In the modern new system of Champions League and since the tournament changed it’s name and structure in 1992; all of the winners have failed to retain their cup and successfully defend their Champions League title in the following year, while AC Milan remain as the last Club to win two consecutive titles (1988-1990). Current Champions Bayern Munich will aim to defend their Champions League title this year, and perhaps become the first team in Europe to win two consecutive trebles.
In 2013 Bayern Munich have overthrown FC Barcelona to take over Football’s throne, establishing a system that managed to beat the arguably best football team in the world 7-0 on aggregate. Then marched on to win the Champions League in style, while clinching the domestic double of German Bundesliga and DFB Pokal (German Cup), in addition to the UEFA Super Cup, and ending their fruitful season with the icing on the cake by getting crowned as World Champions at the FIFA Club World Cup.
FC Bayern didn’t stop there, as they kept on breaking all sorts of records this season domestically in Bundesliga (unbeaten for 49 matches in a row, 16 consecutive wins ) and at Europe (the all-time record for consecutive wins with 10 wins in a row).
So here are the main reasons why Bayern Munich can defend their European title and win back-to-back Champions League trophies, entering history from it’s widest door:
Change: Jupp to Pep!
Following the decision of legendary coach Jupp Heynckes to leave the Bavarian club at the end of the 2013 season, the Bayern management started looking for the suitable successor in order to keep their success lifecycle going on. Pep Guardiola was their choice as Jupp’s heir.
Bayern reached the form of their life under Heynckes’s guidance as many spectators saw a perfect coach in him; A manager that took Luis Van Gaal’s raw diamond, shaped and burnished it into a priceless jewel. However, the defeat in the Champions League final in 2012 at Munich sent a big call for the Bavarian club, losing the final for the 2nd time in a period of 2 years was very bitter and hard to accept for the club supporters, management and players. It then opened the eyes of both coach Jupp Heynckes, and his players who were accused of being complacent and labeled as big game flops and losers specially after some of the players in the squad refused to participate in the penalty shootout against Chelsea FC. That loss was a reality call for Jupp and it made him realize that besides tactics, there is the psychological preparation that he obviously didn’t focus on implementing before. Heynckes took that devastated squad and motivated them using their previous fallback to bring them up and take them to sky-high success in the following year. But at the end of the historic 2012/13 Bayern season, everyone knew that Heynckes will leave as Guardiola will be taking over.
Guardiola’s arrival to Munich received mixed reactions from the Bayern supporters, some who saw the perfect successor in him while others were skeptical, and some even went further to say that he will destroy Heynckes’s team! In reality though Pep Guardiola was the right man in the right place at the right time, a manager that shares the love of attacking football, controlling ball possession and Total Football similar to former Bayern coach Louis Van Gaal who established the new Bayern era.
Pep Guardiola’s positive change at FC Bayern München is undeniable, the way he managed to develop the team with his unique vision and coaching style showed that his players can actually give more than what they thought they could. Toni Kroos is having his best season ever, Arjen Robben is shining in every match , Philipp Lahm’s switching to midfield brought more cohesion and stability to the team , Rafinha’s complete transformation to a World Class right back make him seem like a new successful signing, Thiago Alcantara’s adapting to the team and fitting in like he has been playing with them for years, all these are just some of the examples amongst many others of the impact that Pep has done so far. People thought there was no way for Bayern to become any better, however Guardiola proved them wrong. So far he has been very successful with the change that he brought, adding yet another dimension to the team’s multi-dimensional strengths.
Usually when successful teams develop a certain system and style of play, with time it becomes more familiar for other teams to be able to spot a pattern, find a loophole and break it down. Change is inevitable, and luckily for Bayern it arrived before it was forced upon them, a benefit as change is an element of surprise.
Depth: Bayern are not Dependent on any Player
While some may claim that Bayern depend on a player, Bayern are actually independent. Besides Manuel Neuer who’s the starting goalkeeper in the team, any player’s absence won’t hugely affect the team’s form. Some players might give more options, or more creativity but when they are absent the effect is actually minimal. This year Bayern have played without Franck Ribery at times, Arjen Robben at other times, without both of them even but Bayern Munich still pulled the best performances. Bastian Schweinsteiger was injured for most of the season, Javi Martinez had fitness problems; no problem for Bayern. Toni Kroos, Mario Mandzukic, Mario Gotze, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, Dante and even Thomas Müller were benched at times and yet Bayern had no problems at all.
Why? Well it’s not that these absent players are not effective or have no real importance for the team, on the contrary all of those mentioned are key players for Bayern Munich but here resides Die Roten‘s biggest strength: squad depth and tactical versatility.
