Reigning champions of Germany, Europe and the world, Bayern Munich currently stand at the very pinnacle of club football. And unlike many one-offs in recent memory, the German giants are well-positioned to defend their status for years to come.
It's extremely difficult to become the best club in the world, and maintaining that level is harder still. Barcelona did exceptionally well, winning the Champions League under Frank Rijkaard in 2006 and then in 2009 and 2011 under Pep Guardiola. Even when they didn't lift Europe's most coveted club trophy, the Catalans were widely regarded as the team to beat.
Despite Barca's stellar squad and exceptional academy, however, it's hard to deny that Barca are now below their peak. Their story is a warning to Bayern of just how fragile greatness can be.
Still, Bayern have every chance to maintain their status as Europe's best club in the years to come. They took a risk in signing Guardiola to reinvent the perfect wheel Jupp Heynckes constructed over the course of several seasons, but the new trainer has quickly learned from his few mistakes and adjusted the team to a playing style that, despite being different, is suitable to his players. And critically, this adjustment has kept the players hungry for more success.
Bayern also recently managed to sign one of the few players who could improve their squad, Robert Lewandowski. The Poland international is one of the best and most coveted strikers on the planet. He offers not only more goal-scoring ability than Mario Mandzukic but also a different style of play in the striker position. For this incredibly deep Bayern team, it's fast becoming less a question of what their best XI is and more a question of what way they would like to beat their opponents.
Although things at Bayern are all rosy right now, greatness is often fleeting. It would be a mistake for the club to assume prolonged dominance without continued adjustment. Continue reading for a look at what the club must do to remain the world's best football club for years to come.