Picking Bayern Munich's Greatest All-Time XI
Bayern Munich has treated the Allianz Arena—and the Olympic Stadium in Munich before that—to some of the game's greatest talents over the years.
From the goals of Gerd Muller to the tactical masterclasses of Philipp Lahm, the Bavarian giants boast five European Cups/UEFA Champions Leagues and a record 26 German titles for good reason.
Bayern conducted a fan poll on their website in 2005, asking supporters to vote for their all-time greatest team. After nearly 80,000 votes, the result was as follows:
4-3-3: Sepp Maier; Klaus Augenthaler, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner; Mehmet Scholl, Stefan Effenberg, Lothar Matthaus; Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Gerd Muller, Giovane Elber.
Each of the players above enjoys a place in the club's official Hall of Fame, with Maier, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner and Muller part of the 1970s cohort, Augenthaler and Rummenigge representing the '80s, Effenberg and Matthaus the '90s, and Scholl and Elber the 2000s.
Eleven years, seven Bundesliga crowns and a Champions League triumph later, it would appear to be high time to question whether some of the players from over the last decade can penetrate such an impressive lineup.
Do you agree with this selection? Leave your best XI in the comments below!
Goalkeeper: Sepp Maier
Part of the legendary Bayern team that won three consecutive European Cups between 1974 and 1976, The Cat from Anzing made up for his relative lack of physical stature with lightning-fast reflexes and ended his career with the Bavarians in 1980 having played a German-record 442 consecutive Bundesliga games.
Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer have represented Bayern with aplomb in the years since—indeed, Kahn was declared honorary captain of Bayern at his farewell game in 2008—but Maier's consistent excellence over 18 years as a player with the club sees him keep his place.
Right-Back: Philipp Lahm
Lahm debuted for Bayern in 2002 but did not establish himself in the first team until 2005, when he returned from a two-year loan spell at VfB Stuttgart. In the time since, he has picked up more trophies than any of the aforementioned defenders, winning eight Bundesliga crowns and captaining Bayern to their Champions League success in 2013.
"Bayern have had legends such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Uli Hoeness and Kalle Rummenigge," former coach Pep Guardiola told Sport Bild (in German) in May. "For me, Philipp Lahm is at the same level as those legends. He is the perfect captain for Bayern and has helped me a lot both on and off the pitch."
Centre-Back I: Klaus Augenthaler
With Lahm coming into the team, 1980s stalwart Augenthaler shifts inside to his more natural central-defensive position. Augenthaler won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern between 1980 and 1990, five of them as captain, which was a record that stood until Mehmet Scholl picked up his eighth league title 16 years later.
Increasingly used as a libero as his career progressed, Augenthaler was noted for his thunderous free-kicks, while his game-winning goal from the centre circle for Bayern in their DFB-Pokal first-round match with Eintracht Frankfurt in August 1989 was chosen as Goal of the Decade by German TV station ARD.
Centre-Back II: Franz Beckenbauer (captain)
Augenthaler's move inside means that there is only space for one of Beckenbauer and his 1970s defensive partner Schwarzenbeck, and while Schwarzenbeck was an incredible defender who won every trophy possible for club and country, no team without Beckenbauer could be taken seriously.
Elegant yet powerful, Der Kaiser virtually invented the sweeper position. He remains the only player to have captained his side to three consecutive European Cups—which he did between 1974 and '76—and is widely regarded as one of the best players ever to have played the game.
Left-Back: Paul Breitner
Back when Brazil legend Roberto Carlos was still a twinkle in his father's eye in the early 1970s, Breitner was revolutionising what it meant to play left-back. David Alaba's Bayern trophy cabinet may boast two more DFB-Pokals than Breitner's, meanwhile, but until the Austrian scores 18 goals in a season, Breitner keeps his place.
Breitner's record single-season goals tally admittedly came in his second spell at Bayern—after a four-year sojourn playing for Real Madrid and then Eintracht Braunschweig—by which time he had been moved into midfield, but his defensive reputation was already set in stone after quelling Johan Cruyff and the Netherlands team to lift the 1974 FIFA World Cup with West Germany in Munich.
