That success is, of course, to Bayern’s great credit. It has long been Germany’s biggest, richest, most glamorous team, but for years was held back by its supernova streak. Its combustible blend of powerful players, superstar managers and squabbling executives would self-destruct so reliably that the club became known as F.C. Hollywood. Consumed by infighting, it would every so often allow one of its rivals — Dortmund or Werder Bremen or VfB Stuttgart — to sneak in and claim a championship.
Bayern’s relentlessness in the last 10 years has come to be explained, then, by its ability to control its taste for self-immolation. Bayern hire the right coaches, sign the right players, smartly appoint alumni to illustrious positions behind the scenes. It has, as Fernando Carro, the chief executive of Bayer Leverkusen, said, “done excellent work over the years.” Bayern is what happens when big teams are run well.
And that, German soccer’s power brokers have long insisted, is a good thing. Executives at the Deutsche Fussball Liga, the Bundesliga’s governing body, have long presented Bayern’s dominance as an advantage for the league. Bayern’s virtue, the theory goes, not only serves as an advertisement for German soccer, but it exerts a pull on the competition itself, helping to drag everyone else along in its wake.
Dario Minden, the vice chairman of Unsere Kurve, an umbrella group representing the interests of game-day fans across Germany, does not go along with that analysis. “It’s not that they don’t make mistakes,” he said. “They do. They make big mistakes. It is just that they have such an advantage that they can afford to make mistakes.”
In his eyes, there is no great mystery as to why Bayern keeps winning. “The core of the problem is that Bayern’s annual budget is $380 million and Dortmund, the second-richest team, has a budget of $270 million,” Minden said. “Then there are small teams, like Greuther Fürth, operating on $19 million.”