Bayern Munich is called Germany’s best football club, which is supported by the Bundesliga and European record books and manifested as well by its immense wealth.
But Bayern’s confident mia san mia (roughly translated as “we are who we are”) motto will receive a serious dent if it fails to lift the Champions League trophy after the first all-German final against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday at Wembley.
The record-breaking run to the Bundesliga title and a German Cup win on June 1 would mean next to nothing if Bayern falls against Dortmund, which beat it for the 2011 and 2012 league titles and clobbered it 5-2 in the German Cup final 12 months ago.
Bayern rather aims to come third time lucky after losing the 2010 and 2012 Champions League finals against Inter Milan and Chelsea, respectively, the latter in its home stadium on penalties.
Germany midfielder Thomas Muller said that “if you lose it three times, you’re marked as a loser, and I don’t want that,” but overall Bayern can be highly confident as it seeks the first triple in club history.
Outgoing coach Jupp Heynckes, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998, said that the trauma of the lost 2012 final has only made Bayern stronger.
“Mentally, we’re unbelievably stable. Nothing can throw us out of our stride. We have only one target, to win the big cup! Nothing can knock us off course,” the 68-year-old said. “My team is incredibly focused on success and programmed for it, to an extent I’ve never experienced in my career as a player and coach. Obviously, after the huge disappointment on our own ground, picking ourselves up and playing a season like this proves my players are special and made of the right stuff.”
The club and the team appear to have done everything right this season, starting with an off-field appointment at the top, with former Dortmund player and coach Matthias Sammer replacing Christian Nerlinger as sports director.
On the field, perfect summer signings include central defender Dante to defensive midfielder Javier Martinez.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has matured immensely as midfield boss, Franck Ribery has tormented the opposition on the left wing, Mario Mandzukic has taken over from Mario Gomez as free-scoring forward and Arjen Robben also appears to have become more of a team player as Bayern re-wrote the Bundesliga record books and thrashed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semfinals.
Heynckes already named the class of 2012-13 the best Munich team ever, putting it above the golden generation of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller and Uli Hoeness who duelled with Borussia Moenchengladbach for domestic supremacy in the 1970s and won the club’s first three of four Champions Cup/League trophies in a row between 1974 and 1976.
These wins, coupled with the 1972 Olympics in Munich which gave the team a large home stadium (until a 2005 move to the even better Allianz Arena) and Uli Hoeness’ move from winger to general manager in 1979, played a role in Munich’s big wealth. It had a turnover of more than €300 million last season. Bayern attracts the biggest sponsors and doesn’t even have to blink if it spends €40 million on Martinez and 37 on Mario Goetze.
Signing of Goetze
The signing of the Dortmund star Goetze — which adds further spice to the Wembley final — is the latest sign that Bayern doesn’t tolerate domestic rivals.
It enjoys a rivalry, but as long as it comes out on top, which it has so far with 23 German titles, 15 cups and six European trophies. Munich is among only four clubs (the others being Juventus Turin, Ajax Amsterdam and Chelsea) to have lifted all three European trophies: four Champions Cup/Leagues, the 1967 Cup Winners’ Cup and 1996 UEFA Cup.
But the last continental title dates back to the 2001 Champions League, and there are disasters like the 2012 final or that of 1999 when it crashed 2-1 against Manchester United from two injury-time goals. All this makes victory almost a must for the club led by Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, with Beckenbauer acting as honorary president and living legend.
Heynckes named the final open but is confident that his successor, ex-Barca helmsman Pep Guardiola, will be coaching a European champion. “It's never easy against Dortmund — but never easy against us either! Juventus discovered that, Barcelona — the best team in the world - discovered that, and Dortmund will discover it too ... I am confident we will bring the big cup back to Munich,” he said.
Or, in Muller’s words: “It is going to be spicy, and I like it spicy.”