For years, Bayern Munich against Borussia Dortmund was the Bundesliga duel of superlatives. Bayer Leverkusen has overtaken BVB as Bavaria’s top game opponent – even in the long term?
In Spain there has always been a game that electrifies the crowds: Real Madrid against FC Barcelona. Or: “El Clásico”. Based on this top duel, the game between FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund has been referred to in Germany in recent years as the “classic” or “German Clásico”.
In the past, several teams have been the counterparts to Bayern in the “Klassiker”, although the games were not referred to as such because it was not appropriate at the time. And: Dortmund is no longer part of the “classic”. Now football Germany is looking forward to the game on Saturday (February 10, 2024) between Bayer Leverkusen and Munich. And there is much to suggest that this will continue to be the case in the coming years.
Bremen did better than “Vizekusen”
“It will be a top game. I think we haven’t had it in such a setting and with such explosiveness in a long time,” said Robert Andrich about the duel between league leaders Bayer and pursuers Bayern. He was only of kindergarten age when Leverkusen were the record champions’ main opponents. From 1996 to 2002, the “Werkself” came second four times and earned the title “Vizekusen” – but not a “real” title. During the same time, the Munich team also became champions four times, three times ahead of Leverkusen.
Werder Bremen, Bayern’s next “classic” opponent, had a slightly better rate. In the 2003/04 season, the team then coached by Thomas Schaaf was crowned German champions in the Munich Olympic Stadium, and in the 2005/06 and 2007/08 seasons, Bayern were ahead again. And the Bremen crash followed.
May 8, 2004: Werder Bremen’s Valerien Ismael (l.), Tim Borowski (middle) and Holger Wehlage (r.) celebrate with the championship trophy.
Bayern have not yet been beaten in the long term
The big difference between Munich and every previous challenger: Bayern have a foundation that almost guarantees them lasting success. With their opponents, on the other hand, there are phases that allow them to act on an equal footing. These phases are the result of exceptionally good personnel decisions and special players or coaches – but it is almost impossible to make only the right decisions over many years.
Towards the end of the 2000s, Bremen failed for this reason. Manager Klaus Allofs and Schaaf had to build a team at Champions League level, transfers such as the then record purchase Carlos Alberto (who came from Fluminense in Brazil for eight million) represent the downfall of the Werder team, who got into financial difficulties due to the lack of sporting success .
Like Bremen, Hamburger SV in the 1980s and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1970s only managed to keep up with or distance themselves from Bayern for a certain period of time. In the long run, the Munich team always came out on top and then waited for the next competitor.
Bayer squad ensures planning security
The current one is Leverkusen, no longer Dortmund. After failing to win the championship on the last matchday of last season, BVB made some wrong personnel decisions and is far away from the class of the top two teams in the Bundesliga. And looking at the squad structure, it doesn’t give the impression that they could be a serious pursuer of Bayern again any time soon. Also because the team is currently not seeing the next 100 million transfer like Erling Haaland or Jude Bellingham, which could lead to large investments. Things are different at Bayer.
Manager Simon Rolfes and coach Xabi Alonso not only showed a golden touch in the transfer market in the summer, but they also managed to sign long-term contracts with almost all of the key players. According to the “Transfermarkt.de” portal, the seven most valuable players with a value of at least 35 million euros are tied to the “Werkself” until 2027 or even 2028.
Some of them have exit clauses, others will not stay with Bayer until then even without them – but the club will definitely have great opportunities on the transfer market with high transfer fees. It’s just a matter of continuing to trade there as well as we did last summer. For that long, Leverkusen will be at least a serious opponent for Bayern.
Alonso the key like Klopp at BVB?
For the professionals on the pitch, these exchanges are everyday business and they have a relatively high probability of success. The key figure in Leverkusen is probably Alonso, who still has a contract until 2026, but is almost constantly associated with his former clubs as a player.
He is said to have already had his say at Real Madrid, just seconds after Jürgen Klopp announced his end at Liverpool FC, the 42-year-old was already written in the direction of “Anfield Road” – and there was already extensive speculation that Bayern could once again make one of their infamous transfers that weaken their biggest competitor. This time just on the trainer market. And if Thomas Tuchel’s time ends soon.
Wherever Alonso ends up, it doesn’t seem too likely that he will stay in Leverkusen for very long. After Klopp left BVB, Tuchel, Lucien Favre, Marco Rose and now Edin Terzic failed to stay with Dortmund in Munich for the long term – perhaps this also threatens the “Werkself” if Alonso were to leave. But until then, Bayer versus Bayern probably represents the “classic” era.