To be perfectly truthful, dear readers, when I read the first reports about Bayern acquiring Mario Götze from Borussia Dortmund, I thought they were just more rumours. Then I saw that Sky was reporting it. Then Bild was reporting it. Then the Counter-Attack Footy Blog reported it. And Fox Soccer reported it. I started to realize maybe this wasn’t just a bit of hot air being spouted about Bayern before a big match.
Mario Götze HAS AGREED to the deal. The release clause is as good as paid. This IS the “Young German Talent” that they have been alluding to all year that objective, rational and realistic football fans like Your Humble Narrator would never have believed because it was just too good to be true. Dortmund fans feared this move in the darkest part of their loyal hearts. Bayern fans wouldn’t even dream of it, because the sugar was just too sweet to tease yourself with.
It’s true. Mario Götze is coming to Bayern and was the number one acquisition that Pep Guardiola had on his “Short list” that he shared with Bayern’s brain trust back in the winter. Sure, there are bit pieces they want to add here and there. There was an “If not Götze, then…” list in case negotiations went south. But, much as Manuel Neuer was the long sought after piece acquired what seems so long ago, Dear Readers, Mario Götze becomes the latest in a long line of great talents that Bayern has lured into their stable with the promise of silverware, national team selections and championships galore.
To be perfectly honest with you, when this news broke I was completely blind-sided. I could not and would not believe it. There was a HUGE Champions League game the next day. Surely, this was some media ploy to throw Bayern off their game before the big match against Barca? To my colleague and staunch BVB Supporter Jon Eden, I commented that this must surely be some foul conspiracy by La Liga to throw a monkey wrench in the German quest for Champions League silver.
Apparently, I was mistaken. To Jon, and all the loyal BVB supporters, I extend my deepest sympathies. As a fan, there is nothing more crushing than to see your favorite player lured away to a rival. We shall still stand beside you and offer our support in the hopes of meeting you in the Champions League final. Even though you pose a bigger threat to us than Real do. there is only honour in defeating a worthy opponents, and Dortmund are one of the best and well-coached squads in the Bundesliga.
Now, Keep in mind, BVB fans, it could be worse. We haven’t stolen Reus, and we haven’t stolen Lewandowski YET. I’m sure we’ll try to steal Hummels back, but don’t think that we don’t remember that he is a Bayern Youth Product! We know who made Mats Hummels a great player. It’s up to him to decide when it’s time to come back to Munich and atone for his impatience, not us. We’re paying top dollar for the man we are buying, and though, yes, it makes us disgustingly good and yes, we don’t really need the player, there WAS a rumour that Toni Kroos would go back the other way to be the #10 for Dortmund. Give him a call!
Also, you’ve got to keep in mind that three years from now, when Pep Guardiola is gone, don’t think we won’t offer to make Jürgen Klopp the richest coach in the history of Club Football, but I think it would be best for all of us if Herr Klopp took a tour at the helm of the German National Squad before he “retired” to Bayern for a few seasons. Bayern are many great things, intelligent and patient being among them. They want the best coach in Germany, but since they know they can’t have him now, they have the most under-rated coach in Europe coaching the squad NOW and the best coach in Europe coaching the squad in July. It’s only a matter of time before Jürgen Klopp becomes the best coach in Europe, and that’s when we will make him ours.
And dn’t think, Dear readers, that after winning a treble, Jupp Heynckes won’t say “I’m not done yet” and go back to Leverkusen or perhaps even be convinced to join Schalke 04, the Royal Blues, because he still has some football left in him. Or, is Jupp Heynckes willing to go over to England to work for Roman Abramovich? Will another Bundesliga squad take him on? Werder Bremen could sure use him!
Or, does Jupp want to stay on with Bayern as a trainer and remain a Bayern man, as so many before him have? You could have no better, dear readers, on a sunny day drilling your prospects on the finer details of the game to ensure they have all the tools required to execute in the big game. Nor could you blame him for plying his trade elsewhere to keep sharp.
