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The Bundesliga doesn't have or need a 'Klassiker'




Bayern Munich's 5-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund on 4th October underlines not just the Bavarian's supremacy but the lack of wisdom in the promotion of "Der Klassiker".

This is the second time that Bayern have beaten their perceived championship rivals by 5-1 at home this season. However, the difference between the Dortmund win and that against Wolfsburg were like chalk and cheese.

Wolfsburg played well in the first half and were undone in a crazy 9 minutes of football at the start of the second from five goal Robert Lewandowski. Borussia in contrast were dreadful. Thomas Tuchel, in relegating, Ginter in favour of Lukasz Piszczek and recalling Bender as a makeshift centre half may have over thought his tactics. Dortmund fell foul of two long balls that you would expect a team of their calibre to defend and the goalkeeper had a 'mare.

That being said Bayern were and are excellent. Douglas Costa is a sensation down the flanks, Thiago is constantly reassuring, Müller is a force of nature and the team is masterminded by a coach who, unlike his less experienced opposite number usually gets it right for the big games. In my opinion, Bayern would have won the game even if Dortmund had been at their best.

It is difficult therefore not to arrive at the conclusion that Bayern are very much a class above the rest of the league. However, the tendency to overhype this particular fixture as a German classico, runs the risk of cheapening the Bundesliga as a whole by focussing too much attention on a single fixture when German football has so much more to offer.

A couple of hours before the Bayern v Dortmund game,  FC Köln provided a tactical masterclass in counterattacking football by beating Schalke away from home 3-0. It was a demonstration of the cleverness of their coach Peter Stöger and the tactical discipline of their players. Contrast this performance to a similar botched attempt by Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion against Crystal Palace the day before in the much vaunted Premier League.

The Bundesliga is brimming with talented youngsters such as Max Meyer, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Robin Knoche, Maxi Arnold, Julian Brandt, Julian Weigl and countless others. In spite of Bayern's dominance of the league, only five in the starting XI of Germany's World Cup winners were brought through the ranks by the Bavarians. Schalke, Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen and even Kaiserslautern provided the starting point for players in that team and although Mats Hummels was a youngster at Bayern, he made his name at Dortmund.

Most weeks the league throws up exciting, high scoring matches and continues to engage its fans as the high attendances will testify. While it does not make as much money as the English Premier League it is by no means a cash poor league and is very much in rude health. Which makes this attempt to manufacture a traditional classico along the lines of the Real Madrid v Barcelona game or the Derby d'Italia is unnecessary.

Down the years, Bayern have enjoyed a healthy rivalry with a number of different clubs beside Dortmund. Borussia Mönchengladbach, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen and Hamburg among others have challenged Bayern throughout the history of the Bundesliga. However, only Bayern have remained at the top since their emergence as a force in the 1970s. Consequently there has not been a consistent challenger from which a traditional rivalry and in turn a classico did develop.


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The Bayern v Dotmund 'Der Klassiker' seems to be a recent construct based in the fact that for two seasons at the start of the decade, Borussia were a match for Bayern. The term seems only to be embraced by the small but growing international German football media and the Bundesliga itself. There is no perceived history or tradition to the fixture and not much evidence of its use in the wider German football lexicon. 

And while this false narrative may help foreign media provide a focus for the Bundesliga in terms of publicising and promoting the league, there is a risk that the Bundesliga could be cheapened by focussing too much on just Bayern and Dortmund. It could also backfire as it becomes clear that most of the time the same team (Bayern) is likely to keep winning. Potential new fans could be put off by its one sidedness and be left with the impression that Bayern are the only decent team in Germany, rather than the reality which is that there are plenty of good teams in Germany of which Bayern is the best.

The Bundesliga is a strong, progressive league with a plethora of great clubs with histories both long and short. It is also the home of the World Champions. It should concentrate on these qualities and does not need to manufacture rivalries to be successful.

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