There aren't a lot of games left in the Bundesliga season, and Bayern Munich is in first place, closing in on the title. That seems to the be story nearly every recent season for the top club in Germany and one of the giants in the world of club soccer. Bayern Munich's name is synonymous with Bundesliga. No club has come close to Bayern's record 29 league titles. The next Bundesliga club with the most titles is Borussia Dortmund with eight. Bayern, in the meantime, is seeking its eighth straight crown.
So what has made Bayern the German giant feared across Europe and the favorite to win the league nearly every season, including this season with a four-point cushion over Dortmund? There are three factors outside of just playing well and having great coaches -- history, resources and smart business.
The golden years for the club began in 1965, right around the birth of the Bundesliga, with the club finishing in third place. Between proper scouting and top coaching, the club's ascension began with the likes of legend Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller leading the way for domestic and international success. Both would go on to become two of the very best players the world has ever seen, anchoring a team that quickly became a giant.
The club went on a run of winning title after title before some financial issues in the 1980s, with the recent revival beginning in 1998. That's when Bayern signed former Dortmund coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who helped shape the modern-day side. The German coach won five Bundesliga titles, a Champions League title, three German Cups and more as Bayern continued to be one of the top destination in the world for the biggest players.
With five Champions League titles to their name, no team in Germany comes close to their level of success, but to maintain it they've had to adapt to the times, especially financially.
2. Unlimited resources
Money runs the sport -- it's as simple as that. Think about the clubs with the most money and how it translates into sustained success. There is Bayern, Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Juventus and others.
When it comes to world soccer, Bayern Munich is the fourth-most valuable team in the world behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, ranking No. 17 overall in the world in any sport, per Forbes. No other German team is in the top 50.
The constant revenue from ticket sales, merchandise, prize money and more has helped sustain this club and allow them to spend money on some of the world's best players, though their model isn't the same as others.
Where other big clubs regularly splash the cash on established stars, Bayern's model is buying young. Transfers of about $50 million or more are common in this day and age, but look at how many transfers over that amount these clubs have made.
- Real Madrid (13)
- Manchester City (13)
- Manchester United (11)
- Barcelona (7)
- Bayern Munich (1)
Bayern's top 10 most expensive transfers of all time have an average age of 23 and include guys who are making or have made massive impacts like Manuel Neuer, Mario Gomez, Javi Martinez and more.
Now, it's not as simple as having money translates into success (see Manchester United for the last decade), but it's how you spend it.
3. Smart business
That spending of "moderate" amounts of money on players, relative to the other big clubs in Europe, has just been smart business time and time again. It's hard to point out to massive transfer fails from this club. Sure, some players haven't quite worked out, but it hasn't come with a $100 million price tag. The examples of smart business are endless.
The front office tends to go for low-risk, high-reward transfers time and time again. It's not often you see big clubs take on significant loan deals, but that's what Bayern has done to limit the risk. Instead of spending over $100 million each on James Rodriguez and Philippe Coutinho, they take both of them on loan without an obligation to buy. That way, if it doesn't work out, as has been the case, the player can return to their parent club and Bayern can cut ties.
Then there are the free transfers, signing a player whose contract is about to expire and not having to pay a transfer fee. They've done that quite often, poaching the best players from rival Dortmund. The club's legendary striker Robert Lewandowski didn't cost them a dime, and he's scored 230 goals in 275 games, good enough for second all time. The team poached Leon Goretzka for free from Schalke last year as well.
Then you factor in signing a budding star like Canadian Alphonso Davies from the Vancouver Whitecaps in a move that seemed a bit confusing at the time, but later you see how he's used at the club and continues to look like a real keeper after costing just $13.5 million. By most estimations, his value has already tripled.
Bayern's operation on the field and off is smart, low risk and effective. Building off of a rich history and modern domination, few clubs are as sustainable as Bayern, and few teams can match their success.
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