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Is the Bundesliga fading into irrelevancy?

Daniel Pinder
834   //    16 Nov 2017, 18:47 IST

VfL Wolfsburg v Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
Bayern are clear by 4 points at the top

Domestic football in France, Germany or Italy will always be deemed as a ‘one team league.’ You have Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus but that doesn’t mean that neither of these leagues are falling into irrelevancy.

And although some may think so due to their dominance in the past decade, if you look behind what’s being reported by the local media, it’s actually a totally different story.

Take a look at the Germany squad that won the World Cup in 2014-- just seven players of the 23 man squad hailed from Bayern Munich and despite them dominating the Bundesliga, the league is a lot tighter than many think.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final
Bayern players celebrate after winning the Champions League final of 2013

They may have won the Bundesliga for five consecutive seasons and while they could well go on and win their sixth this year, it will not be an easy ride.

Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed as Bayern Munich’s head coach after just over one year in charge. The Italian who has won multiple domestic and European trophies suffered a poor start to the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign that ultimately cost him his job.

Finding themselves five points behind Borussia Dortmund in the early stages, Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge were forced to act. They managed to persuade the 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes out of retirement for this third stint at the Bavarian club.

Sitting top of the Bundesliga and yet to lose since his return to Saebener Strasse, it’s fair to say it’s been a good comeback.

Borussia Dortmund Celebrates Winning The DFB Cup 2017
Borussia Dortmund celebrates winning The DFB Cup 2017

But that certainly doesn’t mean that Bundesliga is a one team league and it’s certainly one that isn’t fading into irrelevancy. While it looks like Bayern Munich are dominating the proceedings, it’s the teams that are undergoing a transition period around them that could well challenge for honours in the very near future.

Despite Borussia Dortmund losing Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ousmane Dembele in the very recent history, they’ve done fairly well for themselves.

Thomas Tuchel departed the club in the summer after a two-year spell that brought the DFB Pokal back to Dortmund for the first time since 2012, while the arrival of Peter Bosz to the Westfalenstadion has brought redemption to the club.

For the first quarter of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign, it looked as though Borussia Dortmund could challenge on all fronts. Up until week 10, BVB were sitting pretty at the summit until a shocking defeat to newly promoted Hannover 96 – a game that showed that problems still lay within the current Dortmund squad, although injuries haven’t helped.

And despite not winning in their last four Bundesliga games (D1, L3), they’re still capable of achieving something this season during their period of change – losing arguably one of your best players in Dembele and a coach of Tuchel’s calibre was never going to be easy.

Chile v Germany: Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017
Timo Werner with Maradona and the golden boot he won at the Confederations Cup

There's also the meteoric rise of RB Leipzig, backed by Red Bull. Finding themselves in the Bundesliga for the first time in their history last season, nobody could have predicted them to finish runners-up behind Bayern Munich, qualifying for the Champions League.

And while many are against their management of the club, being exempt to the 50+1 – something that separates German football from the rest – RB Leipzig have established themselves as a top Bundesliga side.

They have a sporting director in Ralf Rangnick who focuses on youth development that will definitely supply Germany players in the near future, with Marcel Halstenberg and Timo Werner already playing for the national side. It’s only going to be a matter of time before we start seeing RB Leipzig produce a conveyer belt for youth players.

Again, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side finds themselves sitting in second behind Bayern Munich. Fielding a team with an average age of 22 (per, RB has soon created an ethos that they can get behind, and it’s one that each and every fan can get behind.

Even though they’re going to be losing Naby Keita to Liverpool next summer, it doesn’t provide RB Leipzig with too many problems. Due to the fact that one: they’re getting £48 million and two: they have a number of potential replacements at RB Salzburg who are ready to step up, namely Diadie Samassékou or Amadou Haidara.

There’s one thing for certain, and that’s that RB Leipzig are in it for the long-haul.

Real Madrid CF v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League
FC Schalke 04 will want to secure a Champions League spot this term

But the real beauty of the Bundesliga is that anyone can truly beat anyone on their day. Last season we saw TSG 1899 Hoffenheim beat Bayern Munich and they’ve done so once again this season, with relative ease.

Coached by Julian Nagelsmann – who is tipped as an eventual Bayern Munich successor – Hoffenheim qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history last season, finishing fourth. The 30-year-old’s rise to the top is nothing short of extraordinary while Nagelsmann’s revolutionary tactics are changing German football.

But let’s not forget teams such as Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen. They may have both missed out on European football but they’re still teams of a Champions League calibre. With the right signings, it’s not going to be too long before we see them back at the top.

The last team to win the Bundesliga outside of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund was VfL Wolfsburg and again, they’re a club that is currently undergoing change. Although it won’t be this season, under the guidance of Martin Schmidt, they could well be up there come next season.

And so in short, German football certainly isn’t falling into irrelevancy. If anything, the number of teams that will be there or there about in the next season will certainly make the Bundesliga title race all the more interesting.

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