Before the match, many people were backing Bayer Leverkusen as their dark horse contenders for the Bundesliga title this season. This would be laughable for most Bundesliga experts. Die Werkself has a known history of flattering to deceive. They shoot for glory and choke at the cusp of that glory. In the 1999/2000 season, Bayer 04 went into the final Bundesliga fixture on 73 points while Bayern Munich had 70. Win their final game, and they would be champions of Germany. The mother of all capitulations occurred. They lost 2-0 to Unterhaching, a side that had nothing to play for. Unterhaching was not going to qualify for Europe, and they were not in a relegation battle.
On the 15th of May, 2002, Michael Ballack infamously said, “the football god is not from Leverkusen.” This statement was on the back of their unbelievable three-peat failure in their DFB-Pokal, Bundesliga, and UEFA Champions League campaigns. They lost both cup finals and came second in the league. Uli Hoeneß, the former Bayern München general manager (who talks far too much for a convicted criminal) once said Leverkusen can never win the league.
All this knowledge made many Bundesliga followers wary of Gerardo Seoane’s start to life with the club. He won five, drew one, and lost one league game before Bayern. The former Young Boys coach had his boys playing some gung-ho attacking football, but it all came crashing down on their heads when they faced Bayern.
Too easy for Die Rekordmeister
The first Bayern goal came from a brilliant set-piece routine, but it was still too easy for Leverkusen to get caught out. A free-kick found Dayot Upamecano, and he crossed for Robert Lewandowski who applied a smart finish & ended a 3-game barren spell (his most in almost a year). Bayer tried to string some things together, but they were too overwhelmed by Bayern’s press. Bayern constricted & choked them with a heavy press.
It did not help that Seoane chose this important game to try out Nadiem Amiri in a pivot alongside Kerem Demirbay. It was a resounding failure as they had no ideas on how to escape the chokehold of Bayern. This writer’s ultimate dismay came when at one point the Bayern press was so heavy Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka were exchanging passes on the line of Bayer’s box. When Neverkusen (a term coined in Germany from Leverkusen’s failures) did manage to escape the pressure, the Bayern players were eager to track back and close up spaces for Moussa Diaby to trick his way into. Bayern put another four goals past Lukáš Hrádecký before the first half was over. It was a first-half drubbing that allowed Julian Nagelsmann to take his team’s foot off the opposition’s neck early on. He withdrew Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, and Alphonso Davies early enough.
The Bundesliga needs solid competition for Bayern
An English Premier League fan boasted that the mighty bees of Brentford would beat Bayern Munich. A Bayern team that destroyed Tottenham & Chelsea recently. This Bayern team that left their UEFA Champions League tie against Barcelona without conceding a single shot on target while putting three past the Catalans. Bayern will struggle against Brentford because of some aerial duels & long throws. Lol.
As irritating as it can be seeing EPL fans throwing the phrase “farmer’s league” around, the Bundesliga needs to cough up some competition for Bayern or risk stamping that tag onto its head.
Borussia Dortmund has tried to put on a title challenge in the last ten years, but since that 2011/2012 league win under Jurgen Klopp, second place and the DFB-Pokal is the max they have been able to do. Add the German Super Cup since we are trying to be nice. The closest they came was the arduous tenure of Niko Kovač at Bayern where BVB finished second. There have been 10+ points finishes that show a lack of competition for Bayern. In the 17/18 season, Bayern won the league over second-place Schalke with as much as 21 points.
Last season, Bayern won the league with a healthy 13 points over RB Leipzig. Speaking of Die Roten Bullen, they now hold the hopes of those that want to see a toppling of the Bayern dynasty. This is despite German reservations towards the club’s ownership. Last season, Julian Nagelsmann brought them as close as Ralph Hassenhüttl in their debut season. (The Austrian manager led Leipzig to second, 15 points behind Bayern in the 2016/2017 season in their maiden season in the Bundesliga).
Hopes of Leipzig toppling that dynasty have cooled with the team struggling under American manager Jesse Marsch. They have won three, drawn two, and lost three in the Bundesliga. This weekend they drew against high-flying Freiburg. Their uncertain start leaves them 13th on the table, already eight points behind the champions. That is the kind of lead Bayern does not relinquish.
Something needs to change
German football fans hold their 50+1 to heart. When they spell out its rules, they push their chests out. The 50+1 Bundesliga rule under the German Football League [DFL] rules states that football clubs will not play in the Bundesliga if commercial investors have more than a 49% stake. Meaning that the club belongs to the fans, and they are invested in it. They are fans, not customers. The great part of this rule is that it keeps the club’s future firmly in its hands while warding off the grubby hands of oil magnates, oil-rich countries, China, and other big bad investors.
The downside is that no club can receive the significant backing /investment required to take down Bayern from the top spot. Forget restructuring TV deals, this is the main reason why Bayern has a stronghold in Germany. There is a lack of money caused by a lack of foreign investment. It will take either a significant investment or a magical coach like Jurgen Klopp to overthrow this king. This writer hypothesizes that any team that wants to overthrow Bayern will need a combination of both.
The Bundesliga was once uber-competitive with several teams challenging for titles, but with wits & financial might, Bayern has built itself to hegemony in German football. They have the opulence of their name, and they use it smartly to attract the best players in the league. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
Sir Alex Ferguson knew how to play this game too. He knew that to retain power and exert dominance, you have to weaken your rivals by taking their best players. He applied this principle when he continuously took players from his English Premier League rivals. Wayne Rooney, Eric Cantona, Michael Carrick, Carlos Tevez, Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Alan Smith, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Roy Kean, Teddy Sheringham, Louis Saha, etc. They were all from league rivals. Bayern has the name. They have the money, they know how to use it to secure & protect their strength in the league.
Most German players look at Bayern Munich as the pinnacle with Real Madrid the only possible club they can aspire to play for aside from Die Rekordmeister. Bayern knows they have this advantage and they use it aggressively & very well. They have collected talents like Robert Lewandowski, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Niklas Süle, & Manuel Neuer from rivals.
They are principled when they sign, refusing to pay over-the-top for players. Bayern refused to sign a player like Timo Werner because he didn’t fit the striker mold they like to sign. Hassan Salihamidžić let go of their most successful coach since Jupp Heyneckes in Hansi Flick because he was demanding for players that did not fit Bayern’s profile. Notice how they have used one predominant formation for the past ten years (4231)? That is the kind of defined structure they have created. They have the money, structure, wits, and opulence to maintain this Monopoly, but the rest of German football can’t afford to look on.
Something needs to happen and happen soon enough. Barely ten games into the campaign, and we are already counting down the days to when Bayern will lift the title. Yes, they are strong, their UCL campaigns show how strong they are, but German clubs need to start targeting and strategizing to pull them down. If they were in a more competitive league, they’d still batter most of their opponents, but they sure as hell wouldn’t win ten league titles in a row. Surely, a worthy contender has to rise. With BVB & Leipzig struggling, and Leverkusen sunk back to earth after a punishing defeat. Bundesliga followers can only wait for the hero(s) that will save us from the giant terrorizing the league.