On 14th March 2013 I expressed my belief that the Bundesliga was the strongest league in the world and following the all-German Champions League Final, I would be forgiven for feeling my decision was vindicated.
Instead, I would like to retract my claim. A major factor for this is in fact the transfer of Mario Götze. Some may say that this hoarding of German talent by Bayern München helps strengthen the representation of German football in Europe, but it is my opinion that it has the opposite effect on the Bundesliga. It is also indicative of what we have grown used to seeing in Germany over the past decade or so.
My view is not an anomaly either. Jürgen Klopp, manager of Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga and Champions League runners up, felt much the same way.
His exact quote read: “I fear a situation like Scotland with only one team” and that is from the manager of a team that is only one year removed from winning the title. It would seem crazier if the inevitability of the rest of league losing their best players to the financial powerhouse that is Bayern wasn’t so clear.
It would be understandable for footballers if money is their motivation for moving to Bayern and Götze would be forgiven if this was the case too. However, it has been claimed that the motivation for his move was not financial. Klopp even stood out in his defence, stating that Götze wanted to work with a great manager like Guardiola.
I have to say that Klopp is a big man for being able to say such a comment with a straight face, but I found this reason for moving rather disrespectful to himself.
As it stands, Klopp is rated as one of the best managers in the world and he has backed up such a claim by providing Götze and Dortmund two Bundesliga titles and one champions league final, all before Götze has turned 21. There is little more that Klopp could have helped Götze achieve at his boyhood club.
So in reality it seems that it was more the season Bayern have had along with their much greater financial muscle that proved too much to defend against.
That being said, the motivation for Bayern to sign Götze couldn’t be more obvious. They have managed to sign one of the best prospects in German football, while at the same time weakening their closest rivals. The timing of the announcement even seemed as if they were trying to hamper Dortmund’s progress, which is something Klopp did not allow.
Besides Götze being a coup for Bayern, he is the ideal type of footballer for the style of play that Pep Guardiola endorses. His skillset also allows Pep to adopt a false-9 system which he enjoyed so much success with at Barcelona.
The problem for Pep though is that Heynckes has managed to get Bayern playing a brand of football that obliterated Barcelona and its false-9 approach, which has swept teams aside in years gone by. So would it really be wise to dismantle a method that has enjoyed so much success under the stewardship of the ‘retiring’ Jupp Heynckes?
Common sense would say no and Bayern seem to agree. Hence, their latest transfer target seems to be another raid on Dortmund, as they hope to sign Robert Lewandowski.
He is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the game at the moment and his signing would not only help Bayern build on the success of this season, but it knocks Dortmund and the rest of the Bundesliga back even further.
The question that needs to be asked though is if there is a way to bounce back from what otherwise would be a 1-2 knockout blow. With the amount of money they would receive for both transfers you have to feel that there is some hope.
With Dortmund’s brilliant youth system there is already the assurance that there are brilliant players such as Bittencourt and Leitner who could make the step up and if combined with the usage of some of the transfer revenue to reel in players such as Cristian Eriksen, Edin Dzeko or Christian Benteke, then Dortmund could bounce back.
However, it is imperative that two big signings are made so that there is still hope Dortmund could remain competitive with Bayern. If Klopp is able to do that next season then it would undoubtedly be a huge achievement.
In reality, next season will have to be more of rebuilding year for Dortmund in the hope that they can continue to push Bayern the distance for many years to come, for the sake of the Bundesliga and German football in general.
Otherwise, we could return to a period of German football where Bayern continues to dominate until one of the team’s manages to either unearth a few gems or receives more financial backing.
image: © jiazi