So, all that aside, when it finally sunk in that this wasn’t speculation and this was actually going to happen, I was terrified as to what this would do to the team’s chemistry. All week long and in truth, all Champions League campaign long, dear readers, alarmingly frequently, the most die-hard and the most staunch of Bayern fans have come to me in the privacy of FB messaging and brought to me their concerns and their fears regarding the team’s performance.
First, towards Juventus. Then, with regards to Barcelona. My answers have been the same. Have faith, brothers. BELIEVE! Bayern have us. And we have them. They have the best fans, and we have the best team. They will make it happen, and we will cheer. Just believe, brothers. Just believe. After hearing this news, I confess. I lost the faith.
I dreaded the truth of it all when, afraid to check the score as I commuted home. When I got home and turned my TV on, my PVR had gone into “Sleep mode”. I couldn’t see the score. The announcers sounded calm and resigned, but seemed to be speaking about class. The fans didn’t sound overly loud. I was confused, and feared the worst. As the picture on my small TV came into focus and I, without my spectacles nor my contact lenses to aid my myopic vision, thought I saw a 0 – 0 score.
The commentators, however, seemed to be speaking mournfully about Barcelona. Could it be? How much time is left? Is that a four? I put my glasses on. 85th minute.
Bayern 4 – 0 Barcelona.
The goal list came on the screen and I was suddenly uplifted. Thomas Müller scored one early, one late. Gomez and Robben had one each in between. Well imagine that! MAYBE, just MAYBE, this Götze news is the final piece to the German core that will be at the center of FC Bayern next year.
Let’s face it. This team is a who’s who of German Talent with some of the best internationals in the world on the side. Götze, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Müller, Gomez, Kroos, Boateng, Neuer. You have the young and now the “Prime of their career” aged players of the national squad, even with Götze’s name on the list. You have Holger Badstuber injured, not that it even matters the way Dante has played.
You have international lynch pins for their respective countries like Ribéry, Robben, Shaqiri, Pizarro, Javi Martinez, Dante and Luiz Gustavo. All are stand-out talents in their respective national squads. Not only can these players start and make a difference for the squad, but more importantly, they have come to embrace the rotational system and have the dedication to stay focused and fit even when they don’t start on the pitch.
I have seen it at work, dear readers. I know. If you have never had a chance to see Jupp Heynckes in action then you don’t know what a real coach is. Sixty-six years old or so at the time, in the blazing heat of a beautiful Munich day. Diego Contento, David Alaba (then still a sub for FC Bayern), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Max Riedmüller, Emre Can and some youth team players that I could not recognize.
The drill they were conducting was simple. The starting eleven had long since left the pitch, but the substitutes who wanted time stayed, and there was Meister Jupp, in a white T Shirt with his hands behind his back, eyes narrowed with the sun at his back watching the motions and calling the plays.
“scheiss, Scheiss. SCHEISS! DAS IST SCHEISSE PASSE!” he exclaimed, speaking to the shadows of the constantly churning drill. The drill was a simple, triangle of cones of players making a run and first touch pass to the next in the cycle, passing the ball in a “triangle” of ever churning prospective starters. Alaba and Tymoshchuk both have 100% to every pass they approached.
The efficiency of the passing improved, as Meister Jupp’s disapproval instigated an immediate increase in attention to the execution of the drill rather than trying to impress the coach or the fans. He didn’t speak, he just nodded, before saying “Gut. Gut. Gut.”
This is what makes Jupp Heynckes the most under-rated coach in Europe. This is why Bayer Leverkusen were one of the most dangerous teams in the Bundesliga until he came to FC Bayern. This is why Bayern are the beast they are now. The devil is in the details. And Jupp Heynckes is a man who makes sure his players pay attention to the details. The ones who don’t don’t play. The players are accountable for their execution of the fundamentals of the game.
And if you look empirically at the CHANGES in the style of play of all the players on FC Bayern, you will notice FUNDAMENTAL improvements on known flaws of various players that show a masterful ability by Heynckes to convince nefariously difficult and stubborn players to adapt to an unselfish system of play that leads to success.
In NO PLAYER is this more evident than in Arjen Robben. Rewind to about a year or so ago, Dear Readers. Bayern and Dortmund are duking it out in the DFB Pokal. Arjen Robben is set to take an all important penalty. He kicks, predictably, low and to the keeper’s left. Weidenfeller saves. Bayern lose. Robben holds his head dejected.
