Bayern Munich’s mauling of Arsenal did more than make the Bavarians bookies’ favourites to win the Champions League. It will also go a long way in helping the Bundesliga leapfrog the Premier League in the European rankings.
For Premier League-centric fans surprised to learn that England is not top dog in the UEFA co-efficient, here’s another shock: next year there is a real chance that the most moneyed league in the world will fall behind Germany.
Over the last four seasons, the Premier League has an average co-efficient of 15.833, just better than Germany’s 15.803. That means that German teams only have to do marginally better than the English this season to go second in the five-year rolling average (over the last four years, first placed Spain is well clear with 17.821).
Now that Bayern Munich, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund are well-positioned to make the champions League quarterfinals, and Arsenal are as good as out, that minor miracle is a real possibility.
A minor miracle because the accepted creed that money buys success is being overturned. In terms of revenues, the Premier League is streets ahead of the Bundesliga: Deloitte’s recent Annual Review of Football found the top tier in England rake in some £2.3 billion, compared to £1.4 billion pounds for Germany’s elite.
On the pitch, we are seeing a different story this season.
Bayern’s class-apart performance in North London this week has been well documented, but while Schalke’s 2-0 win on the same ground earlier this season got less attention, it was equally significant given the Gelsenkirchen club’s lowly Bundesliga position.
And don’t forget Borussia Dortmund gave Manchester City the run around for long periods in their 1-1 draw at the Etihad, before beating the English champions on home turf.
The danger is that the less-moneyed Bundesliga will be a victim of its own success and see its best stars head to England’s more lucrative shores. Arsenal’s beaten manager Arsene Wenger has already said that Germany has replaced France as the European country to find top talent at decent prices.
Indeed, Germany’s economic reputation as an exporter of quality products runs true too in football.
While the likes Shinji Kagawa, Edin Dzeko, Lukas Podolski, Lewis Holtby, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Gylfi Sigurdsson have swapped the Bundesliga for the Premier League, reverse trade has been noticeably thin (the Bundesliga has recently gained only the questionable talents of Hamburg duo Michael Mancienne and Jeffrey Bruma).
But this is a budget surplus Germany could well do without.
Now, the future of Dortmund’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, which is turning into a slow burning soap opera, will tell us much about the Bundesliga’s ability to compete with the Premier League’s buying power.
Germany’s über-motor mouth Lothar Matthaus lit the fuse last week when he insisted that the Polish striker, whose contract is up in the summer of 2014, has already agreed to join Bayern Munich. Manchester United are thought to be the striker’s most likely non-German destination (Alex Ferguson watched Lewandowski play at Manchester City in the Champions League) with Juventus also tracking the in-form attacker.
Legend Matthaus may have won more international caps than any other German but his comments sparked a furious reaction from his old nemesis, Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich’s President.
”I see Matthaus has become active again in recent months. Normally it is with women but now he is suddenly discussing new players at Bayern. It seems that he has changed his hunting field somewhat,” he said of Matthaus, who famously split from his fourth wife after meeting a Ukrainian model 26 years his junior at an Oktoberfest.
Borussia Dortmund count heavily on their only top-class striker, who has banged in 19 Bundesliga and Champions League goals this season.
But Lewandowski’s spell on the sidelines (he is current serving a three-game suspension) has only served to add to gossip about his future, with Manchester City’s Dzeko and in-form Hannover striker Mame Diouf, who himself had a spell at Manchester United, touted as replacements.
Hoeness looked to scotch rumours of a bid for Lewandowski, but his reasoning was fascinating.
”The main aspect for a transfer should be whether the player makes the team better or not. It is not in our interest to weaken other teams. We did things like that in the past, but now it only can be a side aspect.”
Quite an admission from Germany’s richest club, one that for years poached the best the Bundesliga could offer at times seemingly with the sole intention of weakening its opponents.
Neutrals hope Lewandowski stays in Dortmund, but if he leaves Bayern offer the only chance of him staying in Germany.
Could the ultra-competitive Hoeness finally be considering what is best for Bundesliga Inc.? Might he advise Lewandowski to stay put?
After Bayern’s superb display at Arsenal, there seems little for incoming coach Pep Guardiola to improve on at the Sabener Strasse. And Hoeness knows that, more than ever, what is good for the Bundesliga is good for Bayern.
Germany is capable of leapfrogging the Premier League and even La Liga in the next few seasons, but Bayern will need a helping hand from their old rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke to see their nation on top of the pile in Europe.
The Bundesliga is back LIVE on Friday with Freiburg v Frankfurt (20:30). Then catch Bayern v Bremen on Satruday (15:30) and Schalke against Dusseldorf (18:30). On Sunday, there’s Monchengladbach v Dortmund and Furth v Leverkusen. Coverage on Eurosport2 in North and East Europe.