming — he came up in the Bayern system, and was with the club from 1995-2009, seems inevitable)

Let’s put it this way, Bayern has never spent more than 40 million on one player, yet they have a roster that can compete with clubs who blow 100 million a single player.

That’s the evil genius behind Bayern’s transfer policy, they are the best in that field. It hurts to let a great player go but if you get 80 million in return, like Wolfsburg got from Man City for KDB, it hurts a lot less.

(Wolfsburg got really lucky that Bayern didn’t want KDB, they made 80m€)
(Wolfsburg got really lucky that Bayern didn’t want KDB, they made 80m€)

Well, Bayern isn’t paying that kind of money and I can already see that Hummels’ transfer fee won’t reflect his actual value. To me Hummels is the best defender in football along with Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Boateng and Pique. Normally Dortmund should get at least 60 million for him (and I believe City or United would pay that amount in a second). But Bayern already got into Hummels head, so don’t be surprised if he joins Bayern for around 30m.

The effect a deal like this has on the balance of power in Germany is easy to understand. Dortmund will never find a comparable player, especially not for 30 million, while Bayern “saves” at least 20 million in that deal. That money can be used to add another player to Bayern’s roster or pay for costly contract extensions. Rinse and repeat every other year and you will never have to deal with a serious domestic challenger.

In this piece I will rank the five “scummiest” Bayern signings of all time, based on two factors: “talent gained by Bayern” & “negative consequences for the selling club”. I only included inner Bundesliga transfers that happened in the last quarter century.

Honorable Mention “Robberies”:

  • Sebastian Deisler (Hertha BSC),
  • Daniel Van Buyten (HSV),
  • Thorsten Frings (BVB),
  • Manuel Neuer (Schalke),
  • Luiz Gustavo (Hoffenheim),
  • Mario Gomez (Stuttgart),
  • Stefan Effenberg (Gladbach)

#5 Giovane Elber (1997 / 6.5m €)

(Elber on the left, celebrating with Fredi Bobic and Krassimir Balakov)
(Elber on the right, celebrating with Fredi Bobic and Krassimir Balakov)

Talent added:

Elber was part of the legendary “Magisches Dreieck” (magic triangle) that consisted of Bulgarian artist Balakov, poacher Fredi Bobic and all around striker Giovane Elber. Those late 90’s Stuttgart teams, coached by young Jogi Löw, were fun to watch and looked like they could challenge Bayern and Dortmund for the next decade.

Of course Bayern had other plans. Elber, who scored 17 times and won the cup in his final Stuttgart season, was snatched up as a replacement for Jürgen Klinsmann.

After a successful career at Bayern under Ottmar Hitzfeld, Elber himself got off loaded to Lyon when Bayern needed his roster spot for Roy Makaay in 2004. Karma.

Problems caused for Stuttgart:

The Magic Triangle was torn apart, so were the VfB’s hopes to seriously challenge Bayern. The VfB finished 4th the season after Elber left, but Bobic left for Dortmund und Jogi was sacked shortly after. Game over for Stuttgart.


Elber was a go to guy on Bayern’s 2001 CL winning team and at the same time Bayern wrecked Stuttgart’s team before they could become a serious threat. And all that cost Bayern just 6.5 million. What a great value!

#4 Michael Ballack (2002 / 6m €)

Ballack on the exciting 2002 Leverkusen team
Ballack on the exciting 2002 Leverkusen team

Talent added:

No need to tell you how good Ballack was. He is the greatest German player who has never won a big trophy. Unfortunately Ballack hit his prime after the “Italia 1990” generation retired and before the “Brazil 2014” generation could help him. With his club teams he reached two CL finals and got unlucky in both. He was still great.
Ballack’s career took off on a historically underrated 2002 Bayer Leverkusen squad alongside Nowotny, Bastürk, Lucio, Bernd Schneider, Ze Roberto and Dimitar Berbatov. That year Leverkusen won a “Runner up” Triple. Bayer lost both DFB and CL finals and finished second in league behind Dortmund. Nobody remembers second place, but that year Bayer was the best team in Europe.

There is no way to prove it of course, but if that squad stays together for another two years, they would have eventually taken home a trophy. During that era Bayer 04 was Bayern’s fiercest competitor in Germany. Leverkusen finished second in 97, 99, 2000 and 2002.

Well, Bayern took care of that problem, didn’t they?

Problems caused for Leverkusen:

Bayer Ballack
Bayer Ballack

Where to start…. Bayern was on a shopping spree, so Ze Roberto (and Lucio in 2005) also ended up at the Säbener Straße. In 2003 Leverkusen almost got relegated, they barely saved their ass on the last gameday. Yup, Leverkusen played Real Madrid for Europe’s crown in May 2002 and just twelve month later, they fought Arminia Bielefeld for 15th place.

Bayern basically ripped apart a Champions League finalist (sound familiar?) and added the most valuable pieces to their team. Of course, Leverkusen never got back to that level. What makes Ballack’s and Lucio’s cases a littler easier to stomach, is the fact that they ditched Bayern for even bigger clubs (Inter & Chelsea) a couple of seasons later. What goes around….


