“Football is a simple game. Twenty two people chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
In the context of the current season, Gary Lineker’s words do make a lot of sense. Two German sides in the finals of the Champions League, both annihilating the two strongest contenders for the trophy at the start of the season in the semi finals. Eventually the side breaking records and spirits consistently were deservingly crowned champions; Bayern had truly been intimidating, imperious and impressive right through the season.
Bayern’s magnitude of success this year though, hasn’t just been a sudden burst into the limelight. It has been a steady rise through the seasons past, on foundations built from an excellent youth system and an ingeniously crafted transfer policy, the latter being the focus of this article.
So what exactly has Bayern done to maintain a vice grip over the Bundesliga? The transfer strategy has been simple yet devastating, strengthen your squad but at the same time weaken the squads around you. That has served them very well mind you, as Bayern have made some clever buys, bouncing back from occasionally relinquishing their title to surprise packages like Wolfsburg, Stuttgart, Dortmund and Werder Bremen over the past decade. Below, we take a more detailed look at these transfers, just to understand Bayern’s dual-purpose transfer policy a little better.
Players bought from rivals at the end of the season: Daniel Van Buyten (Hamburg SV: Finished 3rd), Lukas Podolski (FC Koln: Finished 19th)
Although Bayern finished the season as league champions, the German champions looked to strengthen their squad to mount a title defense for next season. Considering Hamburg finished outside the top 2 (which guaranteed Champions League football), luring their Belgian centre-back Daniel Van Buyten wasn’t a tough task. Van Buyten impressed in his performances during a loan spell at Manchester City and continued with that form in his displays for Hamburg, before Bayern snapped him up. The 6’5 centre back has done well for himself at Bayern, and has now become a regular and important in the starting 11. His move to Bayern did take it’s toll on Hamburg, as they finished 7th next season.
The other buy was no stranger to the footballing fraternity either, Lukas Podolski had been making waves in the domestic and international circuit with his goal scoring exploits for FC Koln. Even though Koln got relegated, Podolski stood tall amongst the rubble, scoring 13 goals in the league, and Bayern snapped up the 21 year old for a paltry 10 million Euros. Podolski stayed 3 years with the German champions, with a decent return of 15 goals in 71 appearances before returning to Koln.
Players bought from rivals at the end of the season: Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen: Finished 2nd)
Klose announced his arrival as a world class centre forward in the 2005-06 season, finishing top scorer in the Bundesliga with 25 goals, helping Bremen finish 2nd. He then went on to win the Golden Boot in the 2006 World Cup, scoring 5 goals, following which he signed for Bayern in June 2007. He managed to produce a less than decent goal scoring return of 13 goals, as his strike partner, Luca Toni (signed in the same season as Klose) scored 24 goals and finished as top scorer of the Bundesliga. Bayern went on to finish as Champions, trumping Werder Bremen, who finished 2nd.
Players bought from rivals at the end of the season: Mario Gomez (VFL Stuttgart: Finished 3rd), Ivica Olic (Hamburg SV: Finished 5th)
Bayern made their intentions very clear at the start of the 2009 transfer window, overpower with firepower. Mario Gomez caught the eye with his contribution in Stuttgart’s title winning season in 2006/07, and then again in 2008/09, scoring 19 goals in just 25 appearances. The 23 year old forward was impressing with his excellent anticipatory and poaching instincts, and his goal scoring prowess was growing stronger with age, very much evident in Stuttgart’s 4-1 win over champions Wolfsburg, a game in which he netted all 4 goals. After Gomez’s departure, Stuttgart finished 6th the following season.
Ivica Olic was another forward making a strong case in the Bundesliga, constantly putting in workmanlike displays game in and game out. His relentless running and chasing down the ball brought him accolades as a forward who defended from the front. His goal scoring ability wasn’t half bad either, as he bagged 14 goals in 32 league matches in 2008/09 and 10 goals in 31 games in the following season. He then signed with Bayern Munich, where he made a strong start, scoring 11 goals. After scoring on his debut, his other highlights included 2 crucial Champions League (2010) goals against Manchester United which helped Bayern progress to the semifinals. He also went on to score a “perfect” hat-trick against Lyon in the semi finals (A goal each with the left and right foot, and a header.) Olic’s absence was felt at Hamburg, as they finished 7th in the following season.
Players bought from rivals at the end of the season: Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04: Finished 14th)
Neuer was widely tipped to be Germany’s future number 1, at the delicate age of just 20. He was also regarded as the natural heir to Jens Lehmann and Oliver Kahn, as both were well into the twilight of their careers. Neuer hardly disappointed, putting in excellent performances. Bayern snatched Neuer amidst major interest from big clubs, making him the second most expensive keeper at that point of time. The huge expectations and the price tag hardly unfazed Neuer, as he broke Oliver Kahn’s record of the most competitive clean sheets for Bayern, going 1000 minutes without conceding.
Players bought from rivals at the end of the season: Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg: Finished 8th), Claudio Pizzaro (Werder Bremen: Finished 9th)
As Borussia Dortmund won the title for the second time in a row, Bayern once against looked no further than the Bundesliga for talent. Claudio Pizzaro was also bought from Werder Bremen, after an earlier 6 year long stint with the club way back in 2001. Pizzaro scored an impressive 15 goals that term, as Bayern finished 3rd. He was also a key player of the Bayern side that did the League and Cup double in 2003. After his return in 2012, Pizzaro has served as excellent back up to the two strikers in front of him in the pecking order, performing his duties with aplomb. He scored 3 goals in 2 appearances in the German Cup, and 4 goals in 6 appearances in the Champions League, a quite remarkable feat for a 3rd choice centre forward. An overall return of 13 goals in 28 appearances did play its part in Bayern reaching the final of the German Pup, as well as winning the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Pizzaro’s former side Bremen suffered without their top marksman, finishing the 2012-13 season in 14th place.
The other signing, in my honest opinion has been one of the signings of the season. Mario Mandzukic was a revelation in the Bundesliga this season, putting opposition defences on the back foot with his tireless running, reminiscent of another Croatian who played for Munich before him- Ivica Olic. Mandzukic scored 15 goals in 29 appearances for Bayern this season, bypassing Mario Gomez as the club’s first choice centre forward. Mandzukic’s former team finished 11th this season, 3 spots below their 8th place finish the year before.
As can be seen, Bayern has cleverly utilized the Bundesliga’s talent to good effect, also weakening other German teams in the process. And with the unprecedented success achieved this term, they have yet again capitalized on that strategy to sign Mario Gotze, a key player from their strongest and fiercest competitors Borussia Dortmund. They haven’t stopped there either by the looks of it, as Robert Lewandowski’s agent claimed that the Polish centre forward will join the German champions next term. One may argue what Bayern will do with four world class centre forwards in their ranks, but making sure that Dortmund lose half of their front 4, might just prove priceless next season. With the transfer market beginning in August and a wealth of talent in the Bundesliga to choose from, other German sides need to be wary of losing their key players to the German champions.Published 28 May 2013, 18:16 IST