Bayern Munich and Manchester City are two clubs that could hardly be more distinct from one another. Bayern’s rise as a European giant with a tradition steeped in history after generations of hard work, success and self ownership that led to the identity they possess today is a sharp contrast in comparison to the drastic and artificially-induced rise of nouveau riche Manchester City.
The current English giants were a largely inconspicuous outfit prior to the Arab takeover in 2008. The Manchester side spent time in the second and even third tiers of English football as recently as the 90s before eventually regaining their Premier League status in 2000. After a decade of bottom-table obscurity, Manchester City were finally blessed as the Abu Dhabi United Group took over the club in 2008. The takeover could not have come at a better time as The Citizens were in a financially precarious position under previous owner Thaksin Shinawatra whose assets were frozen as a result of his unfavorable political circumstances. The massive injection of outside cash by the mighty Sheikh took the lowly Manchester outfit to dizzying heights as four years of heavy splurging finally culminated in a thrilling Premier League title win at the end of the 2011-12 season. It was an overnight rags to riches story for the Citizens as their new Arab owners had successfully bought them their first ever Premier League title since 1968. Despite this thrilling rise of City, there seems to be a certain lack of authenticity about the club that so willingly sold its soul for riches.
Bayern, on the other hand, possess a strong identity due to its vast history replete with famous victories, honors and regional roots. Nestled in the heart of Bavaria in Munich, Bayern first experienced their first golden years from 1965 to 1979. It was within this period where the legendary trio of Sepp Maier, Gerd Muller and Franz Beckenbauer arrived on the scene and formed ‘the Axis’. The Bavarians went on to create history by winning three Champions League titles in a row and also many other trophies. The golden era of the 70s was followed by the ‘Breitnigge era’ as current board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Paul Breitner lead Bayern to several more successes in the eighties. For all their past successes, Bayern most recently added to their illustrious history by becoming the first ever German team to win the treble. The feat was an astounding achievement and with the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Bayern seek to cement their spot as the best football club in Europe. What makes Bayern’s successes over the years all the more impressive is the fact that they have managed to grow into a European giant despite the stringent financial rules of the Bundesliga.
The 50+1 rule in Germany prevents foreign owners having more than a 50% stake in a club, and therefore vastly curbs the spending power of clubs due to the prevention of any takeovers. While the rule may seem to be a setback, it enabled clubs to grow organically due to the necessity of shrewd and sound financial management and reliance on youth development. Bayern were able to maximize their potential as they managed to retain their players and place them within the hierarchy of the club after retirement. The creation of this ‘family’ structure at Bayern has greatly contributed to the success today. Current Chairman Rummenigge and President Uli Hoeness were former Bayern players while other Bayern legends such as Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Maier were all involved as coaches and possess a place in the Bayern family until this day. Bayern’s efficient model saw them become financially successful and self-sufficient without any foreign benefactor unlike the fortuitous path enjoyed by Manchester City.
Another consequence of Bayern’s structure is the reliance on homegrown talent. Bayern boast their own fair share of foreign stars but also contain the core of the German national team. Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber are all products of Bayern’s youth system. Aside from Kroos, the aforementioned players are Bavarian as well. As a result the first team squad retains not only a significant German presence but also has a strong local feel. Manchester City, in contrast, are hardly similar. Manuel Pellegrini’s starting lineup against Manchester United last week had only one English player on the pitch in the form of keeper Joe Hart. Aside from the fact that Manchester City are from Manchester, there was hardly anything even remotely English about the English side that so emphatically rolled over Manchester United last week. With the occurrence of such patterns in England’s top flight, the Three Lion’s struggles against the likes of Ukraine and Montenegro in the international arena hardly come as a surprise.
While the path of the English game looks rather grave, the same cannot be said for Manchester City. Despite winning the Premier League title in 2012, a season of relative mediocrity and defensiveness under Mancini saw him getting sacked in order to make way for the more attack-minded Manuel Pellegrini. Under ‘The Engineer,’ Manchester City finally have their squad playing closer to their potential as their collection of expensive foreigners that dominated Manchester United in an emphatic 4-1 victory that was well worth the amount of their collective price tags. Despite slip ups against Cardiff and Aston Villa, this City side seem to have a penchant for raising their game at home and especially against top quality sides. While Bayern finally show signs of clicking under Guardiola, it remains to be seen whether the skilled yet tiny captain Phillip Lahm, a full back by trade, can maintain his fine performances so far in the unfamiliar role of defensive midfielder against the likes of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.
A tantalizing clash awaits audiences across Europe on Wednesday evening. A club that has worked over decades to gain its reputation, create history and earn its fortunes square up against a rather ordinary entity that has enjoyed the great luck of inheriting its wealth and subsequent path to fame under hilariously fortuitous circumstances. The Steve Jobs and Paris Hilton of football are set to face off. Both have their fare share of riches. Both have their legions of fans. But the purists and football romantics will be hoping for only one winner on Wednesday night.
Editor’s note: For viewers in the United States, the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City and Bayern Munich will be shown live on FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2Go at 2:45pm ET.
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