Ballack never really worked out at Bayern the way he did in Leverkusen. But Bayern turned Leverkusen from a legit “Bayernjäger” (hunter) into a team that can’t get near them. Instead of challenging Bayern for a trophy, the Werkself rather competes for 3rd place finishes and quarterfinal cup exists these days. All in all, Bayern added two star players in 2002 and almost got Leverkusen relegated in 2003. The plan worked.

#3 Oliver Kahn (1994 / 2.3m €)

Kahn came from Karlsruher
Kahn came from Karlsruher

We all know who Oliver “Der Titan” Kahn is. What many people don’t know is how great his 90’s Karlsruhe academy class was. Naturally Bayern manager Uli Hoeneß found out about the promising graduates and got to work. He built a talent pipeline straight to Munich.

In 1992 Mehmet Scholl was the first KSC starlet Bayern signed, Kahn followed him two years later and Michael Sternkopf completed his move in 1995. Thorsten Fink and Michael Tarnat made the switch in 1998.

Problems caused for KSC:

Karlsruhe slowly transformed from a team that competed in Europe into a relegation candidate. In 1993 the KSC beat Valencia CF 7:0 at home in the UEFA Cup.



Today you can find the KSC in 2. Bundesliga, a sad sight if you look at the players they developed. Karlsruhe had a really good thing going on, coach Winnie Schäfer fielded teams that could beat anybody on any day.


Bayern added two all-time great talents that come around every 20 years, robbed the KSC of it’s future and didn’t even pay large sums. That’s why the Kahn move ranks third. FC Bayern doesn’t “only” take away players when they are a threat to them, it’s even cheaper when you can get these players BEFORE a club becomes a contender.

#2 Mario Götze (2013 / 37m €)

gotze bvbv


Talent added:

I could have also put Lewandowski here, but the first one always hurts the most. Götze was the #10 midfield maestro for a BVB side that dominated German football, he was also had that “next Messi” tag.

At Bayern his development stalled. When Bayern’s opponent is any good, Guardiola puts him on the bench. That’s how Götze’s Bayern career can be described best.

Problems caused for BVB:

No need to recap what happened after Götze left, let’s just say the “Klopp Dynasty” was over before it really began. For three seasons, the product Klopp put on the pitch was as good or even better than what Bayern had. Without Klopp, Götze and Lewandowski Dortmund’s only realistic goal is winning the DFB Pokal and the unofficial “Bundesliga: Best of the Rest” title behind Bayern.


What makes the Götze deal rank higher than the Ballack move? Well, it’s obvious that great players don’t want to stay at Leverkusen. Going from Leverkusen to Bayern is like upgrading from an iPhone 3G to an iPhone 6.  

A Dortmund to Bayern switch on the other hand feels like upgrading from iPhone 6 to a 6s. Götze, Lewa and (soon) Hummels shit on BVB fans and teammates for a very small improvement. So far, Götze and Lewandowski haven’t returned to the CL final, they could have done that in Dortmund, too.



If Götze and Lewa had stayed, who knows how much silverware they would have gotten with Klopp? We’ll never know and that’s a shame.

After a disastrous 2015 season (that made Kloppo resign), the BVB bounced back well under new coach Tuchel. Yet Gündogan and Hummels are already on their way out, and the offseason hasn’t even started yet. Should those two leave, Reus and Aubameyang will probably be next. It seems like Bayern is ending the Tuchel-Era before it really takes off, too.

#1 “König” Otto Rehagel and a ton of Werder Bremen players*

“Super” Mario Basler scoring from a corner
“Super” Mario Basler scoring from a corner


Talent added:

Mario Basler, Miroslav Klose, Valerien Ismael, Claudio Pizarro, Andreas Herzog, 

Tim Borowski

Bayern being Bayern, had to step in twice when Bremen got “too good” for Bayern’s taste. In the mid 90s Bayern acquired Rehagel, who had coached Bremen for 14(!) years, and also threw “Alps Maradona” Herzog and “Super” Mario Basler into their shopping cart.

Rehagel got sacked in his first Bayern season, Basler was released after a brawl in a pizza place and Herzog never made much noise in Munich. All in all Bayern didn’t gain much in these deals, but Bremen stumbled into serious relegation troubles after these moves and was mediocre until Thomas Schaaf and Klaus Allofs took over at the Weser.

Problems caused at Werder:

bremen champs


(Meister 2004, Relegation 2016?)

Schaaf’s teams played the most beautiful attacking football in Europe (tied with Arsenal) and won the German double in 2004. But again (Ismael) and again (Klose, Borowski) Bayern signed away Bremen’s best players. At some point Werder wasn’t able to find replacements, Schaaf and Allofs had to go and the club has been in decline ever since.


Should Werder get relegated this year, Bayern isn’t the only one to blame, but they played a big role in the decline of Werder, both in the 90s and 2000s.

The most painful and senseless Bayern acquisition by far was Rehagel.

Bayern ended Rehagel’s 14 year legacy at Bremen and fired him at the first sign of trouble. FYI Bayern was second in the league in 1996 with Rehagel and had just won the UEFA Cup semifinals vs. FC Barcelona. Well, Rehagel’s departure derailed Bremen and showed the Bundesliga that Bayern can get anybody at anytime, if they want to.

Mission accomplished for Bayern.

Bremen ranks #1 on this list collectively, because Bayern robbed them twice within a decade and destroyed two pretty good rosters. This year Werder might get relegated, this would be the official end of the great “North-South” rivalry I grew up with.  

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