Mia san mia.
In a Bavarian dialect, the phrase adopted by FC Bayern München can be seen written in script above player name and number, as well as above the club name. It may be written quite small, but everyone knows that “We are who we are” is a big part of the FC Bayern football culture.
And who are they?
Mia san . . .
- German champions, back-to-back champions, at that.
- the earliest title-clinchers in the history of the Bundesliga (beating their own record from a season ago by one matchday).
- undefeated in the first 27 league matches of the season.
- unapologetically decimating the concept of domestic competition.
And the list could probably continue for a good long while.
Bayern has long been the biggest star in German football, but the current edition of the club is very special, even when viewed in context of one of Europe’s strongest traditions. Where Bayern was often a cut above their domestic competition, playing for higher stakes in loftier Europe-wide competition, the boys in red who rolled through every competition last season with relative ease is making those efforts appear absolutely Herculean compared to what they have on their chore list this season. In steamrolling their way to historical accomplishments, the Star of the South is actually playing among the heavens, graffiti-ing the story of football with blue-and-white checkered logos.
All the while, they know everyone else is giving them a bit of a stink-eye, even while congratulating and praising them.
They simply do not care, because, well. . . see above.
Back on planet Earth, specifically in Germany, 17 other clubs continue to scrap over the scraps. Not so much that European spots are “scraps,” per se, but the awareness that they’ve been long left behind is not a new realization for anyone in the Bundesliga. The title was clearly staying in Munich so early in the season, that there is new importance in who finishes second this season. It helps that the current front-runners are sworn enemies Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, but the sense is that the vice-champions will be the German champions of Germany, rather than the Martians who play a dominating game heretofore unseen anywhere else.
Slightly deeper down the table, you have a handful of clubs scuffling over the Champions League qualification spot at rung four and the two Europa League places. None of the clubs currently in the mix for those season-end prizes have been consistent of late, which has led to a bit of stagnation in the upper third of the table. Surprise clubs like FSV Mainz, FC Augsburg, and Hertha BSC have all struggled to maintain an earlier presence in the race, allowing stumbling sides like Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg, and Borussia Mönchengladbach maintain their tenuous stakes to their territory.
Meanwhile, the relegation field of battle is littered with traditional Bundesliga clubs. Hamburger SV has been threatening all season to make their first-ever drop from the Bundesliga, and two coaching changes has done little to alter that course. VfB Stuttgart is also on their third coach of the season and appropriately level on points with the HSV, with only Bundesliga newcomer Eintracht Braunschweig below them.
Europa League participant SC Freiburg, decimated by transfers last summer, is fighting to stay in the league, as is FC Nürnberg, another club long-accustomed to Bundesliga play. Even semi-recent powerhouse SV Werder Bremen is near enough the drop zone to be considered in-play for relegation.
Essentially, there is plenty of thrill remaining in the Bundesliga, but the real story is that everyone has been put on notice by the rise of the new juggernaut that is the current Bayern side.
Any club wanting to compete for the Bundesliga title in the near future needs to improve greatly.
Ideally, the end result of Bayern’s run will be the overall elevation of competition in the Bundesliga, which might help eliminate the slapstick exits from Europe as seen happen to Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 this year, which would also diminish some of the nonsensical assertions that the Bundesliga is a boring, one-club league.
Yes, despite Dortmund’s run to the finals last year and despite four German clubs getting out of Champions League groups, that discussion litters the internet daily.
Whether FIFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations actually achieve what they intend or not, FC Bayern cannot and will not maintain this margin over their German competition forever. The game has always been and always shall be, at least in part, cyclical. While other clubs look askance at Bayern, they ought to also be learning and stealing from them ideas that will help lift the entire league and be ready to strike when the opportunity appears.
The ball is round, after all.