By Enis Koylu
It was news that surprised few, but shocked so many. When Matthias Sammer publicly expressed Bayern Munich’s interest in signing Germany wonderkid Julian Draxler, there was a sense of deja vu to it all; the Champions League holders attempting to lure yet another top Bundesliga talent to the club.
On the face of it, the German champions moving for Draxler makes perfect sense. Though a Schalke boy through and through, the 20-year-old has always seemed destined for bigger and better things and Bayern would help him achieve his goals.
However, scratch the surface and it is all cynically familiar. Bayern have long made a habit of monopolising the top talent in Germany, signing the best players not just to strengthen their own squad, but to weaken that of potential rivals.
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They may have a fantastic history of breeding players of their own; Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Paul Breitner and more recently Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm all emerging through the ranks in Munich and into the annals of German football history. But, the Bavarians have been massively supplemented by players and coaches poached from domestic competition. The likes of Lothar Matthaus, Michael Ballack, Lucio, Ze Roberto, and of course Mario Gotze, who have been captured from their nearest rivals. Even sporting director Sammer himself.
The teams left reeling from their aggressive transfer policy are numerous: Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen and even Karlsruhe built fine teams, but their best players - the Miroslav Kloses, Ballacks and Oliver Kahns - were plundered by Bayern.
Eintracht Frankfurt will lose one of their key players, Sebastian Rode, to the German champions in the summer and club president Heribert Bruchhagen is in no doubt as to what attracts them to the Allianz Arena.
“Why does Sebastian want to go to Bayern? My God, these are young people. They can earn four times as much money at Bayern as they can here. End of story.”
And now they are taking their old policy to new levels. Robert Lewandowski is set to join Gotze at the Allianz Arena in the summer from Borussia Dortmund, effectively hammering the final nail into the coffin of the team who stole Bayern’s German hegemony between 2010 and 2012.
But while Gotze was to an extent required to ease the creative burden on Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, and Lewandowski will be an upgrade on Mario Mandzukic, it is hard to find any on-field reason to move for Draxler.
The Gladbeck native’s performances this year show that he still has a lot to learn and would struggle to challenge more experienced campaigners for a regular spot in the team. He deserves a club that would treat him with patience if he chooses to leave the Veltins Arena. Gotze, Ribery, Robben, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos would all be ahead of him in the pecking order. What’s more, if Bayern were to make another big-name signing this summer, they would be far better off bolstering their defence than their attack.
Moving to Bayern is far from a guarantee of success, too. Manuel Neuer has blossomed into one of the world’s best, and most decorated, goalkeepers since switching to Munich, but Lukas Podolski - though his medal collection grew - found himself desperate enough to return to struggling hometown club Koln.
Until recently, the Bundesliga boasted something La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A could not: genuine unpredictability which could see a minnow stun everyone and claim the title. But this has now ended and it has become the most predictable league in Europe.
And football needs competition to thrive. In the business world, companies who try to introduce a monopoly on a product are duly punished, just as Microsoft were by the US government in 1998.
The Bundesliga has grown into one of the most popular leagues in the world in recent years, but Bayern - while breaking no rules - are going a long way to destroying the product they were instrumental in creating by eliminating all of their rivals.
Signing Draxler, a player they hardly need for sporting reasons, would see them descend into self-parody and represent another nail in the coffin of what was once a brilliant league.