Allow me to pick up where I left off at the end of the World Cup with the big theme in world football – German football dominance. The world champions achieved arguably the most impressive World Cup win of all time. Beating the big two from South America to become the first European nation to lift the trophy on that football-crazy continent. Including that 7-1. And German club football is great too isn’t it. Well isn’t it?
I’m afraid most of us were guilty of an understandable misjudgement at the end of LAST season (2012/13). That this could be the dawn of a golden era of German club football.
Bayern Munich had beaten Borussia Dortmund in German club football’s finest moment. A great Champions League final between two excellent sides, two excellent clubs, showcasing that Germany had got it right. Both had thrashed Spanish giants in the semi-finals. The occasion, the fans, were magnificent.
And it’s the fans that rightly took a lot of the focus. Enjoying affordable football, a genuine say in the running of their clubs, a good matchday experience. These things still make the Bundesliga the top fans league in Europe, possibly the world.
But the football. the competition. Oh dear Germany. It’s worse than being open to criticism…the situation is that I actually feel sorry for German football fans. In comparison to an English Premier League that any of FIVE clubs could win, I pity the Germans.
That Bayern have effectively ended the Bundesliga as a competition by buying their main rivals’ best players is not a crime. And let’s face it, with their Hoeness behind bars it feels like there’s been enough crime from their executives.
But it reflects German football in an awful light.
Let’s refresh our memories about the demise of Dortmund, and it IS a demise in my view. And Bayern are directly responsible so if they were looking to destroy they have succeeded.
First Bayern got their hands on Mario Gotze, he of the superb World Cup winning goal, BEFORE that Champions League final at Wembley. An utter disgrace of course. People will say you can’t blame Gotze for taking the money. But the timing was pretty poor. Just wait until your business for the season is done mate. Would it have killed you, your agent and Bayern to wait? How disrespectful. How very ‘modern football’.
As it turned out Gotze missed the Wembley game in May last year, and a possible fans backlash, through injury, but the damage was done. How could Dortmund continue to challenge Bayern if a brilliant young star was deserting them for Bavaria?
And who ELSE might swap yellow for red?
Well that would be Robert Lewandowski, poised to play for Bayern against Dortmund in the German Supercup on Wednesday having finally made his move. In four years at Dortmund he established his reputation as one of the world’s best strikers. Some think he’s actually the best out and out striker there is and I tend to agree. No-one will forget his four-goal demolition of Real Madrid.
Last year Dortmund still actually had enough quality to beat Bayern and their new boss Guardiola in the Supercup, but they still had Lewandowski then. His move to Bayern at the end of the season had been that old cliche, the ‘worse kept secret in football’, so by the time the deal for the Polish international was done some of the controversy had been replaced by apathy.
In football rivalry genuine hate is never far from the surface. But in these circumstances dislike for Bayern from Dortmund and its fans is understandable – put yourself in their shoes. The barely contained tension boiled over last week when Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge mentioned the termination clause in the contract of a Dortmund player, as you do.
This led to a fierce response from Dortmund and the spotlight directly on German international Marco Reus, an invaluable force in the club’s reemergence as a European force over the past few years. Surely Bayern were not going to land him too.
Well it seems they might finally be thwarted this time. As I write, Dortmund are insisting ‘no Bayern deal for Reus.’ But why would a player of his exceptional quality stay when the team has been weakened by the departures? There are still weeks of the transfer window remaining and Reus may even end up in the Premier League.
Liverpool are reported to be interested and it’s Liverpool who exposed Dortmund’s weaknesses with a 4-0 friendly victory at Anfield at the weekend.
It’s fair to take pre-season friendlies with a pinch of salt and this was not Dortmund’s strongest team. They might even manage to galvanise themselves into another Supercup win over Bayern, unlikely as that seems. (what looks certain is that Bayern will romp to another Bundesliga title, with the real league battle being whether Dortmund can stay ahead of the likes of Schalke.)
But the stand-out moment at Anfield was not Liverpool’s incisive attacking. It was Dortmund’s world famous fans singling ‘You’ll never Walk Alone’ in the home of the song, drawing warm appreciation from the Liverpool fans.
They are magnificent fans, with a great stadium and a great club. It is a real shame they are unlikely to challenge for the title. German football, rightly admired in so many ways, has a problem. And it’s not the extraordinary reluctance to have adopted goal-line technology in the Bundesliga, which I believe will be rectified soon.
Bayern Munich needs challenging.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport