Before they were famous: Bayern Munich

One of Pep Guardiola’s last acts as manager of Bayern Munich was to lift the DFB Pokal trophy, it had already been announced that he was on his way to England and Manchester City but the delight on Guardiola’s face showed that he hadn’t checked out just yet. He was enjoying the occasion; he was, after all, a serial winner relishing his last trophy as manager of one of world’s biggest clubs. The league title had been wrapped up nearly two weeks earlier when the Bayern players raised the famous “salad bowl” trophy. This made it Guardiola’s second double of his Bayern tenure and marked a record breaking fourth consecutive Bundesliga title. Despite this unprecedented success there were some who felt the club should have won more; for some, only reaching three consecutive Champions League semi-finals meant they had fallen short. Under previous coach Jupp Heynckes they had enjoyed even greater success winning a treble of League, Cup and the European Cup.

Such is the dominance of the very elite clubs in various European Leagues it can feel that the league winners have been as good as decided before we even reach September. Perhaps this season will bring some surprises but in Italy, Juventus are heavy favourites to once again retain their title. Likewise, Paris Saint Germain in France and Bayern Munich in Germany. However, while Bayern’s dominance might seem preordained it was not always thus.

Formed in 1900 Bayern had enjoyed “early” successes, winning a couple of regional titles in the 1920’s before winning the last National title (1931-32) before the German sport system was taken over by the Third Reich. This maiden title for the club was contested in a knock-out format between the top two sides from each of the regional leagues and at the time, football in Germany was still technically an amateur sport. It would be over 35 years before the Bavarians would win another league title.

When the first Bundesliga season began in the late summer of 1963 Bayern Munich were not even among its member clubs. A decision had been made the year earlier to do away with regional leagues and to institute a proper, professional, national league and the winners of the Oberliga Sud (Bayern’s regional league), were their city neighbours TSV 1860 München. Although Bayern finished third that year which should have been enough to qualify them for the new national Bundesliga, the German FA did not want two teams from the same city represented so 1860 progressed at their neighbours’ expense.


TSV 1860 München had been founded as a sports club, not as their name suggests in 1860, but as a gymnastics club in 1848. Due to a political decree during tumultuous times they were disbanded but officially reformed in 1860 with their football division beginning a year before Bayern in 1899. The club enjoyed great popularity in their debut season in the Bundesliga, averaging a respectable average attendance of 34,000 at the Grünwalder Stadion which they shared with Bayern. In fact, they had been Bayern’s landlords there from 1925 until the Second World War when the stadium was bombed and badly damaged in 1944. During the debut Bundesliga season, they would win the German Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt and went on to contest the following year’s Cup Winner’s Cup final, losing 2-0 to West Ham.

Far from being one of Europe’s leading clubs Bayern at this stage were not even the biggest club in their city. They were eventually promoted to the top flight for the 1965-66 season and managed to win the German Cup that year while finishing a very respectable 3rd place in a league that was eventually won by their city rivals 1860. That Cup win was Bayern’s first major trophy in almost a decade. In the final they defeated Meidericher SV by 4 goals to 2, the fourth was scored by one of the club’s precocious young talents, a twenty-year-old by the name of Franz Beckenbauer.

Beckenbauer was not the only young star making waves for this upwardly mobile Bayern team. The club’s shrewd President Wilhelm Neudecker, a wealthy construction magnate had begun investing in the side to turn them from a regional yo-yo club into one that could deliver success. In 1963 the Croatian Zlatko “Čik” Čajkovski, who had starred as a player for Partizan Belgrade and Yugoslavia in the 40’s and 50’s, was brought in to coach the then second tier side. This represented something of a coup as Čajkovski had coached FC Köln to the title in 1962 yet here he was taking a step down to coach a side that hadn’t yet made the Bundesliga. But Bayern had some exceptional young talent coming through; Beckenbauer had joined as a youth in 1959 having stormed out of the youth ranks of 1860 after a row broke out during the final of an under-14’s tournament. A teenage keeper named Sepp Maier had made his debut the year before Cajkovski’s arrival and then in 1964 President Neudecker presented his new coach with his latest young prospect, an 18-year-old called Gerd Muller. To begin with Cajkovski was unimpressed, dismissing the somewhat tubby 5’9” striker with the following statement to his club President: “I’m not putting that little elephant in among my string of thoroughbreds”. The little elephant, however, knew where the goal was.


During the late 60’s and into the early 70’s Bayern either developed or signed from lower the leagues players of the calibre of Beckenbauer, Muller, Maier, Paul Breitner, Franz Roth, Uli Hoeneß and Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck. Not only would all of these players win multiple leagues, cups and European Cups but they would also help the West Germans defeat the great Dutch team in the World Cup final of 1974. They had hardly cost Bayern a penny in transfer fees.

After the success of their debut Bundesliga season Bayern had the added distraction of a first European campaign to deal with due to participation in the Cup Winners Cup. They managed to out-do the previous efforts of their neighbours 1860 by going on and winning the competition defeating Rangers in a tight final after extra time. The winner came in the 109th minute from 21-year-old midfielder Franz Roth who would develop a habit of getting crucial goals in major finals.

By the end of the 60’s Bayern were truly in the ascendancy, there were coaching changes with Cajkovski departing for Hannover and being replaced by Branko Zebec, his former Partizan and Yugoslavia teammate. Zebec had coached Dinamo Zagreb to victory in the Inter City Fairs Cup in 1966-67 and introduced a more structured defensive approach with Bayern. During Cajkovski’s last season in charge the club had scored an impressive 68 goals in 34 games but had conceded the worryingly high number of 58. In Zebec’s first season they scored 61 (30 coming from Muller) but conceded a miserly 31. They finished eight points clear of Alemannia Aachen to comfortably win the league title. They followed this up with a 2-1 Cup win over Schalke (two more goals from Muller) to win the first double in Bundesliga history. Zebec also made Beckenbauer captain that season and the young midfielder began experimenting with his distinctive sweeper type role with which he would become synonymous.

A three in a row run of league titles at the beginning of the 70s showed how this young group was maturing, they added to their ranks bringing in a young, attacking full-back named Paul Breitner, and in attack Uli Hoeneß, who would help shape the club on and off the pitch for the next five decades. But Europe was a learning curve for the young side. In the 1972-73 season, they were well beaten 5-2 on aggregate by eventual winners Ajax at the Quarter final stage. The following year they were almost eliminated in the first round by Swedish champions Åtvidaberg before narrowly beating East German champions Dynamo Dresden in the next stage. They met Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in Brussels in the final, which was forced to a replay after a nervy 1-1 draw. In the replay, however, Bayern showed a devastating competitive edge, hounding the Spaniards in possession, counter-attacking at pace with a frightening directness, with Muller and Hoeneß scoring two each.

Back at home in the Bundesliga, Bayern’s great rivals of the 1970s, Borussia Mönchengladbach, were the dominant team as Bayern struggled domestically, the demands of Europe taking their toll. In 74-75 when Bayern defeated Leeds in a controversy filled final the Bavarians finished a disappointing 10th. But midfielder Rainer Zobel described how, despite struggling to beat average Bundesliga sides, Bayern could raise their game in Europe. Leeds fans still feel aggrieved when the final of 1975 is mentioned, often highlighting the stunning Peter Lorimer strike that was disallowed as evidence of their bad luck. What is seldom mentioned is that Bayern lost two players to injury caused by rough tackles from Leeds players, defender Björn Andersson after two minutes and Uli Hoeneß just before half-time. Watching the footage back, an aging Leeds side had no answer to the stylish build-up to Roth’s goal in the 71st minute or when, ten minutes later, Müller got goal-side of his marker and scored at the near post from six yards out.


Having defeated first the champions of Spain and then the champions of England in their consecutive finals, Bayern then faced St. Etienne, the champions of France, and one of the finest sides in the history of the French League. Hampden Park was the venue in 1976, but there was to be no repeat of the 1960 final goal-fest. St. Etienne were unlucky with Bethanay hitting the cross-bar and Santini hitting the famous “square posts” of the Hampden goals. Bayern however, while not dominant, displayed the sort of mental toughness and doggedness that have become synonymous with German teams. Muller had a goal ruled out for offside, before Beckenbauer squared for Roth to score in his second consecutive final.

The bulk of these successes were won by a core group of players who had come through the club ranks as youngsters, however the club were not averse to splashing the cash when necessary; Jupp Kapellmann was brought in for a German transfer record from FC Köln in 1973, the same year the club snapped up Swedish international Conny Torstensson after he impressed against Bayern in the early rounds of the European Cup. Parallels with a modern Bayern can be seen with a locally developed core of players (Lahm, Thomas Muller, Alaba, and even a returning Mats Hummels) complemented by the best talent bought in from Germany and further afield.

Nowadays, Bayern are based in the ultra-modern Allianz arena which was initially shared and co-owed with neighbours 1860. However, in 2006 Bayern’s one-time landlords were forced to sell their share of the stadium rights to deal with their financial problems. While construction magnate Wilhelm Neudecker is long gone the Bayern boardroom is now filled with former players and blue-chip commercial partners; alongside Executive board members like Karl Heinz Rumminigge sit Triple A corporate representatives from Adidas, Audi and Allianz which helps explain the club’s rude financial health. The massive financial clout of Bayern and their ability to cherry-pick the best of their opponent’s players has meant that it is sometimes hard to envision a Bundesliga that was not the domain of the Bavarians, but thanks to strong support from an ambitious club president, excellent scouting networks, improvements in coaching and a once in a lifetime group of players Bayern went from the Second Division to European powerhouse within the course of a decade.

This post originally appeared on the Football Pink

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