“I am the best, I AM THE BEST” – Paul Breitner on the winning mentality of FC Bayern München.
On 19th May 2012, “Our City, Our Stadium, Our Cup” was the message sent out by the Bayern fans, but, it ended up being “Your city, your stadium, our cup”. Perhaps even worse, they were beaten by a team which most of the Germans do not like- a club owned by a foreign billionaire. It should have been a great season for Bayern, however, they did a Leverkusen, lost to Dortmund in the league killed the chance of winning the Bundesliga; then lost again to Dortmund in Berlin in the DFB Cup Final; after Drogba scored the winning penalty for Chelsea, everyone wondered if Bayern will ever pick themselves up the following season…
Two years without a trophy may be alright for a club like Arsenal, but it was seen as a catastrophe for the red team in Munich, and as ever, the powerful Uli Hoeness had to do something about it, and his first victim? – sporting director Christian Nerlinger. Firstly, he was unable to secure the service of the talented Marco Reus, and secondly, he did not have the “we must win” mentality at Munich. Instead, the man who replaced him was perfect for the job – Matthias Sammer, who understands the importance of not only playing the beautiful football but also at the end of the day, winning trophies is the most important thing.
The second problem Honess identified was the lack of quality on the bench, which was one factor why Bayern lost in the Champions League final, so obviously wasted no time and dived into the transfer market: Dante; Shaqiri; Mandzukic; return of Pizarro and the most expensive signing in Bundesliga history – Javi Martinez. In particular, Dante, Martinez and Mandzukic have all made great contributions this season.
Although Dante was only brought into the squad as a backup CB, however, he has proved on the first day that he was the rock to the team, and together with Martinez, they have really tightened up the defence; whilst Gomez was sidelined, Mandzukic has done a brilliant job, since he presses the opponents much more than Gomez, perhaps isn’t as clinical as Gomez, but still managed to keep the German international on the bench most of the time after injury.
The Super Cup at the start of the season was just a glimpse into what kind of monster team Bayern was going to be, they were 2-0 up against Dortmund (a team they have not beaten for two years) in only 11 minutes, with Lewandowski eventually pulling one back for the Black & Yellows. This is the first trophy since the first year of Van Gaal’s reign, as well as the first one Philipp Lahm has ever lifted as a captain.
The first half of Bundesliga went brilliantly for Bayern, confirmed as Winter Champions even before facing the defending champions Dortmund at the Allianz Arena. Perhaps the only dent in this half season was losing to Leverkusen 2-1 at home, an uncharacteristic Lahm error gifted Kiessling the goal before half time, Mandzukic, but a deflected shot from Sidney Sam gave Leverkusen the victory. This match gave signals that this team can switch off a lot, since Bayern had plenty of chances to score, perhaps could have won match. This of course happened again several times over the whole season, i.e. Nurnberg, Valencia.
The biggest news during winter break was that Pep Guardiola will take over from Jupp Heynckes from end of June, and while the media was focusing on who will Pep buy, sell etc, the players concentrated on winning the treble for Heynckes as the farewell present. And second half of the season was even better than the first! Bayern won 16 matches and drew only one, and clinched the title with a win vs Frankfurt and became the earliest champion in Bundesliga history (6th April), as well as breaking all the records there are, eg, fewest goals conceded (18 all season), most points etc.
Overall, there were not a lot of exciting matches, but a few standouts, especially last day thriller with Gladbach, where eventually Bayern won 4-3, perhaps a much needed wakeup call before the Champions League final since Gladbach were 3-2 up in only 18 minutes, they had to fight hard, and that Ribery super strike was definitely one of the goals of the season. This match really showed that although Bayern may not have had a good day, but the team worked together, and overturned the match.
Even though since the beginning of the season, Bayern have always said that the priorities were the Bundesliga and DFB Cup, but as the season progressed, they were so far ahead in the league that winning the Champions League was seen as a must. Bayern kicked off the CL pretty shaky to be honest, only kept one clean sheet until the quarter finals, and almost got knocked out by Arsenal in Last 16.
However, the performances against Juventus and Barcelona were the best performances of the season. Juventus have a great midfield, but Bayern managed to torn them apart; same with Barcelona, they have great attacking players and midfielders, yet Bayern still managed to score seven (okay, one was an own goal) past one of the best team of all time and none conceded.