Midfielder I: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Something of a rebellious winger when he initially broke into the first team in 2002, Bastian Schweinsteiger blossomed into the complete central midfielder at Bayern before leaving for Manchester United in 2015, having won eight Bundesliga titles and seven German Cups as well as the club's fifth European Cup/Champions League at Wembley.
"One-hundred and twenty caps, a world champion—we had an incredible time, and I was always happy when he lined up with me on the pitch, beside me, in front of me, behind me. You could always rely on him," said Lahm on Schweinsteiger's recent international retirement, as per Sport1 (in German). "He is an outstanding footballer."
After 500 games and 18 major titles with Bayern, it is difficult to disagree.
Midfielder II: Lothar Matthaus
A complete player who combined perceptive passing and positioning with well-timed challenges and a wicked shot, Matthaus was a colossus in his two spells with Bayern, winning seven Bundesliga titles and three German Cups between 1984 and '88 and then 1992 to 2000.
No outfield player featured in more than Matthaus' five World Cups, a tournament he won with West Germany in 1990 after a man-of-the-match performance against a certain Diego Maradona. Like Beckenbauer, Matthaus proved equally adept at playing in midfield and defence throughout his storied career. Unlike the sport's first true libero, though, the game's highest honour at club level eluded him.
Matthaus had been 20 minutes away from Champions League glory with Bayern against Porto in 1987, only to see two late goals from the Portuguese side deny him the title. Eleven years later, the agony was even more pronounced, when Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer each scored in injury time for Manchester United against Bayern at the Camp Nou to cancel out Mario Basler's first-half free-kick.
Midfielder III: Mehmet Scholl
If dropping Schwarzenbeck from this lineup was difficult, then denying Effenberg a starting berth was nigh-on impossible. However, with Schweinsteiger coming into the three-man midfield, something had to give.
Effenberg was inspirational as Bayern ended their 25-year wait for European gold with victory over Valencia in 2001. However, mercurial midfielder Scholl was also part of that victorious team in Milan 15 years ago, and he scored five goals on the way to the final. He also netted in each leg of the UEFA Cup final in 1996 to help Bayern beat Bordeaux 5-1 on aggregate.
Domestically, his eight Bundesliga titles—five more than Effenberg—is a German national record he shares with Kahn and Schweinsteiger.
Forward I: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Now the Bayern CEO, Rummenigge's trophy cabinet as a player with Bayern may not have glistened quite as brightly as a few others' in this lineup, but his 162 league goals for the club are second only to the great Gerd Muller's 398—not bad for a player who played most of his career on the wing or deeper in midfield.
Ten years Muller's junior, Rummenigge nonetheless started the third and final of Bayern's consecutive European Cup triumphs in the 1970s. He effectively patented the late breaks towards the opposition box that Gerd's namesake, Thomas, now employs, and although the younger Muller has picked up 15 major titles since his Bayern debut in 2008, Rummenigge's incredible goal haul sees him keep his place.
Forward II: Gerd Muller
Like Beckenbauer, Muller's selection at centre-forward is something of a no-brainer when it comes to picking this dream Bayern XI.
It is doubtful Bayern's three consecutive European Cup triumphs would have been possible without Muller's 66 goals across 74 games in the competition, and his club-record 398 Bundesliga goals may never be surpassed.
Muller may have lacked the physical stature of more recent goal-fiends such as Mario Gomez or Robert Lewandowski—the latter of whom reached 50 Bayern goals in record time—but his low centre of gravity and incredible leap made him almost impossible to defend against, and his position in this side is assured.
Forward III: Arjen Robben
Giovane Elber may have been key to Bayern picking up four Bundesliga crowns and the 2001 Champions League, but in the 11 years since this team was first voted upon, Arjen Robben has won one more league title and matched Elber's Champions League win with one of his own, in 2013.
Robben proved the difference between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund in that year's final to boot, scoring in the 89th minute in London after Ilkay Gundogan's penalty had cancelled out Mario Mandzukic's opener for the Bavarians.
"Robben is a world-class player. He can, as we know from experience, decide a game on his own," then-Dortmund player Kevin Grosskreutz lamented the following season, as per Kicker (via Goal.com). "To stop him, you have to double up on him."
With injuries restricting Robben to just 15 Bundesliga appearances last term, it is easy to forget that not so long ago he was one of the most feared wingers in the game. As a rare left-footer in this selection, the Dutchman also brings some balance to the side.