Crushed. Obliterated. Decimated. There were so many superlatives that came to mind as Sheikh Mansour’s millions of petrodollars seemed to evaporate in front of his very eyes Wednesday night on the home field of Etihad Stadium.
On the pitch, his expensive assortment of foreign players crumbled right in front of the Manchester City supporters. Bayern schooled the Citizens in emphatic fashion. City’s expensively assembled squad were left chasing shadows as die Roten ran circles and reduced City’s midfield to pieces with their vicious off-the-ball pressing game high up the pitch. For 80 minutes, the Bavarians played what was a near perfect display of total football. A philosophy of flawless ball retention combined with a ferocious pressing game triumphed over what was nothing more than a rather static assembly of stars signed by City’s Abu Dhabi benefactors. Bayern’s triumph showcased the victory of club ethos over extravagance. The game was a victory not just for Bayern but one for the football purists as well.
But on second thought, are Bayern really a team for the purists? A few Bayern detractors and casual observers of the game oppose this view. Many believe that the Bavarians hold some sort of a monopoly over the Bundesliga; the Big Bad Bayern who are able to sign any player from their nearest domestic rivals at their will. This illusion was largely created by the intense English media scrutiny surrounding Mario Gotze’s controversial transfer to Bayern Munich and the eventual transfer of Robert Lewandowski to the Allianz in 2014.
While the non-German audience may buy into this tripe, a keen observer of German football will tell you that, aside from these two transfers that were largely induced by the arrival of highly-rated Pep Guardiola himself, Bayern have often struggled to get players from their domestic rivals. In 2011 Bayern had a verbal agreement with midfield star Arturo Vidal, but Leverkusen refused to sell. Die Workself rejected Bayern’s lucrative offer and instead accepted a lower offer from Juventus. Bayern also failed in their attempts to sign Lars Bender and Marco Reus. Leverkusen resolutely refused any advances from Bayern over Bender while Reus snubbed Bayern and opted to sign for Dortmund instead. Dortmund themselves have signed their fare share of players from fellow domestic sides while Wolfsburg, Frankfurt, Bremen and Gladbach’s successful transfer raids collectively decimated Freiburg’s team that finished in a Europa League spot last season. Teams signing players from weaker teams in the Bundesliga, as in any other league, is nothing new and is not exclusive to the Bavarians.