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Bayern’s Bundesliga dominance sparks reform calls

Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich’s decade of dominance in the Bundesliga has fuelled calls for reforms to make the German top flight more exciting, with even end-of-season play-offs being suggested as a possible solution.

The Bavarian giants secured a 10th straight league title by beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1 on Saturday, leaving many German football fans hoping for more competition.

Five clubs have won the English Premier League in the same timeframe, three each have lifted the Spanish La Liga and French Ligue 1 crowns, while Italy’s Serie A has enjoyed two close seasons after years of Juventus success.

“The league would of course be more attractive if it had more competition at the top,” Donata Hopfen, the new CEO of the German Football League (DFL) said earlier this year.

“If play-offs help us, then we’ll talk about play-offs.”

It has been 10 years since current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp steered Dortmund to the second of back-to-back titles in 2012.

Dortmund finished just two points off the pace in 2018/19, but Bayern have ended at least 10 points clear in each of their other eight title-winning campaigns in this unprecedented run.

Bayern have finished more than 14 points clear on average over the previous nine seasons, so actually still have work to do to match that this term, holding a 12-point lead with three matches remaining.

– Transfer market dominance –

Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Niko Kovac, Hansi Flick and current boss Julian Nagelsmann are the big-name coaches who have kept Bayern on top.

Bayern, who enjoy far greater resources than their German rivals, have also signed several highly-rated players from within the Bundesliga.

In successive seasons, Bayern plundered Dortmund’s squad by signing Mario Goetze in 2013, then striker Robert Lewandowski.

Dortmund’s best defender Mats Hummels also headed south to Munich in 2016 before returning in 2019.

In the previous five seasons, RB Leipzig twice finished second, but lost defender Dayot Upamecano and captain Marcel Sabitzer to Bayern ahead of the current campaign.

Austrian Sabitzer has made just seven league starts for Bayern.

They also paid Leipzig 20 million euros ($22 million) to sign Nagelsmann as their new coach.

“FC Bayern has never signed a player with the aim of weakening one of their competitors,” former club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insisted to France Football magazine in 2020.

Under Domenico Tedesco, RB Leipzig are possibly most likely to threaten Bayern next season, having picked up the same amount of points as the champions since the midway point of the season.

French forward Christopher Nkunku has netted 30 goals in all competitions this term but is reportedly being tracked by Bayern.

Dortmund have the squad to challenge next season, but much depends on them keeping Erling Haaland.

Bayer Leverkusen also have a strong side, but their squad has been hit by injuries in recent weeks and teenager Florian Wirtz is recovering from a serious knee injury.

Bayern are also the strongest club financially.

While the Covid pandemic plunged most German clubs into financial crises, Bayern’s commercial might saw them actually post a profit of 1.8 million euros after tax in 2020/21.

However, the idea of introducing play-offs has had a mixed response.

“I find it exciting to think about new models like play-offs for the Bundesliga,” Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn told Kicker earlier this year.

“Semi-finals and finals would mean excitement for the fans.”

Yet Bayer Leverkusen’s managing director Rudi Voeller says introducing play-offs would be “completely the wrong approach”, while Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke is “not a fan”.

Borussia Moenchengladbach coach Adi Huetter has first-hand experience of play-offs, having coached Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.

“I don’t know if it’s fair, whether after 34 rounds, first plays against fourth, who is maybe 15 points behind, but still has the chance to become champion.”

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