MARTIN SAMUEL: Bayern Munich’s grip on the Bundesliga has ruined German football… each title they win is evidence of where protectionism leads and it’s a cautionary tale for the rest of Europe
- Bayern Munich are on course for their tenth successive Bundesliga title
- No league of any quality, of any value, is won 10 straight times by one team
- The new Bundesliga CEO is looking at artificial ways to create competition
- Bayern’s greed won’t stop them squeezing life out of their competitors
In the studio of Bayern Munich TV it was put to Hasan Salihamidzic that Villarreal was a very ‘manageable’ Champions League tie.
The host was smiling. The sporting director chuckled along. Such complacency is catching. Julian Nagelsmann, Bayern’s coach, also went into the quarter-final full of bravado. When Munich lost the first leg, he was brash.
‘We played a bad game and they played their best game,’ he announced, smugly. ‘This will not happen again.’
Bayern Munich’s arrogance and complacency cost them against Villarreal on Tuesday
But things happening again are actually the problem for Munich and German football. ‘What will the future hold for Bayern?’ one headline asked, after Villarreal resisted stoically for a 2-1 aggregate win. Yet we know exactly what the future holds.
Sometime very soon, Bayern will win the league again. And they will do it next year and probably the year after. For the foreseeable future it is hard to see beyond Bayern. This is going to be their 10th title in succession, an occurrence previously unimaginable. Until this run began, no team had ever won more than three straight titles.
No league of any quality, of any value, is won 10 times straight and if it is, there will be problems.
Bayern will grow soft on domestic success, if it hasn’t happened already. Yes, they won the Champions League as recently as 2020, but that was the year of Covid and the mini-tournament. It’s an asterisk year.
Munich were on course to play Manchester City in the semi-finals but City surprisingly lost a one-off quarter-final at a neutral venue to Lyon, who then had the better chances in another one-off game against Bayern but couldn’t finish and lost.
Julian Nagelsmann’s smugness was wiped off his face after seeing his side dumped out
Of course, Bayern might have won it anyway. They beat Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate and put eight past Barcelona that year, but we’ll never know. The last three times the competition has been played in its conventional format, Munich have exited in the quarter-finals twice and the last 16 once.
Indeed, the German Football Association is so worried about how mundane and predictable the Bundesliga has become that the league’s new CEO, Donata Hopfen, is looking at artificial ways to create competition. One idea has been the introduction of end-of-season play-offs.
Yet what major football league indulges those? If the plan flies, Germany would play 34 games to find out who is the best and then, having decided, play some more.
Ironically, the one club who welcomed the idea was Bayern Munich. They know they’ve ruined German football. Their wealth and power have created a boring competition that is hard to sell to audiences abroad and will slowly wither in importance over time.
Robert Lewandowski and Co routinely walk the league and are heading for No 10 in a row
Yet Bayern’s greed won’t stop them trying to squeeze the life out of their competitors. They would do the same in Europe if they could, with stricter financial controls to benefit the established elite.
That is why football must resist these power grabs at all costs. From historic places in the Champions League to the restructuring of broadcast revenues, it is a fresh battle every year. But it’s a battle that needs fighting.
Each year brings compelling evidence of where protectionism leads. Bayern, their 10 Bundesliga titles and their misplaced arrogance, are the end game. And then football is done.
Bayern are so dominant that the Bundesliga are looking for artificial ways to close the gap
TIME’S UP FOR FERNANDINHO AT CITY, AS PEP MUST KNOW
Fernandinho had an excellent game, coming on in the second half to calm matters against Atletico Madrid. At 36, he’s still got it.
Yet equally, at 36, he can’t utilise it as much as he used to. So there is probably no surprise that this is shaping up to be his final season at Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola claimed to have been blindsided by this revelation, but how?
In his first seven seasons, Fernandinho started between 25 and 33 Premier League games in each campaign. Last year that fell to 12. This season it is six. He may be captain, but it’s just a title now. He’s not got long left and wants to play. Guardiola of Brescia, Roma, Al-Ahil and Dorados must understand that, surely.
Fernandinho has given everything for Man City but there’s no surprise in him slowing down
SHIELS NEEDS TO TALK LESS AND THINK MORE
Northern Ireland Women’s boss Kenny Shiels said goals were scored in gluts in women’s football. That one brings two is hardly controversial in any level of the sport. Shiels then brought female emotion into it by way of explanation, which is a more subjective take.
Statistical analysis being commonplace, it is possible Shiels has seen numbers to support his argument. Yet there are plenty of alternative explanations, particularly with so many mismatches. Weak defending, caused in part by the absence of professionalism or high-level coaching. Fitness issues, with the same root cause. High scoring games, of which there are plenty.
It seems strange to think women footballers are more emotional than their male counterparts, particularly seeing some of the histrionics from the pitch, to the touchline and the crowd.
Equally, Shiels is widely considered to have done a good job with Northern Ireland’s women, and is popular with his players, who are supporting him against a predictable social media onslaught calling for his head. He must think more; but plenty need to emote less, too.
Northern Ireland women have defended under-fire boss Kenny Shiels despite his controversial comments claiming women are ‘more emotional than men’
Lise Klaveness, the bold leader of the Norwegian football federation who denounced FIFA and the Qatar World Cup on its own turf, knows her voice will struggle to get heard in the year ahead. Norway have failed to qualify, so her admirable stance on the 2022 tournament will lack exposure.
