Football

From FC Hollywood to the real deal – Bayern Munich on the cusp of greatness

Melosport continues its countdown to the Champions League final with a look at Borussia Dortmund’s opponents Bayern Munich

Back in the mid to late 1990s, German giants Bayern Munich inherited the unfortunate tag of FC Hollywood as they fell below their lofty expectations on the pitch and regularly found themselves in newspaper gossip columns rather than their natural habitat of the sports pages.

The Bavarians required a change in managerial personnel, so they did what they do best – cherry picking. Ottmar Hitzfeld was pinpointed as he led domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund to back to back Bundesliga titles before they won the big one – the Champions League. Unsurprisingly, Bayern got their man. Four league titles in five seasons ensued and sandwiched in the middle of their domestic success were two Champions League finals, which yielded a painful defeat against Manchester United in 1999 and a victory over Valencia two years later (winning their fourth European Cup).

From there on Bayern’s form fluctuated. Hitzfeld left. Then he returned. Then he left again. Jurgen Klinsmann, hot from Germany’s successful 2006 World Cup performance, also had a go but failed. An A-list manager became a prerequisite and following the club’s lucrative endorsements and sponsorship agreements, their monetary policy towards player recruitment shifted to a whole new level.

Louis Van Gaal entered the fray, adding another huge club to his refined CV, and alongside him Bayern splashed out on Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez for a combined total of £45m. These signings were supplemented by youngsters, such as Thomas Muller, being promoted from the youth setup into the first team squad and it achieved the desired effect as Bayern completed a domestic double and reached the Champions League final in 2010. The club was on the verge of a historic treble but they faced an Internazionale side with the exact same objective. Buoyant from their semi-final victory over Barcelona, a Jose Mourinho inspired-Inter won 2-0.

Bayern Munich lose to Chelsea

A year later Munich appointed Jupp Heynckes at the helm for the third time. Having being outgunned by Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, Bayern reached another Champions League final, held at their home ground – the Allianz Arena. As per the Camp Nou final in 1999, they dominated their English opponents but failed to capitalise their superiority. Chelsea did the improbable, lifting the European Cup in Munich, following a penalty shootout win over the hosts.

The defeat was a painful one but it became a reference point for something special. In particular, Muller sent his team mates text messages vowing to never forget what happened that night. The word “Pleite” which translates as “Bankrupt” demonstrated the mood.

During the close season, the board sanctioned the £56m signings of Javi Martinez, Mario Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri to seemingly complete the Bayern project (one year after the club had spent £31m to secure the signatures of German internationals Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng). The significant financial outlay turned Bayern into a formidable force and their superb season could become extraordinary in London this weekend.

Bayern Munich celebrate their 23rd league title

They march into Wembley after totally dominating the Bundesliga this season, accumulating 91 points from 34 games (the equivalent of 101 points in the Premier League), finishing 25 points above runners-up Dortmund. Furthermore, they comprehensively outplayed a Barcelona side, who many have anointed as the best club side ever, 7-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-finals. No mean feat. Yet, this is Bayern Munich and they know only too well not to believe their own hype. The Bavarians rub shoulders with Juventus and Benfica over an unwanted statistic – the trio have lost five European Cups / Champions League finals. No club has ever lost six.

Muller, who will be contesting his third Champions League Final before his 24th birthday and could join the illustrious group of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Raul by scoring in two different Champions League finals, was unequivocal in his synopsis. “We have to win. If you lose three finals in four seasons you are going to be labelled chokers. We could win a lot in London but we could lose a lot, too.”

A victory on Saturday would move Bayern one step closer to securing an unprecedented German treble with the German cup final against Stuttgart to be contested on 1st June. Pressure? What pressure…

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