As one of the world’s biggest clubs, Bayern Munich ought to have more Champions League trophies to their name than they do. It was 2013 when the German giants lifted the competition, against their Klassiker rivals, Borussia Dortmund. The last time they lifted the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge of Manchester United, which now seems an age ago.
Bayern Munich’s path to the final resulted in a 7-0 aggregate win against the late Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona. It was a result that propelled the Bavarian side to further heights while their final opponents, Borussia Dortmund, beat Spanish giants Real Madrid. Many thought that these two results would see the shift in German football but ultimately, Bayern Munich’s dominance in their domestic league is not healthy for the Bundesliga.
With six Bundesliga trophies in a row, it’s now imperative that Bayern Munich lift the Champions League. Otherwise, many – both journalists and fans – deem their campaign unsuccessful. Their dominance in their league is straight forward with the German powerhouse finishing 21 points ahead of second place Schalke last season. It’s now the norm for Bayern Munich to lift the Bundesliga while the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen are forced to play catch-up.
A poor start last season under Carlo Ancelotti resulted in the dismissal of the Italian tactician following a 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Jupp Heynckes – who guided Bayern Munich to their last Champions League win – was appointed for this third spell in charge.
At 72, no task was too big for Heynckes. Guiding Bayern Munich to a treble before Pep Guardiola took charge, the German was Bayern’s best bet at the Champions League trophy during 2017/18. Since their win in 2013, Bayern Munich had reached the semi-final one four occasions, a quarter-final the other. Last season saw Robert Lewandowski & Co. host Real Madrid, losing out 4-3 on aggregate.
Bayern Munich were rightfully hurting after narrowingly missing out on their first Champions League final since 2013. The Bundesliga club had the better of their Spanish counterparts but an error from Sven Ulreich – who deputised for the injured Manuel Neuer for much of the season – cost Bayern a place in the final.
With just a Bundesliga title to their name during the 2017/18 campaign, it was a poor showing on Bayern’s behalf. Lifting the Bundesliga simply isn’t enough for fans anymore. The Champions League trophy must be their aim if they want to be considered on the same level as Real Madrid.
And so, following the 2017/18 season, Heynckes’ contract came to an end and with Bayern missing out on first choices Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann, Bayern president Uli Hoeneß and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge opted for Eintracht Frankfurt head coach Niko Kovac.
The Croat had just beat Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final while Kovac knows what it means to be a part of Bayern, having played in midfield for the club between 2001-03. Hoeneß and Rummenigge wanted a German speaking coach and with former player Hasan Salihamidžić now sporting director, Bayern have got themselves a spine behind the team.
Kovac’s tenure at Bayern Munich has resulted in two wins in two Bundesliga games but it’s his performance in the Champions League that he will be assessed upon.
Drawn against SL Benfica, Ajax Amsterdam and AEK Athens, Bayern Munich have themselves a relatively easy path to the knockout stages in comparison to whom they could have drawn.
Therefore, Hoeneß and Rummenigge will certainly have their eyes on the end goal, while Colombia international James Rodriguez has his sights on the competition.
“The Champions League is a very difficult competition but a club like Bayern Munich must be looking to win it. No matter who the opponent is, we always have to play for victory. We always have to try to be successful,” said the 27-year-old who spoke at an Adidas event in Berlin.
And so, the mindset in Bavaria has been to win. Always. If things go well this season, they could be on the verge of European glory while they have the staff and players to reach such an achievement. For many of these players, it will be their first European trophy and it’s one that will cement them in Bayern history.
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