On June 16, 2020, Bayern Munich were crowned Bundesliga champions, winning the club’s record-extending eighth straight league title, with closest rivals Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig 13 and 16 points behind respectively. This led to the resurrected worldwide cries of the German league being too predictable, unbalanced and unfair. In truth, there have been opportunities in recent seasons for challengers to emerge and seize the throne from the king, only to falter and wither into darkness.
Title Rival Failures Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig Helping Bayern Munich to Title
Bayern Not Poaching as Much Anymore
There is the notion that Bayern dominate the domestic season every year, and therefore, the Bundesliga is already decided before the first match kicks off. Bayern, however, have been vulnerable at times in recent seasons, providing an opening for one of their title rivals, particularly Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzig. But these clubs have been unable to capitalize, allowing Bayern to correct their mistakes and collect additional championships.
There is no denying the massive financial disparity in the Bundesliga, with Bayern’s market value sitting at €879 million as of last month. Meanwhile, Dortmund and Leipzig have values of €615 million and €552 million respectively.
This abundance of resources has benefited Der Rekordmeister, with their allure and championship pedigree leading to the acquisition of stars from direct league rivals. Robert Lewandowski is perhaps the most notorious example, who left Dortmund on a free transfer in 2014 to join Bayern. It is much easier to win when you are raiding your rivals’ rosters.
However, Bayern have not bought a player from a direct title rival since 2016, when defender Mats Hummels joined from Dortmund for €35 million. Teams like Dortmund are no longer selling their stars to Bayern (Although, that may change this year due to financial needs from COVID-19.)
Yet, Bayern continue to win. Not only is this a result of Bayern’s incredible squad quality and finances, but also due to the incompetent and disappointing league performances of their title rivals.
During the 2018/19 season, Borussia Dortmund came the closest to dethroning Bayern. On November 10, 2018, they defeated Bayern 3-2, opening up a seven-point lead in the league over the Bavarians. That eventually grew to nine points by mid-December, as Lucien Favre’s squad were playing incredible football, while Bayern were stuttering under new manager Niko Kovac. It appeared to be only a matter of time before Die Schwarzgelben would lift the Bundesliga shield.
However, on December 18, 2018, Dortmund lost to 15th placed Fortuna Dusseldorf, who are now serving time in the German second division. Then came the inexplicable 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim on February 9, 2019, after Dortmund led 3-0 in the 67th minute. A 0-0 draw with last-placed Nuremberg followed as the league-leaders’ confidence began to sap away.
Bayern smelled blood and did not look back, winning 13 of their final 17 league matches, including a 5-0 drubbing of Dortmund on April 6, 2019. Dortmund, on the other hand, only won ten of their final 17 matches, while losing three and drawing four. A 4-2 defeat to arch-rivals Schalke toward the end of the season proved to be Dortmund’s death knell, as Bayern ended up winning the league by two points.
Losing the title was a massive blow to Dortmund, which the team has arguably never recovered from. The club currently find themselves 16 points behind Bayern this season, essentially confirming another year of finishing below the Bavarians.
In 2019/20, the chance to depose Bayern fell to RB Leipzig and their young charismatic manager Julian Nagelsmann. Similar to Dortmund the previous season, Die Roten Bullen topped the Bundesliga table in mid-December, scoring a league-high 42 goals, leading Bayern by six points. Bayern had recently sacked Kovac and were still developing under then-caretaker manager Hansi Flick. The time was right for Leipzig to gain control and end Bayern’s dominance.
However, as was the case with Dortmund, the second half of the league campaign was full of missed opportunities for Leipzig. While Dortmund lost the league due to horrific and unexplainable defeats, Leipzig lost it as a result of shocking and frustrating draws.
In their final 17 Bundesliga matches, Leipzig won only seven games and drew eight times. Half of these draws came during the post-lockdown league restart, with stadiums void of fans and intensity. Some of these results were appalling, particularly the match against SC Paderborn, where Leipzig conceded in the 92nd minute. Paderborn were later relegated after finishing bottom. The draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf was even more embarrassing, as Leipzig let in two goals, in the 87th and 92nd minutes. Dusseldorf, like Paderborn, would be relegated at the season’s conclusion.
In the end, Leipzig finished with the same number of defeats as Bayern (four) but were not ruthless enough in the latter stages of the season, finishing in a distant third. Once again, Bayern dominated down the stretch, winning all of their final 17 matches, except one: a 0-0 draw against Leipzig. In fact, Leipzig were the only team Bayern did not defeat throughout the entire 2019/20 campaign, in which the Bavarians won a continental Treble, including the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern One Step Ahead of Dortmund and Leipzig
Bayern’s unrelenting dominance in the Bundesliga has been a product of their fantastic play and staggering mental fortitude. However, the opportunities have been there for Dortmund and Leipzig, which neither side were able to take advantage of. So, yes, Bayern continue to rule Germany with an iron fist, which is unhealthy for the league’s integrity, but they are not the only club deserving of blame for this result.