By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor
Many great teams have played in the Bundesliga over the years. The Bayern and Monchengladbach sides in the 1970s, the Hamburg of the 1980s, the Bremen and Bayern sides of the early and late 1990s, respectively. But in all of Bundesliga history, not one had broken the 80-point barrier... until Saturday.
The Bundesliga title was theirs two weeks ago, but in the final matchday of the season Dortmund earned a 4-0 win against Freiburg that lifted their tally to 81 points on the season, the best tally in the history of the German top flight.
After losing three of their first six games, Jurgen Klopp's side set off on an incredible streak. Winning 23 matches out of their final 28, BVB set a record for fixtures without defeat. Their points tally is three better than that of the previous superlative, earned by the Bayern team of 1998-99. And even correcting for the change in points awarded for a win in 1995-96, the current Dortmund side has two points more than Bayern would have earned in 1971-72, and 1972-73.
Dortmund's unprecedented tally has made them the most successful Bundesliga team in history. But it also prompts the question: is this the best side ever to compete in the German top flight?
The query raised is not one that can be answered with a fact: it is objective, and a very complex one at that. On the one hand, Dortmund's record is the best ever, and it's even more impressive given that Klopp's side had to bounce back from the departure of their best midfielder, Nuri Sahin, in the summer. It was not easy, as results in the early stage of the season showed. But on the other hand, Dortmund benefited from playing an abbreviated Champions League campaign that ended before Christmas.
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The Bayern of 1998-99 had only three fewer points, but it must be considered that the same team also reached the Champions League final. On the whole, that side played four more games than the current BVB during the second half of the season before the final Bundesliga matchday. The Bayern players had more physical and mental fatigue to contend with, and that could have made the difference between 78 and 81 points.
The Bayern of 1971-72 did not compete in the Champions League at all, and finished with a lower points tally than the current Dortmund. However, a year later, Bayern earned 79 points and reached the Champions League semi-final. With 93 goals scored and just 29 conceded, the side absolutely dominated the Bundesliga. And if there was any doubt as to that team's calibre, Bayern won three consecutive European Cups after that season, while players from that squad formed the core of the Germany side that won the 1974 World Cup.
Looking through the names - Maier, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner, Hoeness, Rummenigge and Gerd Muller - the Bayern team forty years ago was the best, if not the most successful in a single domestic campaign, the Bundesliga has ever seen. Mats Hummels is not Beckenbauer, and Robert Lewandowski is certainly not Gerd Muller: there is no comparison in terms of individual class.
Like the Bayern team of the early 1970s, Dortmund now have had two enormously successful seasons: between 2010-11 and 2011-12, they have averaged 78 points per year. Klopp and company can celebrate another brilliant campaign, and the records it brought. However, the jury is still out as to whether they have class on the order of legendary status. Continued tallies of 75 or more points in the Bundesliga, coupled with success in the Champions League could change all this. But for now, it is too early to call.
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