August 23, 2017

The Elephant in the Room … is a Bayern Munich regression inevitable?

Let’s be honest, the lion’s share of Bundesliga’s European glory and UEFA coefficient points during the last half decade have been won by one club: FC Bayern München.

Die Roten reached five (!) CL semifinals in the last six seasons and after getting past Juventus in dramatic fashion they look like a sure shot to make the semis again this year. Bayern will play Benfica Lisbon and let’s be real, they will go through if nothing crazy happens.

Nobody can expect Bayern’s run of excellence to continue forever, so what can the Bundesliga do in Europe when Bayern slows down?

At some point Bayern will go into rebuilding mode and become “human” again — even Barca and Real had phases in the past where they weren’t relevant in UEFA competitions.
And when Bayern does terrible in Europe, the whole Bundesliga suffers.

Many of you may have forgotten that he transition from Kahn, Effenberg & Scholl to Neuer, Schweinsteiger & Müller has neither been quick nor smooth.

Look at Bayern 2001 CL final line up against Valencia:

Kahn, Kuffour, Linke, Andersson, Salihamidzic, Sagnol, Lizarazu, Hargreaves, Effenberg, Scholl, Elber

How many of those players had a long and successful career after that night in the San Siro?

Not many, for most of that squad the Valencia game where Oliver Kahn made the sickest save in World Football history was the last hurrah.  (pay attention around the 30 sec mark)

After 2001 Bayern fielded pretty mediocre teams (by mia san mia standards) during a rough transition period.

Only a few world class players in their prime chose Bayern as a transfer destination. Michael Ballack, Lucio and Roy Makaay are the only ones I can think of right now.

The rest of Bayern’s team was either limited (Demichelis), washed up (Van Bommel) or too inexperienced (Schweinsteiger made his CL debut in 2002, when he was 18). They simply weren’t a serious threat to AC Milan, Inter, ManU, Chelsea and Real.

Here are Bayern’s European results after their 2001 CL victory and before Bayern’s 2010 final appearance against Inter with Louis van Gaal on the bench:

2002 – Champions League Quarter-Final

2003 – Champions League 1st Round

2004 – Champions League 2nd Round

2005 – Champions League Quarter-Final

2006 – Champions League 2nd Round

2007 – Champions League Quarter-Final

2008 – UEFA Cup Semi-Final

2009 – Champions League Quarter-Final

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It is no coincidence that the Bundesliga lost its 3rd place UEFA coefficient rank around the same time Bayern was just an average club in Europe.

Should Bayern go on a 10 year slump again, the Bundesliga could be in serious trouble and lose the 3rd UEFA Coefficient rank to Italy.

There is hope that other Bundesliga clubs establish themselves as contenders in Europe, but at the end of the day Bayern is the clubs that makes stuff happen for the Bundesliga, whether you like them or not. Five of the seven Champions League trophies won by Bundesliga teams are on display at the Bayern clubhouse. That’s just the way it is.

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But even if Bayern slows down, there is hope that they can still compete.

Bayern can totally rebuild and stay competitive this time around, and here is why:
“Robbery”, Lahm and Xabi are the only regular contributors on the wrong side of 30. With today’s medical technology, they might still be world class at age 35. Look at Xavi, Puyol and Pirlo. And even if Bayern’s veterans deteriorate quickly, this might not be a problem.

Potential long-term replacements are already on Bayern’s payroll today.

Alaba, Bernat, Coman, Kimmich, Götze, Thiago and Douglas Costa are 25 or younger and have already shown that they can play at the highest level.

Müller, Neuer, Lewy, Boateng, Benatia, Martinez and Vidal are in their prime and still have a couple of years left before they start to decline.

At some point Bayern won’t reach the CL semi finals every year, but a huge drop off in quality like post 2001 doesn’t seem realistic. Especially if you look at the struggle of Serie A teams these days and the prestige Bayern gained over the last five years.

Guardiola & Sammer have been ruthlessly rebuilding the squad in each of the last summers, even if it meant letting club legend Schweinsteiger go.

Bayern’s finances are also better now than they were ten years ago, when the expensive stadium project handcuffed the Bavarians financially.

The Allianz Arena is paid off now and Bayern can open that famous warchest any time should they see problems with the squad’s talent level. And let’s not forget about that new youth facility that will open in 2017.

Conclusion: Bayern and the Bundesliga will be fine for the next couple of years.

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