By Enis Koylu
It’s an old adage in the Bundesliga that Bayern Munich will try to kill off the competition by signing their best players. And, treading along the path taken last summer by Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski will ditch Borussia Dortmund for Bavaria.
The Poland star’s move had been a long time coming; having stalled on contract talks as long ago as 2012 he was expected to seal his dream transfer last summer and would have done were it not for Gotze. BVB held on to Lewandowski, knowing that they’d be lost without him.
In the last five months, they have barely been able to keep pace with the Bavarians, but now have lost another of their best players to their hated rivals. Before the start of the season, they needed a minor miracle. Now, they need the red sea to part.
And despite all that, they remain the most realistic challengers to Bayern, even without Lewandowski.
Schalke’s insistence on retaining Jens Keller as coach and the swathe of clubs circling for Julian Draxler is preventing them from realising the potential they undoubtedly have, given their bona fide star power in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the indisputable talent of Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka.
Leverkusen, meanwhile, are closest to Bayern in the Bundesliga table but have some way to go before they become genuine title contenders. An efficient, workmanlike outfit, capable of producing big performances, their form before the winter break was a stark indication of their lack of depth.
|BAYERN'S TALENT HOOVER
|The announcement that Pep Guardiola would take over as head coach last January for the 2013-14 showed Bayern's forward-planning ambition in assembling formidable talent.|
|Mario Gotze's €37 million move from Signal Iduna Park to the Allianz Arena reminded the world that the Bavarians are ruthless when it comes to dismantling competition.|
|Having beaten Barcelona 7-0 last season over two legs in the Champions League, die Roten piled on more humiliation by pinching promising midfielder Thiago Alcantara from them.|
|Robert Lewandowski's move has long been in the pipeline and, despite Dortmund clinging on to the Pole in the summer, they were helpless to prevent him signing a deal with the reigning Bundesliga champions in January.|
Sure, Dortmund spent big in the summer of 2013, but that was money earned from Gotze’s surprise sale and the Champions League run. Lewandowski’s Bosman move robs them of the opportunity to repeat the former and their shaky form this term casts serious doubt on their ability to beat the best in Europe once more.
No, BVB have little hope of competing with Bayern for years to come. It took time to transform Lewandowski into the striker who famously scored four goals against Real Madrid. Even if they break the bank, with moves for Jackson Martinez and Diego Costa mooted, their squad is still threadbare, not large enough to challenge Bayern, as the last six weeks before the winter break showed.
So, the chances are Bayern will continue to dominate the Bundesliga for years to come, barring a collapse internally. Towards the end of last season, when Bayern and Dortmund were thrashing teams at will, the Bavarians’ president Uli Hoeness spoke of his fear of a “Spanish situation” developing in Germany, with two teams miles ahead of the rest.
Jurgen Klopp responded enigmatically. "I fear a situation like Scotland with only one team. Next year, we will see the Bayern team and say: 'Oops!'. Hoeness will not have been right about 'Spanish conditions'." He knew that Bayern had all but signed Gotze by then and taking Lewandowski is another nail in the league’s coffin.
There is the wider question of whether the Poland striker will even get a game at the Allianz Arena. Guardiola has always been a vocal admirer of Mario Mandzukic, his current No.9, and has experimented with both Thomas Muller and Gotze as unorthodox centre-forwards.
Giovane Elber has already warned Lewandowski that a regular starting place is far from a guarantee. "It's always a risk for a striker to join Bayern. It's quite difficult when Guardiola plays without a traditional No.9."
If, as the Brazilian fears, the 25-year-old has trouble breaking into the team, that would be saddest indictment of the new-found imbalance in German football.