Her hope, she says, is that England and other major European nations will pick up the baton. Has she not heard of our Football Association’s famed memorandum agreement with their Qatari counterparts? Has she not seen which television company pours hundreds of millions into the coffers of the biggest European leagues?
Klaveness is a criminal lawyer, a judge and known for her forensic intelligence. Her naivety in this, then, is almost touching.
DODGY DERBY DEAL IS AN ALARMING GAMBLE
We are heading inevitably towards government regulation for football, so why not begin early? Instead of putting new owners under proper scrutiny only when ordered, surely more stringent investigation should be self-starting?
How, for instance, has Chris Kirchner ended up as preferred bidder for Derby when his deal would sell short unsecured creditors and trigger a 15-point deduction, almost certainly in League One? He would not buy the ground and the source of his income is as yet unknown. He says it comes from cryptocurrency — that most predictable of markets. Forget alarm bells, klaxons should be sounding here. Crawley are also concerned that new owners Wagmi United made their wealth in cryptocurrency.
Noticeable, too, that the Government ran a mile to distance itself from reports that all of the four parties bidding for Chelsea had already received their approval.
‘The Government does not want to pre-judge any decision Chelsea may make,’ said Baroness Penn, a Government adviser. ‘It is for the club to determine the process of the sale.’
Turns out this governance lark is harder than the Government thought. Bodes well.
American businessman Chris Kirchner (centre) is the preferred bidder to take over Derby but his deal would sell short unsecured creditors and trigger a 15 point deduction
EMERY WILL MAKE LIVERPOOL SWEAT
Villarreal’s free-kick offside trap that caught out seven Bayern Munich players in their Champions League quarter-final will not have been new to those who remember the old Wimbledon. It works like this.
First, invent a call, with a fictional name that cannot be confused for a genuine instruction. ‘Pick up Baz,’ was a Wimbledon favourite. That is the sign for everyone to step up, just at the point when the free-kick is a second from being taken and no one can change direction. Et voila! — as Dave Bassett didn’t used to say.
Two further points. It’s not just a sign of a good coach, which Unai Emery is, but of a group of players who respond well to instruction. Liverpool will be favourites when they meet, but Villarreal are a tough, smart side.
One look at the team sheet at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and it was obvious there would be trouble.
Fourth official: Felix Zwayer. This was the referee who completely failed to get to grips with Lyon’s play-acting and time-wasting at West Ham last week. So UEFA sent him to help officiate the most volatile club in the Champions League.
Zwayer spent most of the game cajoling Diego Simeone, who ignored him. Pep Guardiola did the right thing: won the match, kept his counsel, beat Atletico at their own game by organising his defence magnificently.
There probably isn’t a team in Europe who would have kept the clean sheet City did. But they got no protection from UEFA who continue to promote officials who are weak on foul play.
Felix Zwayer (right) was a strange choice as fourth official for Atletico Madrid vs Man City
Another stable door will slam shut on an empty stall at the weekend when a significantly enhanced security presence will greet visitors to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals.
This is due to the chaos and disruption at the European Championship final, which could have been forecast by anyone with eyes at the semi-final or the match with Germany.
When it was needed: nothing. Now: ring of steel. On the bright side, double the number of search dogs will be deployed, so maybe they can keep a lookout for anyone in command with a brain.
What a strange decision for Jesse Marsch to bad-mouth Marcelo Bielsa for working Leeds’ players too hard. That may well be the case but why say it? Bielsa did a wonderful job with Leeds, and Marsch inherited a Premier League club capable of playing brave, exciting football because of him.
It seems like a way of deflecting criticism if results go awry. Win, and Marsch is the bright spark who has turned it round; lose, and it’s Bielsa’s fault the players are coming to the end of the season exhausted. Here’s what Marsch should really be saying to Bielsa: thank you.
Jesse Marsch should be thanking Marcelo Bielsa rather than criticising the former Leeds boss
Interesting that it was a man, Peter Stanton, who withdrew his sponsorship from a women’s cycling event in protest at British Cycling’s suspension of their transgender policy. The Women’s CiCLE Classic in Melton Mowbray was in jeopardy without his £15,000.
Refreshing, then, that two women’s groups — Sex Matters and Fair Play for Women — swiftly stepped in to fill his place. This is the way forward. Your sport, you run it. The authorities have lost control of the issues around women’s cycling, and defiant independence is the start.
Mike Brown says Eddie Jones dropped him from England’s World Cup squad in an angry, sweary exchange. Jones pinned the decision on a fight Brown had with Ben Te’o at a training camp in Treviso. The full back also admitted feeling pushed out of the team that season despite previously being a regular.
So plainly Jones thought him a high-maintenance pest. Brown had been worth the trouble but, increasingly, was not. Jones then decided he was a problem he could do without. A pity, because Brown is a fine player — but in England’s run to the 2019 final it cannot be argued he was greatly missed.
Fighters fight, as they say in boxing. Equally, in tennis, players play.
Novak Djokovic’s lengthy absences from the game while dying on a hill marked anti-vaccination always had the potential to derail his game. Exiting the Monte-Carlo Masters after one match suggests trouble ahead.
Novak Djokovic suffered a defeat against Alejandro Davidovich in the Monte Carlo Masters
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