On the face of it, the current situation in the Premier League and the Bundesliga aren’t that different. Both have a runaway leader with last season’s champions struggling to catch up and both have an extremely tight battle for European qualification. There is one thing that the Premier League couldn’t say about their set of fixtures over the weekend however, that their league leaders scored nine. While Manchester United were busy grinding out three points at Sunderland, Bayern Munich were busy knocking in goals for fun against Hamburg. What makes this even more impressive is that league leaders had chosen to field a considerably weaker side, ahead of their Champions League clash with Juventus. Given their 20 point lead in Germany and their impressive showing in Europe over the past couple of seasons, I am starting wonder whether Bayern really are the best in the world.
First and foremost let’s just take a look over what is a sensational squad packed full of experienced internationals and talented youngsters. In goal they have one of the best shot-stoppers in the world in Manuel Neuer and the fact they were able to sign him despite significant interest from Manchester United shows how far they’ve come in Europe over the past few years. Summer signing Dante has been in sublime form throughout the season and really has settled in well alongside Jerome Boateng. On the flanks they have a wonderful blend of experience and youth as club and national team captain Phillip Lahm patrols the right flank mercilessly and David Alaba continues to make great strides in his development on the left. Lahm is close to racking up 300 appearances in the Bundesliga and he could quite possibly become the first Bayern captain to ever preside over a treble.
Then we come to the midfielders and Bayern normally like to line with two holding midfielders and there are few better than Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger. A number of key men at Bayern have already admitted to paying over the odds for the former but few can argue it hasn’t been worth it. The Spaniard, already a star in the making at Bilbao, has come on leaps and bounds at Bayern and settled in remarkably quickly. Ahead of the defensive two Bayern have an array of attacking players to choose from but it is a home grown talent who is really hitting the headlines this year. 23-year-old Toni Kroos has had what some might call a breakthrough season this year. Last season he was in and around the first team, never really cementing his place in the starting XI but now he has announced himself as one of Bayern’s finest playmakers.
A wonderful range of passing, excellent composure and a fierce long shot mean he has quickly become a firm fans’ favourite at Bayern. On the flanks they can call upon the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, all lethal when in form and up front they have two of the best strikers in the Bundesliga. When Mario Mandzukic signed for Bayern, he didn’t expect to be thrust into the first team quite so quickly but injuries made it so and the Croatian has risen to every challenge with 15 goals in the league so far. His performances though have been matched if not bettered by the man he replaced since his return from injury. Mario Gomez, while not top of the scoring charts in Germany certainly knows how to find the net. His current minutes per goal ratio is on a different level in comparison to Mandzukic and Dortmund front man Robert Lewandowski.
Quite an array of talent for Jupp Heynckes to call upon but then it is a testimony to his talents as a manager that he was managed to keep the squad rotated and fit and got them all playing well. Assembling an all-star cast of players doesn’t automatically guarantee you the league and it is a credit to Bayern that they secured a manager with the ability to gel the players together. It is also a credit that they managed to secure such a lucrative replacement in Pep Guardiola. Everyone was linking the former Barca man’s name with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, but to pick Bayern really does demonstrate their standing in world football today.
With 22 titles Bayern Munich are easily Germany’s most successful team and with four Champions Leagues to their name only Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool have won Europe’s top title more often. While they may not have won in Europe since 2001 they came within seconds of winning last season’s competition when only Didier Drogba came in the way of them and a trophy on their own patch. Bayern were much the better side throughout the match and this year they will be determined to go one better. This will be Heynckes last chance to win it with Bayern and the players will be determined to give him the send-off he deserves. Bayern have the players, they have the manager and will have the manager next year, and they also have a fantastic stadium in the Allianz-Arena. All they really need to do now to really label themselves as the best in the world is to keep doing what they’re doing and really establish their dominance.