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FEATURE | The Bundesliga without Bayern Munich

Six league titles in a row have left non-Bayern Bundesliga fans and potentially even some Bayern fans bored of the yearly non-contest. Below the reigning champions, the German league is potentially the most competitive league in Europe which leads to the question, what would the Bundesliga landscape be without the Bavarian giants?

Bundesliga Season 2012/13

We start at the end of the 2012/13 season, Bayern Munich have won their first league title in two years by just the 25 points from Borussia Dortmund. In our scenario without Bayern we find Borussia Dortmund lifting their third title in as many years by just one point from second place Bayer Leverkusen. Or do we… Without Bayern each team plays just 32 matches in our 17 team league and so those teams that managed to pick up points against Bayern will lose those hard earned points.

In this season Bayern drew four games (to Dortmund twice, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Nürnberg) and lost once (to Bayer Leverkusen). So instead of winning the title by one point, Dortmund have beaten Bayer Leverkusen to it by two points after docking two and three points respectively. Gladbach losing a point has no bearing on the league positions but Nürnberg’s lost point drops them one place from 10th to 11th.

Freiburg qualify for the Champions League courtesy of their fourth placed finish as Frankfurt drew at home to Wolfsburg, failing to take advantage of Freiburg’s final day loss to Schalke. Hamburg qualify for the Europa League in sixth, while further down the table Greuther Fürth and Fortuna Düsseldorf still end up relegated with Hoffenheim facing the relegation play-off.

In Europe, Borussia Dortmund still make the final of the Champions League but now they face Barcelona rather than Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern Munich. Dortmund complete the upset beating Barcelona at Wembley to win their first European Cup since 1997.

Bundesliga Season 2013/14

Borussia Dortmund win their fourth league title in as many years leading many journalists and fans to argue the Bundesliga is boring and uncompetitive. Jürgen Klopp is now considered by many to be the best manager in the world. We see Wolfsburg qualify for the Champions League, a certain Kevin De Bruyne’s acquisition in January leading to a strong Ruckründe for Die Wölfe. Mainz pick up a Europa League spot along with now fifth placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. We see no other changes to the table – Bayern only dropped points in five games that season – meaning that Eintracht Braunschweig and Nürnberg are relegated with Hamburg facing a play-off.

After four in a row and with no Bayern Munich, Mario Götze stays put in Dortmund and as a result they don’t buy Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Götze still struggles with injuries, although doesn’t suffer the loss of form he experienced in Munich. While never being the same player he still contributes to Dortmund and looks likely to end his career with the club.

Dortmund do however sell Robert Lewandowski to Real Madrid, with one year left on his contract and the Polish striker looking for a new challenge Dortmund decide to cash in rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. As a replacement they look to England and buy Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea.

Bundesliga Season 2014/15

Borussia Dortmund enter the season as four-time defending champions, but a disastrous start sees them flirt with relegation right up until February when a mini-revival sees them pull clear of danger. With Dortmund out of the way the title is contested by Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach with Wolfsburg winning by four points. Gladbach still finish second, with Leverkusen in third. Our first big change sees Augsburg drop below Schalke on goal difference and so Schalke take the final Champions League place. Augsburg still finish in the Europa League places and Dortmund’s late ascent up the table sees them finish sixth and therefore qualify for Europe. Paderborn and Freiburg are still relegated, and Hamburg contest the relegation playoff for the second year in a row.

Wolfsburg’s second title in six years has them firmly considered as one of Germany’s best teams. Manchester City still enquire about De Bruyne and the Belgian’s head is turned but the lure of Champions League football and the possibility to defend the Bundesliga title means the Belgian stays put and signs a new contract with Wolfsburg. Ivan Perisic also turns down a move to Inter Milan and with the addition of Gladbach star Max Kruse, Wolfsburg are firm favourites to repeat next season.

Klopp will still leave Dortmund, despite four titles in five years the German manager is burnt out and needs a break. The stress of nearly seeing four-time champions relegated under his stewardship is too much. However, there is still no fairy-tale ending for Klopp as newly crowned champions Wolfsburg beat him in the DFB Pokal final to secure the league and cup double. Klopp will still go on to manager Liverpool in the coming years.

Schalke securing Champions League football and Wolfsburg keeping hold of De Bruyne means that Julian Draxler stays at his hometown club for at least one more season.

Bundesliga Season 2015/16

We see many changes in the top four this season. The title was never in doubt – under new manager Thomas Tuchel Dortmund reclaim the Bundesliga without being challenged proving that last season was merely a blip in their dominance. Wolfsburg with De Bruyne and Perisic still at the club and with the addition of Kruse will finish second. They never seriously challenged Dortmund but their struggles of the post-De Bruyne era are no longer there.

Bayer Leverkusen still finish third and Schalke claim the final Champions League spot. Draxler has a big season after proving his loyalty in the summer and Gladbach’s four points claimed from Bayern are wiped out, meaning they drop below the Gelsenkirchen club. Mainz also drop a place to seventh, meaning Hertha BSC claim the final Europa League spot.

