Bayern′s Extravagant Spending Reaps its Reward | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.04.2008
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Bayern's Extravagant Spending Reaps its Reward

Anyone who says money can't buy happiness should take a look at the ecstatic faces of Bayern Munich's supporters in the coming weeks before making a thorough reappraisal of that statement.

Bayern Munich's Luca Toni and Franck Ribery react after scoring against Getafe in the UEFA Cup

Ribery and Toni have silenced those who believed their transfer fees were exhorbitant

When the Bavarian giants shelled out 70 million euros ($109.4 million) for French midfielder Franck Ribery and Italian striker Luca Toni, plus German international striker Miroslav Klose, in the summer, everyone who wasn't a Munich fan turned their noses up at the ostentatious frivolity of it all.

Here was the richest club in German soccer splashing the cash in a bid to regain control of a league they usually dominated but had recently lost their power over.

Rivals scoffed at the gifts the Bayern hierarchy had lavished on themselves. Despite accomplished performances for Marseille and the French national team, Ribery was seen as not much more than a player trading on the promise of greatness unfulfilled.

Toni, while a World Cup winner with Italy and a prolific club marksman, had made his impact in mid-table Serie A sides. But he had been overlooked by the likes of domestic powerhouses like the Milan clubs and Juventus, when it came to snapping up a reliable scorer.

If anything, the transfer of Klose, somewhat overshadowed by Munich's expensive European shopping spree, was seen as the most serious statement of intent for the season ahead. And yet, looking back over a season which has seen Bayern reemerge as the Bundesliga's top dog, Klose has joined Lukas Podolski as one of the club's more disappointing acquisitions.

Franck and Luca justify the summer spending

Luca Toni and Franck Ribery at their unveiling at Bayern Munich in Summer 2007

Toni and Ribery embodied Bayern's intent to conquer

So, far from being a vulgar display of extravagance with little business acumen behind it, the purchase of Ribery and Toni in particular has proved to be the coup of the season, as the Italian's 35 goals in 41 games has shown alongside the Frenchman's utter dominance and guile.

The French midfielder only underlined his role as the top attraction of the Bundesliga last Sunday, when he came off the bench to score twice in a 4-1 demolition of VfB Stuttgart with which Munich effectively clinched another league title.

Italian team-mate Toni may almost be more valuable for Munich with his 21 goals in the league, but it is Ribery who has electrified the fans with a skill not seen in the German top flight for years.

"There was something like a circus atmosphere when Ribery came on," said Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "The fans really get a treat here."

The Frenchman, the most expensive player in Munich history at 25 million euros, has been an instant hit and has even managed to get opposing fans on their feet -- something rarely achieved as Munich are either loved or hated.

Ribery adds French flair to German efficiency

Franck Ribery, front, and his teammate Luca Toni

Ribery has brought excitement to Bayern Munich

And while the summer spending was intended to bring the title back to the Allianz Arena, it was also money spent in a bid to bring entertainment to the fans. For all Bayern's success, they have rarely been the most exciting and aesthetic of teams, preferring to grind opponents into defeat with a ruthless efficiency rather than to play their opposition off the park.

For all the excitement Ribery brings to the team, it would all be for nothing if there wasn't a striker at the end of the beautiful moves to put the ball in the net and Luca Toni has proved to be that man.

Lauded by none other than Bayern striking legend Gerd Mueller, who believes Toni is the player to beat his long-standing 40-goals-in-a-season record, the Italian is seen by many in Munich as the type of target man the club has been missing for years.

The former Fiorentina forward has fired Bayern to the cusp of a 21st title, combined with the livewire Ribery to win the DFB Cup for Munich, and has scored 10 goals so far in a UEFA Cup campaign, which has seen the German side reach the semi-finals. After a journeyman career which has taken him through ten teams, Toni now looks at home.

Munich lucky to have Luca

Bayern Munich's Luca Toni

The Italian Job: Toni has had a smash-and-grab season

"He's a world-class striker. He's got an amazing instinct for goals," said Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, barely containing his enthusiasm for Toni. "He always believes he can score two or three goals in each match. He's never satisfied and always hungry for more goals. He's a real winner, a leader on our team."

However, the combination of the Frenchman and the Italian, the plaudits that follow them and the silverware they look destined to win together, disguise the fact that Munich's German stars have failed to set the league alight this season.

Klose has been dogged by injury as the season entered its critical phase. Even when he played, he failed to maintain the form he displayed in the campaign's opening salvos after moving from Werder Bremen in the summer.

Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose celebrate a goal for Germany at the 2006 World Cup

Podolski and Klose enjoy a happier moment together

Podolski has proved to be an asset from the bench, scoring important goals in substitute cameos, but has also failed to establish himself as a first team regular since his arrival from Cologne in 2006. He remains behind Toni and Klose in the battle to start up front for Bayern despite maintaining his clinical streak for the national team.

Another German acquisition, Jan Schlaudraff, failed to even make it to the end of the season before being offloaded. Schlaudraff, who moved to Bayern from Alemannia Aachen last summer for 1.2 million euros, completed a move to fellow Bundesliga club Hanover in April after a frustrating campaign in the lower reaches of the club's pecking order.

The disappointment of their German stars and the 70-odd million euros they handed out almost a year ago will all be forgotten by the fans and the management alike, if Bayern Munich can complete their resurrection with a league, cup and European treble. Ribery and Toni will then look like the bargains of the season.

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