A midfield consisting of Martinez, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Thiago, Kroos, Shaqiri, Ribery, Robben, Müller and Gotze makes it so hard to notice a missing player. As all these players can perform at the highest levels and therefore no weaknesses can be witnessed. In defense they might have less options, but Daniel van Buyten proved that he can fill in for the starting central backs Dante and Boateng, and even Martinez can play as a defender as well. Rafinha in right back can be replaced by Lahm and Alaba can be rotated with Contento who has shown signs of excellent improvement under coach Pep Guardiola. Which leaves us to the attacking role with Mario Mandzukic as the main striker for the team, while Claudio Pizarro offers services as a substitute with his great experience and hard work rate and both of them are also good when rotating with the midfielders during play. The other attacking option would be playing a false nine up front with options from players like Muller and Gotze , and even Robben or Ribery if needed. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer might be the only player who is irreplaceable but in football goalkeepers don’t usually get injured so often, and with that said Tom Starke is still a keeper who can fill in for Neuer if God forbids super Manuel gets injured.
Which other team in Europe and in the world would manage to play at the same level of football with 5 or 6 starters sidelined? It’s hard to mention any team besides Bayern.
Smart Management, Smart Signings
One of the main reasons why Bayern Munich keep their strength year after year is the smart signings they do in the transfer market. From the signing of Franck Ribery, Luca Toni, Mark Van Bommel and Mario Gomez, to Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Luiz Gustavo, Javi Martinez and reaching this year’s successful signings of the talented young German Mario Gotze, in addition to one of the most outstanding players in the world today Thiago Alcantara. Bayern keep reinforcing their squad every year investing in quality over quantity.
The Club has learned from previous mistakes that spending alone isn’t enough to bring success, success will be achieved through a complete system which signing new players is only a small part of it. at one time FC Bayern bought Ze Roberto, Miroslav Klose, Marsel Jansen, Franck Ribery and Luca Toni all at once but that wasn’t enough to bring them long term success. Nevertheless, experience is the best teacher; and the Bayern management reached an understanding that found the right formula in that matter. Since then, they’ve been taking all the right decisions that lead to successful signings.
The Club has yet another advantage over the other rich clubs in the transfer market, and it’s FC Bayern’s negotiation skills and uniqueness of what they offer in comparison to the rest of their competitors. For an example a coach like Pep Guardiola could’ve moved to another club (received offers from Chelsea FC & Manchester City) and made more money but instead he chose Bayern because they actually offered something that other big spenders didn’t really posses, a system and a clear future plan. Another good example would be the snatch of Thiago Alcantara from the hands of Manchester United who were very close to signing him but then he turned them down to join Bayern for a less amount money. But Bayern’s most outstanding smart management and negotiation supremacy is most evident in their latest signing of Polish striker Robert Lewandowki, who signed his contract with Bayern at the beginning of 2014 and will be joining them at the start of the coming season arriving from the Club’s biggest rivals Borussia Dortmund. Lewandowski whose market value ranges between 30-50 million Euros, will be joining the Bavarian giants on a free transfer as his current contract with Borussia Dortmund will expire at the end of the current season!
Bayern NOT a Selling Club
As stated by Club president Uli Hoeness and current Sporting Director Matthias Sammer, Bayern is not a club that sells players. Some may debate it by mentioning the selling of World Class players such as Luiz Gustavo and Mario Gomez, but the fact remains that the Club had no intention of selling any of these players and only allowed the transfers to happen based on the personal request from those players. Bayern respected their choices and therefore granted them their wish to leave regardless of what their reasons for leaving were.
Usually at Bayern the players are granted contract extensions one or two years prior to their contracts’ expiry, a sign of appreciation from the Club and a way to hold on to their valuable players. This year Bayern have managed to successfully extend all the contracts nearing expiry with the exception of Arjen Robben who is expected to sign on an extension really soon, and Toni Kroos who’s demanding more wages which are still not met by the Bavarian Club. Nevertheless, Kroos is still in contract with the club until 2015 which means Bayern still have time to work on an agreement way before his contract ‘s end.
It’s also noteworthy that the club consider their youth academy a crucial and important part in their system and plans, as they have recently sold some shares in the club so they could finance their youth program. Currently in the first team, you would find 7 players that are Bayern youth academy products. (More information about Bayern’s youth academy can be found in our previous article: The Fabled FC Bayern Youth Academy)
The “Mia San Mia” Bond & Unique Club Atmosphere
Last but not least, comes one of the main reasons that separate Bayern from the rest of the other teams. Bayern is not just a club that wants money and successful business, they actually do care about all the individuals involved in the Club. Bayern are distinguished by the feeling of belonging generated in between the club, it’s players, members and fans forming a magical bond and a family atmosphere which creates a feelings that can hardly be expressed in words. Playing for Bayern is like fighting for your own honor . And just like some managers are good at motivating their squad to achieve success, the Club’s atmosphere and family bond is a way of motivation for the team that makes them feel that they owe something to their club and therefore feel compelled to give their all for the Club and team!
“Mia San Mia” which is the Club’s slogan is a Bavarian phrase that means “We are who we are”. It’s not just a phrase but it’s a way of life, And that’s the Bayern way of life! Every player, employee, fan that has experienced what Mia San Mia means would know that being a Bayerner is something very special and unique. FC Bayern Munchen is a family, a real family that is related by “Mia San Mia” rather than blood or race.
And that wraps it up with the last and final reason for why Bayern can win it all again in 2014.