Relegation stays the same – Hannover and Stuttgart go down and Eintracht Frankfurt have to contest a play-off.

Strong Euro 2016 performances from Wolfsburg’s De Bruyne and Perisic see them in high demand and with the Volkswagen emissions scandal hanging over the club and city, they let both depart. Perisic however will go to Manchester United under new manager Jose Mourinho and De Bruyne to PSG, after missing out on the Belgium last year Man City decide not to go back in for him.

Bundesliga Season 2016/17

The big story in Germany this season is newly promoted RB Leipzig, they do the unthinkable and win the title as a newly promoted club. The reaction is less favourable to say the least, with more and more protests against the club from rival fans as the season progresses. Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim and now 1. FC Köln finish in the Champions League places. Their win on the final day sees them leapfrog Hertha into fourth as the Berlin club lose to Bayer Leverksuen.

At the other end of the table, Ingolstadt and Darmstadt are relegated and Mainz contest the relegation play-off. Wolfsburg plummeted the table after their fire sale last summer but survive the ignominy of a playoff by just a point. Mainz beat Eintracht Braunschweig in the playoff to secure their Bundesliga future.

Schalke and Borussia Mönchengladbach both have poor seasons finishing in mid-table. Julian Draxler decides his time in Gelsenkirchen has come to an end and seeks a transfer, a poor season from the German international means his suitors are of a lower calibre than he might have hoped. In the end Tottenham Hotspur decide to take a flyer on him.

Thomas Tuchel will depart Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season. They had hoped to repeat as champions and the board are disappointed to lose out to Leipzig. Reports of various disagreements between Tuchel and the board are ultimately the deciding factor in Tuchel’s departure.

Hoffenheim keep hold of the trio of Sandro Wagner, Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle. They see enough in Sinsheim to convince them that Hoffenheim are close to going one step further and winning it all.

Bundesliga Season 2017/18

Schalke win their first ever Bundesliga title and their first league title since 1958. They play a defensive and a slightly boring style of football under new manager Dominic Tedesco, but the results speak for themselves and Tedesco is an instant legend in Gelsenkirchen.

Below Schalke, Hoffenheim finish second with Dortmund and now Leverkusen the other two clubs qualifying for the Champions League. Leipzig drop to sixth and so Stuttgart finish fifth after an incredible run of form sees them go from relegation danger to the Europa League in the space of just a few months. FC Köln still have their disastrous season and finish bottom; the clock runs out in Hamburg and they also go down. After surviving the relegation-playoff by the skin of their teeth last season Wolfsburg will play in it this year but beat Holstein Kiel to stay in the Bundesliga.

Schalke’s title win means that Leon Goretzka stays put, whether that is a good thing for him and Schalke is yet to be seen. A new era in the Bundesliga is dawning with Dortmund, Leipzig, Schalke and Hoffenheim seemingly the teams to beat. Wolfsburg’s three-year run is over, losing De Bruyne and Perisic proves too big of an obstacle to overcome.

Hoffenheim are placed brilliantly to make a run at the title next season. With Wagner, Süle and Rudy still at the club and Nagelsmann look set to stay long-term many predict they could be the next dynasty in Germany.

Summary

The Bundesliga without Bayern Munich would be a very different place. Many things cannot be predicted, but one this is for sure. We would have seen two or three different title winners at least over the last six years. Borussia Dortmund would have been dominant at the start of the six-year period but VfL Wolfsburg, RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 all would have had great chances to win titles.

Player movement is hard to predict with Bayern, who proved such a huge lure for many Bundesliga players, now out of the way. It’s likely that Dortmund would have kept hold of Götze, Lewandowski and Mats Hummels for longer, but with Bayern out of the way then clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona would surely have been more aggressive in their pursuit.

The biggest difference to the league without Bayern would be the extra time afforded to clubs to build a title worthy squad. Nowadays any player with promise is bought by Bayern almost as a formality. Hoffenheim would likely have kept their squad together, Dortmund the same. And of course, the title wins and additional Champions League finishes would have aided in those clubs efforts to build squads.

Clubs would also be more aggressive both in their pursuit of players and in their efforts to hold onto the stars they already have. Paying a little extra in a transfer fee or wage would be a small price to pay for an exponentially better chance at winning a title.

Players that Bayern bought – the likes of Thiago, James Rodriguez, Mehdi Benatia, Douglas Costa, Arturo Vidal and Joshua Kimmich would have all had to find other clubs to move to. What’s to say they wouldn’t have picked a Dortmund, Schalke or Wolfsburg at their height of their powers.

Without Bayern the Bundesliga would be massively more competitive but no necessarily better off. Bayern are a global super club and bring in massive viewership from abroad. Without them the Bundesliga could lose out on sponsorships, TV revenue and global recognition. The Bundesliga needs Bayern, just it needs them to be slightly less good.

By Thomas Pain.

 

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