Fast forward. Arjen Robben, rather than asking for a ball in the area, makes an incising run and finds a ball at his feet from the numerous providers on the team. Robben, using his astonishing acceleration, charges forward and creates a margin of space. He lines up his foot. Arjen Robben, PASSES THE BALL square, across the face of goal.
Arjen Robben PASSES THE BALL, places a ball square into the box and Bayern score.
As a die-hard Bayern fan with the utmost respect for Arjen Robben, this would not happen as frequently as it does now 12 months ago.
Somewhere along the line, Jupp Heynckes has managed to convince Arjen Robben that unselfish, team play in the only way to find success and be at his best when he plays. The difference in Robben’s performances have been huge as a result. You do not need to read this in headlines, dear readers. Watch the game. Robben has absorbed more of the Franck Ribéry / Mirsolav Klose approach to attacking football.
From a tactical level, it’s quite simple dear readers. If the opposition KNOWS you are going to shoot, or KNOWS you are going to pass, then they can make an educated guess as to your movements and in guessing right negate your attack.
Football is chess on grass. If you are predictable, you will lose to the best.
You must be fit, but you must be sharp, but most importantly, you must be sharp. Bayern have accumulated some VERY crafty players. Heynckes is a crafty coach. He’s no fool, and he makes sure his players have the tools necessary to execute against any approach, any style of play.
When Arjen Robben, a known sniper, passes the ball, he turns a possible goal for himself into an almost guaranteed goal for his teammate. When he masters this craft, he creates an indefensible weapon out of himself. With his speed and his acceleration, if he can deliver cutting balls across the face of goal, he can be one of the best chance-creators in world football, and along with many of his colleagues, he has done just that.
Even if, in these scenarios, that teammate misses that goal, his 80% chance is better than your 45% chance, and you have to play the numbers if you want to beat the best teams. Not only that, but the passing game establishes a faith and belief in the rest of your team to play for one another and make the most of their opportunities. The more you share the glory, the more glory their is to share. In making this simple change, not only does Robben become a much more dangerous player, but he becomes a better teammate, and everyone at Bayern becomes more dangerous in front of goal. And Bayern become Champions.
Robben is not the only play to thrive under Heynckes. The development of David Alaba has been a revelation for Bayern. On a symbolic level, the partnership between Alaba and Ribéry is the perfect symbol for the beauty of football culture in the 21st century as compared to our Global society. One is a Muslim, one is a Christian. One is black, one is white. One is French, one is Austrian. One is handsome, the other marred by injury. One is an established star, the other is a young up and comer with a briiliant career still in it’s infancy.
Two players, so very different, but two players, so very the same. Both men of faith with strong motivation. Both players who love the game and want to establish themselves as dominant players in it. Both creative and fit, blessed with vision, footwork and pace. Equal opposites perhaps, but two players who found a perfect kinship that has helped them both play with a poise, confidence and synergy that makes them half of the most dangerous wings in European club football.
Arjen Robben and Philip Lahm man the other flank, with Xherdan Shaqiri, the left-footed tank who could put Gerd Müller to shame with his balance, ready to sub in on either side OR in the middle. With Toni Kroos injured, you only have to worry about Thomas Müller behind the striker, running into every channel he can find to knock in balls with either foot, or his head, to the man or the the net, from any part of the penalty area.
With Thomas that much closer to goal, the chances of him scoring and creating goals greatly increases. Thomas Müller is a kid in a candy store behind the striker. Kroos’ injury becomes a blessing in that respect, as it becomes his default position on the squad on match day for the big game. With Ribéry and Robben on either flank, Schweini behind you and Lahm and Alaba on your flanks, you have little to worry about regarding service in the middle.
In the Barca game, Müller found the form he had in the World Cup campaign, where he was denied the match against Spain, mulitplied by the co-efficient of all the football knowledge, experience, and practice he has put in since then. Showcasing both passing and scoring from headers, volleys and strikes, Müller has shown anyone who understands football that he understands the game as well as any player out there, Lovely Lionel included.
