The Champions League Final pits Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – the two best teams in the Bundesliga – against each other at Wembley on Saturday and after annihilating Spain’s two finest sides in the semis, it raises speculation of how dominant the German clubs can be in the future.
With Pep Guardiola taking over as Bayern boss from Jupp Heynckes in the summer, expectations are they could become the new Barecelona, Guardiola’s former club where he had spectacular success.
Cayman resident Michael Klein is German and a football nut so will be watching the match with particular interest.
“Clearly Heynckes is one of the best coaches in the world, he has already won the Champions League with Real Madrid and improvements on the pitch under Guardiola will be marginal,” Klein said.
“But I expect Guardiola to be able to attract young world class players, who would typically go to other teams, in the Premier League for example.
“Mario Goetze is such a case. He does not join Bayern solely for the money, but mainly because Guardiola expressly wanted him.” Goetze’s hamstring injury means he misses playing in his final game for Dortmund before joining Bayern in July.
This is Bayern’s third final in four seasons but they were beaten previously by Inter Milan in 2010 and so dramatically in a penalty shoot-out by Chelsea last year.
“I expect Bayern to win this time but it will be very close,” said Klein. “Bayern have more depth than in past years and are overall much stronger. Each position, apart from left back, now has a valid replacement.
“They have added Javi Martinez in midfield, who cost them $40 million. Many were questioning that kind of investment for a relatively unknown player, but he showed his worth against Barcelona when he subdued Xavi and Iniesta.
“Bayern are determined to win to erase the pain of last year’s Champions League final loss when they were by far the better side.
“But Dortmund had much success against Bayern in the past two years, so it would not be a miracle for them to win again.”
Considering how easily Bayern and Dortmund beat Barca and Real Madrid, could the Bundesliga be considered Europe’s best league now? Klein does not think so although he is evidently proud of their success.
“It is a very well run league and the Bundesliga gets a lot of things right. Tickets are cheaper than in other European leagues and clubs realise that they thrive on fan support.
“The modern, generally sold out stadiums generate a great atmosphere. But in terms of the quality of the football, the Bundesliga does not have sufficient depth to be considered the best league in the world.
“Bayern and Dortmund are head and shoulders above the rest, which can also be seen in the poor run of German teams in the Europa League.”
Bayern won the Bundesliga by 25 points over Dortmund so look likely to dominate their domestic league for a while.
“It certainly looks like it, especially because they just bought probably Germany’s biggest talent Goetze from Dortmund,” said Klein.
“And if they, as it is muted, also add Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski to their roster, it is difficult to see how Dortmund could recover in the short-term.
“I don’t think many people will bet against Guardiola winning the league in his first season with Bayern next year.
Considering how strong the Germans are, Klein believes Germany’s prospects for the World Cup next year are pretty good. The Germans showed flashes of brilliance in the last World Cup – especially against England – and the nucleus of the side has stayed together and gelled since then.
“There has never been a Germany team with more technical ability and creativity. Mesut Ozil, Goetze and Marco Reus are incredible talents.
“They represent a new form of German football and a different generation of players. I grew up watching German teams being physically imposing and often winning simply with good organisation, fitness and willpower rather than finesse.
“But while the new type of football is certainly beautiful, it is only winning that matters and many in Germany are wondering whether the team is lacking a nasty, ruthless side that is sometimes necessary to win trophies.”
Klein remains a devoted Cologne fan but is resigned to not seeing them be a force for the time being. They actually won the Bundesliga in 1963/64 and 1977/78 and were runners-up in the old UEFA Cup – now Europa League – in 1986.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s Cologne were in fact one of Germany’s two outstanding sides with Bayern, but all that remains of their glory years is an incredibly supportive fanbase for a second tier side.
“Yes, it is FC Cologne for life, even if this pretty much ensures that my life as a football fan will be miserable,” laments Klein.
“Cologne is now languishing in the Second Division, but even there more than 40,000 fans attend the home matches, despite the less than stellar football.”
Klein sees the summer shake up of Europe’s top managers significantly shifting the dynamics of the Champions League.
“I fully expect Barcelona to make a strong comeback next season, no matter who the coach will be. Jose Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge and no doubt spending lots of money, should make Chelsea a favourite as well.
“For others teams – Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris St Germain, Manchester City – I’m afraid I cannot see how a new coach alone will improve their chances.”