European dreams show just how ripe Bundesliga is

Bundesliga teams have taken the Champions League by storm. Photo: Matt HardyNo you weren't dreaming. Germany's finest football clubs did indeed serve up two consecutive evenings of history as Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund convincingly saw off the marauding Real Madrid and the revolutionary Barcelona in their respective UEFA Champions League semi-finals. It's hard not to get caught up in the hysteria that now surrounds the Bundesliga but this is the deserved product of years of planning.

Germany's abysmal performance at Euro 2000 saw them finish bottom (notably below England) of Group A without a single win and only one goal (courtesy of Mehmet Scholl). The response from within the machine of German football was a sensible, long-term one and how they must be smiling now. The decisions made over a decade ago, most notably the 50+1 rule in the Bundesliga (one that ultimately prevents dominant ownership of clubs) and the requirement that each club set up their own academy (effectively flooding the talent pool), allowed the league and those in it to lay roots. It seems now, in the late sunshine of April, they are starting to bloom.

European recognition has finally brought more attention to the increasingly brighter light that is the Bundesliga. The much-documented low ticket prices, unique matchday experience and star quality of the top sides have simply sent the division into a spiral of popularity. Bayern's storming of the Champions League castle and Dortmund's romantic and scripted journey have added to the endearing nature of Germany's top flight as the division faces an extended period of success both on and off the field. There is no fear though that the Bundesliga bandwagon cannot take the extra weight.

A league that is currently enjoying its closest Europa League qualification race for the last 18 years, can boast five different winners since the turn of the millennium. As much as three of those clubs have struggled ever since their victories, the division has gone from strength to strength and looks set to do so ahead of what is expected to be a huge summer of change.

In the face of the news that their star player would be leaving them for their domestic rivals, the Borussia Dortmund fans displayed exemplary behaviour to Mario Götze on Wednesday night. Jürgen "Kloppo" Klopp evidently has a connection with the people of Dortmund, but it also highlighted the fans' recognition that even in the face of unexpected change, their support can help the club achieve something incredible. They did it when they were near extinction during 2005 and against Real Madrid they did it again with a result that sees them put a huge step towards a UEFA Champions League final.

Götze's soon-to-be new club achieved a similar, if not all the more seismic result the night before beating Barcelona by four clear goals. The combination of their incessant demolition of opponents along with the approaching summer arrivals of Götze and Guardiola, have much of Europe rightfully worried. Heynckes has seemingly made his Spanish successor's job harder but in all truth, Guardiola arrives knowing consistent European success is his target. This Bayern München side want to emulate the side of the 1970s. It's not about the records or just winning either. It's about doing the latter beautifully so as to break the former nonchalantly.

As much as Bayern's year has been all the more phenomenal, Dortmund's shouldn't be misinterpreted. In football, expectation fast becomes excessive and inaccurate. Second in the league and at worst a Champions League semi-final is a good year for Klopp and his team, particularly in competition with a resurgent Bayern. Heynckes couldn't have asked to be in a better position 12 months ago but he knows winning it separates a perfect end from just another season.

Next year the story may be the same but I'd like to think, considering both the importance of the next month and the seemingly unpredictable summer that lies ahead, it surely won't be. The fear of Bayern turning the Bundesliga into their own monopoly is a real one but there are real positives for the division that the likes of Götze, and potentially Lewandowski, will be staying in the Bundesliga.

Employing an old tactic and purchasing the talent that has prevented Bayern from succeeding in recent years is hardly revolutionary but shouldn't be criticised. Who are we to argue with the fact that a legitimately wealthy football club have decided to buy the best? Uli Hoeness' recent misdemeanours are his own private ones, not Bayern's. Managing business with sporting success and, after a period of slumber, reaping the rewards for it shouldn't take away from the impressive nature of their play. In a world driven by incomprehensible figures, mysterious financial backers and increased club-fan detachment, surely a team that has legitimately increased their financial stock shouldn't be lambasted for buying talent that is available? After all, Mario Götze's EUR37 million move was only made possible because the sum triggered a release clause in the player's contract.

Dortmund's squad is not one of heavy price tags. It is one kept together by the highest of technical ability and a deep bond. That much was evident when, after their 4-1 trouncing of Real Madrid, they sat down in front of their adoring fans and praised them in return. And as much as this week's Champions League matches have been special, this is something that happens on even the less memorable matchdays. This unity and friendship extends across the club and the Bundesliga as a whole, adding another reason to find solace in next season's campaign despite the apparent shortcomings.

Bayern will be questioned though, as is the norm. And in a strange way, there is a feeling that the recently-crowned Bundesliga champions wouldn't want it any other way. Funnily enough, as much as Klopp would have preferred Götze to stay, he too wouldn't want to change it for a moment. Heynckes' last hurrah (at least with Bayern) matches Klopp's carpe diem, making the Bundesliga's next chapter all the more alluring.


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