Opinion: The league is not enough for Bayern | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.04.2017
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Bundesliga

Opinion: The league is not enough for Bayern

Bayern Munich have clinched their fifth Bundesliga title in a row, the latest sign of their dominance in Germany. But one question remains: Was their season a success? DW's Davis VanOpdorp thinks not.

Only in Munich can a league title be an underwhelming achievement.

The Bundesliga title that Bayern Munich clinched on Saturday should be a triumph. Come on, it was their fifth in a row, an unprecedented achievement even for them. Carlo Ancelotti, the coach Bayern hired to replace Pep Guardiola, had only won three league titles in his 19 years as a head coach at the start of the season.

But since Bayern tasted the sweet nectar of a treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2012-13, their fans have yearned for multiple titles. A league trophy should come with another, whether in the Champions League or in the German Cup.

van Opdorp Davis Kommentarbild App

DW's Davis Van Opdorp

Bayern were eliminated from both of those competitions in the last week and a half. Real Madrid prevented Bayern from reaching the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2010-11. Earlier this week, Borussia Dortmund eliminated Bayern in the German Cup semis, the second time they have done so in three years.

The league title is irrelevant at this point. By their standards, Bayern's season was a failure.

No edge under Ancelotti

Ancelotti provided a stark coaching contrast to Guardiola after Bayern experienced three highly-strung - but successful - seasons. The Italian coach took a softer approach in the league than his predecessor, hoping to preserve the fitness of his players for crucial games in the Champions League later in the season. He favored veteran experience over youthful exuberance when it counted, often picking players like Franck Ribery or Xabi Alonso over Kingsley Coman or Joshua Kimmich.

Champions League Real Madrid vs FC Bayern München (picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo/O. D. Olza)

Bayern's Champions League ambitions were thwarted this time around

But his plan backfired. Bayern became reliant on a few veteran players, and when they got injured at the beginning of April, the season fell apart quickly. The young players that barely got a look in the second half of the season could not rise to the occasion. The experienced players that were supposed to be in top form were left in the dust by their more athletic opponents.

Bayern's performance across all competitions has diminished, with earlier exits from both cups and no chance of matching last season's points haul. Ancelotti did get a trophy in his first season, but he failed to get the one he was brought in to win - the Champions League.

The old guard must go

To be fair to Ancelotti, he did work with a squad that had seven players over the age of 30. Two of them, Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso, will retire at the end of the season, but Bayern also have to move on from the rest.

That is easier said than done. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben had a mini-renaissance under Ancelotti, Robben in particular - he scored his 11th league goal of the season against Wolfsburg. But both came up short in Bayern's biggest games in April, a sign that the Bavarians need to find other game changers to go along with Robert Lewandowski.

Players like Coman, Kimmich and Douglas Costa looked to make just such a difference last season. But Ancelotti has not given them the same responsibilities, often leaving them on the bench as the veterans got more minutes.

Bayern have locked up the core of their team, with 12 players signed for the next three seasons. Bundesliga success definitely seems to be in their future, but they have to move more quickly towards the future or else they are going to begin to fall behind.

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