European football went through a period of great hegemonies in its main national leagues, with no more than three champions in each country in the last ten seasons. Except in Germany, where only one club has come out on top since 2013: Bayern Munich, current ten-time champion of the Bundesliga.
Bayern lifts the 2022 German Super Cup – Photo: REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
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The unprecedented sequence in the club’s history is a source of pride for the fans, but concern for the league. How long will Bayern Munich’s hegemony last, and what effect can this dominance have on the competition’s image? The answer will start to be given this Friday, when Bayern opens the 2022/23 season against Eintracht Frankfurt, away from home, at 15:30 (Brasilia time).
“We have to strengthen the competitors, not weaken the champion,” said International Bundesliga marketing director Peer Naubert in a meeting with foreign journalists last week, on the eve of the German Supercup final, which won – guess what – for Bayern Munich: 5-3 over RB Leipzig, at the rival’s home.
Asked whether the adoption of a knockout phase could contribute to increasing the unpredictability of the Bundesliga, Naubert did not seem thrilled with the idea.
– We want to have competitiveness back, but to think about adopting a playoff we would first have to listen to the players. But at this point, we don’t think about playoffs, it’s not a possibility that we consider. Football has its romanticism, and if one club is dominating the league, we have to create conditions for the others to be able to compete.
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Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig: the challengers
In the last ten years, even for second place there has been little competition. Borussia Dortmund have been runners-up in three of the last four editions. The intruder at the top of the table is also a novelty in German football itself: RB Leipzig, founded in 2009, in the elite since 2016, runners-up in the Bundesliga twice (2016/17 and 2020/21) and current champions of the German Cup.
– It’s amazing what RB Leipzig has built in recent years. Now there’s a club becoming competitive, and that’s good for the league. It’s challenging when a team is dominant like Bayern, but we believe there are many other positive factors in other clubs as well – commented Naubert.
Swede Forsberg disputes Davies ball during Leipzig vs Bayern in the German Super Cup final (Photo: REUTERS)
A seven-time Bundesliga champion with Bayern in the 1980s and 1990s, former player Lothar Matthäus maintains a strong connection with the Bavarian club, but knows that champion turnover is important for German football.
– The Bundesliga is very competitive throughout the table, we have many interesting games. Bayern are the favourites, but I hope, as a football fan, that other teams can come closer, maybe RB Leipzig or Borussia Dortmund. It will be good for the league – said Matthäus in the meeting with foreign journalists.
International Bundesliga ambassador Matthäus is hoping for new highlights to emerge in the Bundesliga.
– The next stars, to emerge, need to be in the teams that have the best performances. I liked (Christopher) Nkunku (French attacking midfielder for RB Leipzig) in the last half of the previous season. I hope Florian Wirtz (German midfielder for Bayer Leverkusen) gets back to his best form, and who knows, Patrik Schick (Czech striker for Leverkusen, runner-up for Alemão last season) could be the top scorer now, after the departures of Lewandowski and Haaland .
Lothar Matthäus, former Bayern Munich and Germany national team player — Photo: Allan Caldas
Bayern loses Lewandowski and brings in Sadio Mané
Bayern’s dominance in recent years has had one main highlight: Robert Lewandowski. The Pole arrived at Bayern in 2014, and since then has been the German’s top scorer in six of the seven editions played. In the last two years, he was named the best player in the world by FIFA. Lewandowski, however, has decided to switch from Bayern to Barcelona this season. One star is gone, another has arrived: for 32 million euros, the Munich team took Senegalese Sadio Mané from Liverpool.
If Bayern lost Lewandowski, one of the possible competitors also bid farewell to their great star: Norwegian Erling Haaland left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester City. In his place, Ivorian Sébastien Haller was hired, who excelled at Ajax last season. But the striker has no plans to start reinforcing Dortmund: he has just started treatment for a testicular tumor discovered in pre-season. At RB Leipzig, hope is a possible return of striker Timo Wernercurrently at Chelsea, but negotiations have not yet progressed.
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Mané plays to score his first official goal with the Bayern shirt – Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Great news in German football so far, Mané made his first official game for Bayern last Saturday: he started, scored a goal (in addition to two other disallowed) and had a good performance in the victory over RB Leipzig that was worth the German Supercup (the sixth in the last seven editions played).
The title won in Leipzig showed that concerns about competitiveness and balance do not pass through Munich. If it depends on Mané, Thomas Müller, Gnabry, Musiala and other talents in the team led by Julian Nagelsmann, the future will continue to be red, blue and white in the Bundesliga.
– We will miss Lewandowski, the goals he scored, it is not easy to find a player like him. But today (against Leipzig) we scored a lot of goals and I hope we continue like that – declared young Jamal Musiala after the Supercup final.