The matches vs Barcelona really showed that nowadays, team work in a team is much more important than a team with all the biggest names in football, and really, all the credits to Heynckes. There were a lot of egos brewing last season, and now all the players have learnt that if you don’t help each other out (attacking players track back and defend) and play as a team, you will not win a trophy.
So the date was 25th May, a sunny day in London, the world watched as Wembley welcomed the first ever all German Champions League final. The relationship between Bayern and Dortmund turned sour after the Gotze transfer (later Hoeness revealed that Pep actually wanted Neymar but Bayern did not want to take another risk with a South American player, we all know what happened last time right? Breno, yes he is still in jail), and also when they faced off just a few weeks ago in the league, there were some on field duels, most noticeably was Sammer vs Klopp (PS, Dortmund fans know all about Sammer), so this final was going to be exciting!!! And it was indeed!
First half, Bayern started badly, and it just seemed that the defence were still drunk, and if it was not for some superb saves from Neuer, Bayern probably would have lost already. But Bayern got stronger and stronger, eventually broke the deadlocks and won it, after 12 years, they are European Champions once again! Even though Bayern were not at their best, but still managed to win, which is a sign of a great team. But can they win next year and make history being the first team to win back to back in the Champions League era?
Bayern also won the DFB Pokal to complete the first treble from Germany after a tense last 20 minutes match with Stuttgart, along the way they defeated Dortmund and never conceded a goal till that stunning Diego strike in the semi final vs Wolfsburg. To be frank, Bayern were long way behind their best, and Stuttgart could have stolen it right under their nose. But it also highlighted how influential Dante had been throughout the season, and he was dearly missed in this match (still very unfair that Neymar can travel to Barcelona for a press conference, but if Dante & Gustavo did play, they would never play for Brazil again) .
The players of the season for me have been Schweinsteiger and Ribery. Schweinsteiger can control games and also helped out with the attack much more than before due to the addition of Martinez, who is very defensive minded. Remember Schweinsteiger was the player, who suffered the most last season, his penalty saved in the CL gave the trophy to Chelsea, and he didn’t have great Euros either, since he was still carrying the injury. But this was his best goal scoring season, and his beautiful back heel goal vs Frankfurt won Bayern the Bundesliga.
Ribery had the best season since he joined Bayern, his creativity, goals, and great partnership with particularly Kroos was just wow! Everyone talks about Gotzeus, but Kroosery/Riberoos deserve to be talked about more. In the match vs Arsenal, both players were not in the line-up, and Bayern were very poor, and lucky to progress, shows how important those players actually are.
And over the course of the season, the partnership between Jupp Heynckes and Matthias Sammer worked like a dream. Heynckes has been very calm, and he dealt with the difficult characters (ie Ribery, Robeen) very well, and also let the attacking players to also help out with the defence, I mean has anyone ever seen Gomez and Robben got a yellow cards on challenges? Sammer was not afraid to criticize the team (seen vs Bremen), and although he was very public and Heynckes was not a fan of it, but he really brought the players down to earth, motivate them to be even more ambitious. And now with all four titles won in a season, which no teams have ever done in Germany till now, Jupp Heynckes deserves all the credit, and will be remembered perhaps as the best coach Bayern has ever had.
So, now referring to the title, is this the best Bayern team ever? The benchmark has always been the hattrick European Cup winning 70s team, even Breitner admitted the current team is perhaps the best, but there is no Gerd Muller, he was the difference, and is the difference now. He is right, the current team is more about team work, and there is not a scorer that can score 60 odd goals (Gomez benched). But also remember when Bayern first won the European Cup, they finished 10th in the league, and this current team won everything in a single season. Personally, if this team can win at least the Champions League and the league, then no doubt the best team ever.
For now, it is goodbye Jupp and hello Pep, we have to wait and see how Pep’s first season will be like. Already three new transfers done (Kirchoff from Mainz, Gotze and Rhode may be joining the next season); Muller & Badstuber contracts extended, with possible contract extensions to Kroos, Ribery, Van Buyten (Badstuber will not be back at the beginning the season) and Pizarro; this will be a busy summer at the Allianz Arena. Another huge question everyone will be asking is who will leave? And Gomez looks certain to leave (Lewandowski has signed a contract with Bayern), but who else?
Lastly, Heynckes finally got the recognition he deserves now, and DANKE JUPP from all the Bayern fans!
Written by Selina
Follow Selina on Twitter @Reuzil
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