Schweinsteiger & 4 Other Keys to Bayern Munich's Record-Breaking Title
Bayern Munich won their 23rd German championship on Saturday after beating Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 at the Waldstadion.
David Alaba missed a first-half penalty for the guests, but Bastian Schweinsteiger scored what proved to be the title-winning goal when he accepted Phillip Lahm’s cross on the half-turn and flicked the ball into the back of the net with a delicate back-heel.
The victory meant that Bayern Munich would maintain their 20-point lead on second-place Borussia Dortmund with six rounds to play, making their Bundesliga triumph the most decisive in the history of the top flight.
Schweinsteiger, it goes without saying, has been central to Bayern’s success this season, but there have been other key contributors as well.
Following is a look at five of them, starting with Saturday’s hero.
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It’s funny to think that Bastian Schweinsteiger is still just 28 years old. It seems only yesterday that he was breaking into Bayern Munich’s first team ahead of the 2006 World Cup, although in those days his role was that of an attacking midfielder and winger—a testament to the comfort with which he has adapted his game in the years since.
These days, Schweinsteiger is one of the best central midfielders in world football. He is no less important to Bayern than Andrea Pirlo is to Juventus or Xavi to Barcelona, and given how mightily his side struggled without him last season as he battled injury, there’s a case to be made that no player is quite as important to his club as the German international.
In the 40 matches Schweinsteiger has started so far this season for club and country, he has been on the winning side 33 times and has lost only twice. And in the run-up to the title, he has started 16 winning matches in a row.
The 2012-13 championship is his sixth (he has also won five league cups), which means he has been involved in more than a quarter of Bayern Munich’s titles. Incredible stuff.
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In a way, you’ve got to feel for Jupp Heynckes.
The disappointment of last season—in which Bayern failed to win a single trophy—was attributed to him rather more than it should have been, and in January it was revealed that Pep Guardiola would be replacing him in the summer.
Since that announcement, Heynckes’ Bayern have won all 11 of their Bundesliga matches, outscoring their opponents by a combined 35-7.
The manager, 67, has also had the courage to pick Thomas Muller ahead of Arjen Robben much of the season to date, and the Germany attacker has rewarded him with 18 goals in all competitions.
The 2012-13 Bundesliga title comes 23 years after Heynckes’ last—won with Bayern during a previous stint in 1990. He also guided Real Madrid to Champions League glory in 1998.
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Since making his full Bayern debut in a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg on Sept. 25, Javi Martinez has started 17 matches for the Bavarian giants, of which 16 were wins, and one was a draw.
The €40 million Bayern shelled out for him in the summer set a club transfer record, but after less than a full season at Allianz-Arena, the 24-year-old has continued his development as one of the best holding midfielders in the game, and alongside Schweinsteiger, he has come to form one half of the best central midfield tandem in Germany.
Already a veteran of 285 matches in club football, he has never played fewer than 36 games in a season and will continue that run of longevity next weekend against Nurnberg.
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A former sweeper for both East Germany and the German national team following reunification, Matthias Sammer was unveiled as Bayern Munich’s sporting director last July, replacing Christian Nerlinger.
It was his influence that prodded Bayern into a summer of transfer activity that included the acquisitions of Javi Martinez and Dante—two players that have proved to be vital cogs in the FCB machine so far this season.
Sammer also had a thing or two to do with the pursuit of Pep Guardiola, and after only nine months on the job, he has already left an indelible mark on this team.
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Almost exactly a year ago, Bayern Munich were still hopeful of winning a historic treble. Fighting for top spot in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, they were also on their way to the DFB Pokal final and would end up contesting the Champions League final at their own stadium as well.
They fell short on every front.
A 1-0 loss to Dortmund on April 11 all but ended the pursuit of the Bundesliga title, and on May 12, they were humiliated by the same side in the DFB Pokal. Seven days later, they blew a late lead in the Champions League final and ended up losing to Chelsea on penalties.
The pain of the triple-defeat stung, and from the first kick of the 2012-13 season, it was evident they were on a mission to right past wrongs.
An eight-match winning streak (in which they outscored their opponents by a combined 26-2) to start the campaign set a new Bundesliga record, and when they won the title on Saturday—after just 28 matches—they had yet to drop a single point in 2013.
On April 16, they’ll host Wolfsburg in a DFB Pokal semifinal, and a 2-0 aggregate lead on Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinals means they’ll likely progress to the final four of that competition as well.
Bayern may very well get their treble, if only a year later than they thought.