Saturday’s anti-climactic news that Robert Lewandowski has signed with FC Bayern Munich was further proof that the Bundesliga, the once hyper-competitive league, has become the exclusive province of the Bavarian giants. The Bundesliga once was comparable to the Premier League in terms of competition for titles (if not even more competitive), but it’s rapidly descending into a one team hegemony.
Lewandowski joins a long-list of players who previously won a Bundesliga title with another German club, to join Bayern in the prime of his playing career. He joins former BVB teammate Mario Götze on the list that has featured the likes of Mario Gomez and Michael Ballack on that list.
Bayern’s top officials have long been forceful advocates and proponents of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions. Those associated with the club have derided the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG for inflating the costs of transfers and player wages. Yet Bayern seems to have been a great beneficiary of set of rules that seems to lock in a virtual caste system among football clubs both in Germany and on the continent.
Club officials and many Bayern supporters have acted with a sense of entitlement and condescension when faced with discussion of Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, Monaco, etc. But the reality is the rules that govern the sport both in Germany and in Europe have locked in the natural advantages Bayern enjoy over every single domestic rival and almost every continental one.
After years of seeing the likes of Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Manuel Neuer move from rival clubs to Bayern, the back-to-back titles won by BVB and the anti-Bayern attitude of Jürgen Klopp was a breath of fresh air to those fearing the league had become stale. Klopp refused to sell his top players to Bayern and refused to be bullied by the often pro-Bayern German press.
But in time, as contracts expired and reserve clauses were met, Bayern was able to beat back the threat from BVB. Timing the signing of Götze last season to maximum impact with possible view of destroying Dormund’s Champions League campaign, Bayern was able to play psychological warfare with Klopp. My hope this past summer when Klopp bravely rejected Bayern’s attempts to bully BVB into a transfer deal was that the Polish striker would agree to be sold to another club, ANY other club. But alas, his move to Bayern, which will occur in the summer of 2014, could be the last straw for the competitiveness of the league.
Those who advocate Financial Fair Play must look at the Bundesliga and ask if this is what they want across the continent? Do they want monopolies or two–team duopolies in leagues (which was the situation in England before Roman Abramowich bought Chelsea) leaving European competition as the only mystery in a season as far major titles go?
Financial abuse is rife in soccer, no question about that. But other methods such as luxury taxes or more equitable distribution of TV monies can be used rather than the types of FFP reforms Bayern advocated and UEFA adopted.