Bayern Munich in a League of Their Own After 4th Consecutive Bundesliga Title

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2016

Bayern's Rafinha, from right, Franck Ribery, and Thiago celebrate after winning the 26th Bundesliga title at the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Ingolstadt and FC Bayern Munich in Ingolstadt, Germany, Saturday, May 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Bayern Munich wrapped up the 2015-16 Bundesliga title on Saturday, as they edged Ingolstadt 2-1 at the Audi Sportpark. The result put Pep Guardiola's men eight points clear of Borussia Dortmund with one game left to play, leaving the record champions decisive victors.

It took longer for Bayern to clinch the league title than in recent years thanks to a resilient BVB that will end the season as history's best second-placed team. But although their victory came somewhat late, Bayern have been almost flawless; their 85 points in 33 matches means they will have the third-best points haul in Bundesliga history.

And having conceded just 16 goals, their defensive record will set a new league record provided they allow no more than one goal in their final match of the campaign against Hannover on Saturday.

What Bayern have managed to do in the last four Bundesliga seasons is truly extraordinary. They've recorded the three best points tallies (and barring a miracle performance from Hannover, the three best defensive records) in league history.

It's been a story of complete dominance to the extent many teams hardly bother to show up and some players literally opt not to appear—there were some instances when it appeared players got themselves suspended to avoid playing Bayern, although only Werder Bremen duo Zlatko Junuzovic and Clemens Fritz admitted it, per ESPN FC.

Yet for all their domestic dominance, this isn't the best Bayern Munich team in history. That honor goes to the side that won three consecutive European Cups between 1974 and 1976 and contained such legends as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Sepp Maier, Paul Breitner, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Uli Hoeness and a young Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Although the current Bayern team managed to win the UEFA Champions League in 2012-13, it hasn't progressed to the final since despite obtaining similarly dominant domestic results. Nor has this Bayern looked to be among the top two or three teams in the competition. In 2014 and 2015, they were humiliated by Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. This year, they lost respectably to Atletico Madrid and truly might be among the top two or three teams, although Juventus pushed them to the brink as well.

Regardless of their level, it's clear Bayern have not enjoyed sustained continental dominance as they did in the 1970s. Frankly, their team in recent years hasn't been as stocked with legends of the game. Jerome Boateng and Robert Lewandowski may be great, but Beckenbauer and Muller were among the best players football has seen in their respective positions.

The difference we see between the 1970s and today comes down to the strength of the Bundesliga relative to that of the rest of Europe. Bayern only won the Bundesliga once during the spell in which they claimed three European Cups, and that time (in 1974), they only edged Borussia Monchengladbach by a point.

The German top flight was strong overall at the time, and Gladbach won the league three consecutive times from 1975 to 1977—even as the best Bayern ever dominated Europe.

Now, there is a different scenario, one that sees the rest of the Bundesliga struggling, as Bayern are the only side that can reliably perform in the Champions League. They aren't the best team in the world and haven't been since 2013. Yet they are miles ahead of the rest of the Bundesliga. Dortmund had a truly remarkable 2015-16 season but still effectively lost the league long before Bayern clinched the title.

The simple truth is Bayern are in a league of their own in terms of prestige, squad strength and financial might—all of which are interrelated. The success of previous decades brought prestige that helped recruit players and win the support and sponsorships that produced enough financial success to build sustained status as a superpower.

Bayern Munich players celebrate wining the league for the fourth year in a row after the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Ingolstadt 04 and FC Bayern Munich, at the Audi Sportpark in Ingolstadt, southern Germany, on May 7, 2016.
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

Based on figures from Fussball-Geld, one can calculate that Bayern's revenue (excluding transfers) after the 32nd matchday of the 2015-16 season was 49 percent more than the closest runner-up (BVB), 77 percent more than the next (Wolfsburg) and twice as much as the fourth-richest side, Schalke. Bayern's non-transfer income was more than two-and-a-half times that of the average Bundesliga side and just under eight times those of promoted sides Darmstadt and Ingolstadt.

All the while, Bayern's spending continues to soar. Their wages have ballooned this season, with Thomas Muller, per Bild, and Manuel Neuer, also per Bild, signing record contracts worth €15 million per year and Jerome Boateng being given a raise to €12 million. The club has also given David Alaba and Javi Martinez bumper contracts. Seeing some €100 million or more of talent on the Bayern bench every week is evidence enough the Bavarian giants are simply on another level to the rest of the Bundesliga.

That, perhaps, is why the idea of a European "super league" is something Rummenigge is considering. The Bayern president dismissed the idea in 2013, according to the ECA, but in January, he admitted to reporters it is an option. His rationale was to maintain competition with the Premier League following its mega TV deal, but in fairness, the rest of the Bundesliga could support the super league with similar reasoning.

For now, the Bundesliga exists with Bayern a part of it. But in truth, the Bavarians are one of several clubs around Europe that have broken clear of the rest and are worthy of creating a league of their own.

 

@Mr_Bundesliga

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