The 2010 World Cup, won by Spain with six Barcelona players in the starting line-up. The 2014 World Cup, won by Germany with six Bayern players in the starting line-up (what an achievement for Pep Guardiola, manager of Barca in 2010 and Bayern in 2014). On both occasions the fact that six players in the side had played together for one of the most dominant domestic teams in the world was no doubt a huge factor in success.
Having recently analysed Barcelona’s youth training facilities and the follow on effect this has had on the Spanish national team, I felt it was appropriate to turn my attention to Germany and the recent successes of the national team and Bayern Munich, both sides respected as masters of total football.
Die Mannschaft translates to “the team” and is the German national side’s nickname. It could not be more appropriate. The German footballing philosophy is selflessness, an understanding of the collective force. Each player seemingly assimilated into a footballing hive mind, doing what is necessary for the team to succeed without a thought of personal goals. It seems to be a part of the German DNA as they always perform at the highest level.
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The team runs like a German auto mobile with relentless efficiency. German players are taught to be humble and professional and this is evident as you rarely hear of any trouble or flaunting of wealth coming from the German ranks. On the football field this translates to frequently high goal tallies. The World Cup semi-final against Brazil is a prime example, the match was won early on and with the help of their ruthless and selfless perseverance towards the common goal they continued to score and score, no one looked for personal glory taking long shots in the knowledge the game was won, no showboating. Pass, pass, pass, GOAL. Repeat.
Obviously the character traits of the national team are useless without footballing talent; this showed in 2000 when Germany had a dismal European Championship coming home with a solitary goal and one point. The talent was simply not there. The following year saw a blueprint for change with the compulsory introduction of youth academies at all 36 professional clubs. Over £500m has been spent collectively by all Bundesliga clubs on academies since 2000, which is obviously a massive effort and one that is directed towards the common goal of a better German team. Bayern Munich has excelled in this department. Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Badstubber, Kroos and Alaba, all now world class footballers have been brought right through their youth academy system to the first team and international success.
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Long term plan
The German club runs itself with financial discipline and with a clear strategy for the future and that has been key to the success now. There is also a very humble family atmosphere at Bayern where by the president and groundkeeper will eat together, creating mutual respect and a more motivated and collective team throughout the club.
Impressive stuff, a country where the national team sits at the top of the pyramid of importance paves the way for investment in home grown talent. This is very unlike the Premier league where the clubs and the league are valued higher than the national team, investment regularly goes into foreign talent as the clubs think only about the now, and their own success rather than a common vision. Depressing as in Bayern’s case the common goal has helped them to become one of the most formidable sides in the world.
Champions League semi-final
Two clubs with an admirable focus on youth, an understanding of the appropriate world class talent to invest in, and with a significant role in the last two world cup victories. Barcelona and Bayern Munich faced each other in the Champions League semi-finals and did not disappoint. Pep Guardiola’s home coming was overshadowed by Blaugrana front three, and especially Messi’s genius.
The second leg was a more dominant display from Bayern although defensive lapses let in Barca, Suarez capitalised and set Neymar up twice to kill the tie. Bayern rallied and gave a fantastic second half performance, never giving up and showing true class despite a depleted line up. For me this should have been the Final. Both teams have set the bar at a level for everyone to aim for. Technique, team synergy and footballing intelligence of the highest order.