It was August 2014 and German football basked in the warm glow of their World Cup triumph in Brazil.
Bundesliga executives hoped this would translate into another season of entertaining games, big crowds and record sales. They hoped this football boom time would finally see their league treated on an equal footing with the Premier League and LaLiga.
But there was a pretty big problem: a lack of competition.
Bayern Munich had just won the title with 19 points from Borussia Dortmund and to rub him in he had dated and bought their best player and top scorer, Robert Lewandowski.
Julian Nagelsmann will become Bayern Munich’s manager next season, leaving Bundesliga rival RB Leipzig after a £ 21.7 million compensation package was agreed.
Bayern has also signed French star defender Dayot Upamecano from Leipzig
It is likely that Bayern’s dominance in the Bundesliga will only maintain if they approach nine in a row
Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert, however, remained optimistic. Asked by Sportsmail At a press conference ahead of the German season’s SuperCup curtain raiser whether Bayern’s dominance on the field and beyond was a concern, Seifert said he thought it would be a momentary phenomenon.
Seifert pointed out that Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund were also champions over the past decade, saying the league had the right mechanisms in place to prevent one team from winning year after year.
Seven years and seven Bayern titles on and it’s fair to say Seifert was well off in his prediction.
Not only has Bayern’s dominance been maintained, but it has grown and grown – they have been as relentless on the transfer market and on the balance sheet as they have on the field.
It was all confused again this week when the elected champions – that will be nine consecutive titles – removed Julian Nagelsmann as their next manager of closest challengers RB Leipzig.
Bayern is approaching a ninth straight Bundesliga title and could seal it this weekend
Nagelsmann (right) replaces Hansi Flick (left), who has confirmed to leave Bayern
Nagelsmann is only 33, but has already established himself as one of the game’s most brilliant coaches. The fact that he grew up in the town of Landsberg am Lech, 40 miles west of Munich, and is a Bayern fan from his childhood, made it almost inevitable that he would ever coach them.
But Bayern’s blow to him – a few months after they secured the signing of Leipzig center-back Dayot Upamecano for next season – is just the last time the club has strained its muscles. Another power game.
It was no problem for Bayern to pay Leipzig a world record fee of £ 21.7 million to secure their desired successor to Hansi Flick.
You see, Leipzig emerged as a threat to Bayern’s dominance in the German domestic scene – this season’s title race was more exciting than the current seven-point difference suggests – and so had to be put back in their place.
Taking one of their best players and then their manager is certainly a brutally effective way to bump up the competition for the next season.
Forward Lewandowski was Borussia Dortmund’s top scorer before Bayern took a dive in 2014
Mario Gotze was another Dortmund player who signed Bayern to end their Bundesliga success
The Bayern Ferrari has accelerated quietly in the distance, leaving the rest in the dust.
It was the same with Borussia Dortmund when Jurgen Klopp’s team won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Bayern responded by essentially saying this could never happen again. In the summer of 2013, they paid off attacking midfielder Mario Gotze’s £ 33 million release clause, who had been excellent for Dortmund in their title payout.
A year later, they returned for Lewandowski after negotiating a pre-contractual agreement in November 2013. Off-contract, he cost Bayern nothing to expect a sign-up fee and has paid back this free transfer with 288 goals in 326 games.
And in 2016, Bayern poached – or rather re-signed – a third-prize addition in the form of center-back Mats Hummels, who paid £ 31.5 million.
Lewandowski reached ever-greater heights at Bayern, scoring 288 goals in 326 games
Manuel Neuer was part of a Schalke team that reached the Champions League semi-finals
It helped keep Dortmund at bay since they last won the title. But Dortmund is far from the only club affected.
If you’re a Bundesliga club with a top performer and Bayern the way he looks, there is generally only one outcome. It sometimes seemed like the other 17 Bundesliga clubs are just feeders to the insatiable beast at the top of the table.
Schalke had just reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2011 when Bayern bought their outstanding goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for £ 27 million.
The following year, they bought attacker Mario Mandzukic from Wolfsburg and center-back Dante from Borussia Monchengladbach.
In addition to Lewandowski, midfielder Sebastian Rode of Eintracht Frankfurt was also free in the summer of 2014. In 2015 Joshua Kimmich, just £ 7.65m from Stuttgart, as well as goalkeeper Sven Ulreich came from the same source.
Serge Gnabry only cost Bayern £ 7.2m when they signed him to Werder Bremen in 2017
Leon Goretzka from Schalke came to Munich after his contract with Schalke expired in 2018
In 2017, Bayern bought Serge Gnabry from Werder Bremen for £ 7.2 million, but that was nothing compared to the way they milk Hoffenheim. Niklas Sule, Sandro Wagner and Sebastian Rudy were all signed for a combined £ 29.7 million.
They grabbed another bargain in 2018 with non-contract midfielder Leon Goretzka, while the 2019 additions were Benjamin Pavard from Stuttgart and Michael Cuisance from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Now Leipzig’s turn to be squeezed, and they are unlikely to be the last.
Goretzka has won numerous trophies with Bayern while dominating domestically
Of course, it makes their rivals angry. Hoffenheim’s director, Frank Briel, didn’t say a word about the situation after Bayern signed two of the club’s top academic prospects, Mamin Sanyang and Armindo Sieb, last year.
“It is worth discussing, at least from a solidarity perspective, that Bayern is now actively involved in talent poaching with a turnover of three-quarters of a billion euros,” said Briel.
“It hurts us because we do all the work at the academy for them.”
Other clubs need the money, and the financial pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic will only exacerbate the situation. Perhaps there is a trickle-down effect that favors the wider Bundesliga.
Benjamin Pavard (right) in action for his former club Stuttgart prior to his transfer in 2019
Bayern is the reigning European champion, guaranteeing tens of millions in Champions League cash every season – unlike most of their rivals. They also have commercial clout, miles ahead of anyone else in Germany.
The chance to win trophy after trophy is of course a huge temptation for any aspiring player and Bayern is as close to a certainty as you can get in football.
With Leipzig becoming the newest rival to be neutered by Bayern, Seifert’s hopes for an egalitarian Bundesliga are further afield than ever.