As Joshua Kimmich returned from the changing rooms after the final whistle beating a big drum in an empty stadium, Bayern Munich certainly had a lot of noise to make about their latest achievement: Becoming European champions for a sixth time.
And they did it without any nonsense or drama or by putting any doubt in anyone’s mind that they wouldn’t lift the trophy in Lisbon. In short, they were dominant.
But scratching beneath the surface of the final leg of their treble this season, Bayern Munich have quietly been zigging while the rest of Europe’s superclubs have been zagging.
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Bayern pip PSG to UCL title
Their semi-final line-up cost them £80m. To put that in perspective, it is less than a third of what their final opponents paid for Neymar and nearly half of what they spent on Kylian Mbappe. Manchester United will end up paying nearly £30m more for 20-year-old Jadon Sancho, while Harry Maguire cost the same as the entirety of that starting XI. Arsenal spent £75m on Nicolas Pepe last year, Juventus spent £100m on a 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid signed Eden Hazard in a deal which could eventually climb past £150m and Barcelona had two players they signed for more than £100m each sitting on their bench during their 8-2 humiliation to Bayern two weeks ago.
The last decade was very much the age of the super club, with the difference in wealth between the rich and the not so rich never more evident then than it had been at any other point in modern footballing history.
But times have changed and while Real Madrid were lifting three consecutive Champions League titles and Barcelona were plunging themselves into financial despair by spending more money on players than anyone else in Europe and Juventus were undoing years of building a team by signing the ultimate one-man-team player, Bayern Munich were silently and efficiently going about building one of the greatest squads in Europe.
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The goal that won the UCL!
They’ve replaced Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery without so much as a missed step, with Serge Gnabry, a player who left England as an Arsenal flop, and Ivan Perisic, who was supposed to be slowing down his career, coming in to replace them.
Then there is the Champions League final hero Kingsley Coman, who is attracting admiring glances from Manchester United, and Philippe Coutinho, who ended up at Bayern as a result of Barcelona’s gross mismanagement of players and funds, as the supporting cast.
In those four wingers – with Leroy Sane now joined as well – there is the perfect balance of youth and experience, a theme that stretches across the whole team.
Manuel Neuer, David Alaba and Jerome Boating are still holding down starting spots, but with Alaba having moved inside to accommodate the incredibly talented Alphonso Davies, after the Canadian completed his apprenticeship under him for the left-back berth ahead of the highly-rated Lucas Hernandez. Joshua Kimmich battling it out with World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard on the right shows the strength in depth currently at the club.
In the middle, the beefed-up Leon Goretzka has become the world’s best box-to-box midfielder alongside the ingenious Thomas Muller and metronomic Thiago Alcantara in what is the perfect balance of brains, brawn and beauty.
And then there’s Robert Lewandowski, who has scored an outstanding 55 goals in 47 games this season.
Everywhere you look, it’s an interchangeable combination of youth and experience, supplemented by excellent recruitment and the buying in of players into the club’s ethos.
Now compare that to Barcelona, who have spent heavily on Antoine Griezmann, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele for none of them to feature in their strongest XI while Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique all still remain first choice, as they did last time the club reach the Champions League final five years ago.
PSG miss MASSIVE chances
Real Madrid’s strongest XI still features Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, while big-money, high earners like Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez waste away on the bench. The average age of that team is 30 years old.
Juventus put all their eggs in the 35-year-old basket of Ronaldo, while of the English clubs, only Liverpool seem to have recruited cleverly and realised the name on the front of the shirt is more important than the one on the back.
Don’t be mistaken, the era of the super club is still very here, but the group has been split between the lazy ones and the clever ones. And in a time where COVID-19 means throwing money at a problem is no longer the solution, it is clear that Bayern Munich are certainly the clever ones.
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