You can’t say this is a changing of the guard, because there is a mass of soccer knowledge behind Bayern right now as nearly every player in the squad understands the game intimately, but there is a desire to prove to the world that they will not be defeated. The performance at the Allianz sent a message. The performance at the Camp Nou will be the exclamation mark.
Much like the match against Argentina wherein the Germans dominated and won 4 – 1, FC Bayern isolated Lionel Messi, took him off of his game and never gave him the time of day. In short, tehy played the Borussia Dortmund style of football on Lionel Messi, and they broke him. Now then, Dear Readers, let’s take a look at the OTHER score in the Champions League tie.
OH HO! Look at that. Sie Germans win again. This time Borussia Dortmund, with the return of the prodigal son, Nuri Sahin, take on Real Madrid and educate them to the tune of 4 – 1. The only goal was conceded by Mats Hummels, who may be bothered by the fact that he is plagued with the desire to return to Die Bayern, whom he left when not given opportunity to start behind players such as Brazil’s Lucio and Martin Demichellis, now of Malaga.
The dream final for all German Football fans is one step closer to becoming a reality. The most telling sign of today’s match between Klopp and Mourinho’s side was how Jose Mourinho, the self-appointed “Chosen One” walked away in shame from the man who will one day head the German National Team after a thorough rout at the Westfalenstadion.
To all the non-believers, it’s about time you caught on to the reality. The Bundesliga is one of the most exciting leagues in the world, with the best stadiums, the best players, the best clubs and the best fans. Watching anything other than German footy is just doing a disservice to yourself. Sure, I pay attention to the scores in the other leagues, but nothing beats the Bundesliga.
The Champions League results are the PROOF that there is nothing better than German Football. And what most people just FAIL to understand is that Leverkusen, Freiburg, Schalke and Hannover can all frustrate and shut down both of these teams on any given weekend in the Bundesliga. And yet, every weekend, between matches on GOLTV, I watch replays of a drudgerous Norwich vs Everton match that pales in comparison to Frankfurt vs. Mainz. Or Nürnberg vs Augsburg in the Bavarian derby.
You see, Dear Readers, what makes the Bundesliga beautiful is that, even though we have the most passionate, storied and legendary rivalries in our league, we also have a strong culture of respect. Many fans who have grown tired of the racism or violence in their own football cultures seem to have been drawn to the economical and fan-friendly approach the Bundesliga has adopted.
Great teams, great fans, great service and affordability which leads to packed houses in top-notch stadiums to create record revenues and develop top notch talent in an extensive youth system that, thanks to the contributions of Jürgen Klinsmann in what seems to be so long ago, secured the future of German Football for ages to come.
And whether Bayern or Dortmund win at Wembley in the Champions League Final, the great victory comes in knowing that the message we have been sending in this blog for the past 3 or 4 years, dear readers, is finally being broadcast to the world. The Germans know how to play football better than anyone else in the world. And when the Champions League final comes around, dear readers, regardless of which one of us wins, the bottom line will be that the Germans did it better than anyone else did. All season long.
Ein Leben Lange
Rot und Weis?
Schwarz und Gelb?
One way or the other, we’ve shown the world that we are the best football system in Europe. It’s about time the rest of you woke up and smelled the coffee and showed a little respect for “that other league” that you all seem to be too stubborn to pay attention to. You just might find out it’s a lot more exciting that the football you’re used to. And even though Dortmund fans might feel hard done by with the latest news, you really never know who you;’re going to buy with all that money you’re going to get, now do you?
You have the coolest coach in the world. Remember that. It serves you well, for now.
Though I can understand, Dear Readers, that to claim that one league is better than another is a fool’s debate, as there are so many variables and discrepancies of taste you cannot definitely make such claims or exaggerations without expectation of disagreement and discord. However, you must admit that the performance of Dortmund and Bayern in the past 5 years or so have made the European Football Culture take a good, long look at Germany and say “They really are on to something over there, now aren’t they.”
Their reach has come far enough to have captured the heart of Your Humble Narrator, all the way over in Canada. Surely, they are close to proving to the world that they are a force to be reckoned with rather than just a passing fad. Welcome to the future. Welcome to German Football.