|Bayern Vs Dortmund|
Ten years in the making
Knocked out in the group stage, without a single win or goal, this was rock bottom for Die Mannschaft.
Something had to be done.
From Fritz Walter’s 1954 heroes to Franz Beckenbauer’s seventies powerhouse to Lothar Matthaus’s 1990 World Cup’ winners, victory had been synonymous with
However, somewhere amid the jubilation – which included the unification of West and
the ever-efficient Germans had missed a step. For once there was no contingency
for the future – no progression from Lothar Matthaus, Jurgen Klinsmann and
Matthias Sammer’s golden era. East Germany
So, here it was. Domination over.
Signs of decline had been evident at the 1998 World Cup in
veteran champions were eventually overrun by a younger and quicker Croatian
team in the quarterfinals. Germany
Reaching the 2002 World Cup final only served to paper over the cracks. In truth, it was a limited German side, inspired beyond recognition by the heroic performances of Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn’s immense keeping.
On the club scene the story was similar with Bayern Munich’s triumphs at the turn of the century – crowned by Champions League glory in 2001 – representing the last kicks of a dying horse.
In the years that followed, German influence on the Champions League waned, and after Bayer Leverkusen reached the final in 2002, no German club reached the last four for the next five seasons.
So, here it was: Euro 2004, a crossroads.
Thanks to this disastrous first-round exit minds would finally be concentrated on the task of turning things around – of returning
to the mountain top. Germany
The road back – 2004 to 2013
Jurgen Klinsmann was, in many ways, the perfect messiah for
; even if he wasn’t the
first choice (both Ottmar Hitzfeld and Otto Rehhagel turned the job down; an
indication, perhaps, of how dire things were). Germany
When Klinsmann took over as national team coach in 2004 he provided invaluable impetus to a regeneration process that had begun in 2001.
Klinsmann’s main goal was to give German football an identity. He focused on imparting a particular style of play and building on the academy program initiated by the German Football Association (DFB) in 2001.
Following Germany’s Euro 2000 disappointment the German FA had instructed all Bundesliga clubs to set up youth academies – with state of the facilities and teams from Under-12 to Under-23s – as a condition of their license.
The following year this was extended to all Bundesliga II clubs as well.
These academies were not merely to be the property of clubs but would be overseen by an academies committee, made up of representatives from the German FA, German Football League and Bundesliga clubs.
In 2002, before the changes kicked in, 60 percent of players in the Bundesliga were foreign. Today the number is reversed.
These wholesale changes to the system still had fervent sceptics. Change is never easy or readily accepted and it’s fair to say that although foundations were being set, no real unified progress was being made.
“When Jogi (Loew) and I took over the German side, we made our plans very public and made it clear that we were trying to rebuild from the bottom up,” Klinsmann said in 2010. “The German Football Association helped us by putting a lot of pressure on all the first and second division teams in the Bundesliga to build academy programmes and ensure talented young players were coming through.”
What began to emerge was a blueprint for the style of play that would be used by all national teams in
and what came about was a new, vibrant football ethos. Germany
Now, Klinsmann wanted a radical change.
“We eventually decided to go down an attack-minded route, passing the ball on the ground from the back to the front line as quickly as possible using dynamic football,” Klinsmann says. “It was our intention to play a fast-paced game, an attacking game and a proactive game.”
The by-product was the 2006 World Cup which changed the way the world viewed
also the way Germans viewed their football. Germany
The fast-paced, attacking game Klinsmann advocated was the way to go and so came part two of the process for
Complete football development is a positive loop. Culture is built at the grassroots and is reaffirmed at senior level. A nation may have the finest youth system but if the national side does not promote the same identity, the process is defeated. Similarly, a senior team may espouse a certain style – and even achieve success – but if this is not backed up at the grassroots success will not last.
The focus on academies and a national playing style has translated into
eye-catching transformation and is epitomised by two club teams in Bayern
Munich and Borussia Dortmund that play a furiously fast-paced, attacking game. Germany
This is the way the German Bundesliga is today – rapid, offensive and entertaining.
Mostly importantly, this revolution is spearheaded by German talent, players brought up in the system.
|On the up|
Mario Gotze, one of Germany's rising stars
How quickly German football has managed to remodel itself is one of the great wonders of the world, but perhaps it’s just an example of German efficiency.
As has been well-documented, just seven years ago Borussia Dortmund were on the brink of bankruptcy and needed a €2 million loan from Bayern Munich to help cover its payroll.
Two factors have been fundamental.
One is the appointment of Jurgen Klopp as manager in May 2008. His fiery, passionate attitude has galvanised the club and his tactical nous has brought on-field successes.
The second is a shift towards youth that was necessitated by their financial troubles (which had partly been brought about by overpaid, foreign stars).
Players such as Gotze, Reus, Marcel Schmelzer, Shinji Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lucas Barrios have either come from Dortmund’s academy or have been bought at low cost.
This transformation of
based on youth promotion, probably best illustrates German football’s amazing
Bayern, on the other hand, has always been a superpower capable of buying the best talent. For example, Bayern’s financial might has allowed the club to spend more than €200 million over the past four seasons to sign global superstars such as Javi Martinez, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben.
Nevertheless, Bayern is emerging from a slump – from 2003 to 2009 – during which they were unable to keep up with the might of English teams,
technique or ’s
tactical nous. Italy
Bayern were a non-factor in the business end of the Champions League.
It’s only in the past four seasons that Bayern have re-established themselves as a genuine superpower of the European game, reaching three Champions League finals in that period.
The beginning of German domination?
To say this is the beginning of German domination is premature. But clearly
and here to stay. Germany
What football has frequently taught is dominance goes in cycles. Not so long ago there seemed no end to the dominance of English clubs.
Spain’s duopoly of and Real Madrid has, at times, also
seemed unbeatable – going hand in hand with the Spanish national team’s
international dominance over the past six years. Barcelona
The strength of English Premier League remains significant, especially financially. The English Premiership has a new bumper television deal coming into effect next season that will increase income even more.
Nonetheless, what sets
model apart is its sustainability and the rules in place to safeguard the
vitality of the game. Germany
One such rule is the 50+1 Rule which prevents wealthy investors from buying a club with short-term gain in mind. Each German Bundesliga club – apart from Bayer Leverkusen and
, who are owned by Bayer and
Volkswagen respectively – is 51 percent owned by its supporters. Wolfsburg
This measure is intended to stop clubs from falling into massive debt if their wealthy owners leave, such as what happened to
. The rule also encourages clubs to
spend within their means and not to be dependent on cash from wealthy owners. Portsmouth
In addition, the Bundesliga is governed by strict financial rules. Each club is required to present accounts to prove they will at least break-even for the coming season. In the transfer market, meanwhile, buy low and sell high is the motif for most German clubs.
As a result of this academy program, 60 percent of the players playing in the Bundesliga are German, with more than half educated through the academy system.
Things are looking up from all angles; the Bundesliga is now the best supported football league in the world with an average attendance of 45,134 fans per match and Die Mannschaft is again a perennial contender at international champions. And this marvellous rise is crowned by the first time two German teams have contested a Champions League final – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Whether this heralds an era of domination only time will tell, but this is
’s time in
the limelight; and it has been ten years in the making. Germany