May 2nd, 2013
01:48 PM ET

European football braced for era of German domination?

For the first time, a deutsches derby will decide who is the best club side in Europe. (Getty Images).
For the first time, a deutsches derby will decide who is the best club side in Europe. (Getty Images).

With its youth system, strong national team, and financial prudence as well as the entertaining style of football employed by both the country's international side and its top clubs, it's not difficult to understand why Germany has been branded a soccer success.

And it is. Just not as much as we perceive it to be. Yet.

While the march of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund to Wembley has been thrilling to watch, it's too early to tick the box marked "Era of German domination."

Bayern's haul of four European Cups is impressive but Liverpool, A.C.Milan and Real Madrid have all done better. And the Munich giants haven't conquered the continent since 2001.

Only two other German clubs have also won the tournament whereas England has produced five different champions.

In total, German sides have only six titles between them, well behind Italy and England, with 12, and Spain's 13.

Even the much vaunted Die Mannschaft can't claim to be the best ever international team. Their tally of three World Cup victories is impressive, but they last won the event in 1990, almost a quarter of a century ago.

Brazil, France, Italy and Spain have all enjoyed periods of international superiority since then.

However, no-one can equal Germany's record of 12 top-four finishes in World Cups and that consistency is now allied to, arguably, the most exciting crop of young footballers the country has ever produced.

As my CNN colleague Tom McGowan wrote this week, Germany have strength in depth from defense to attack. Manuel Neuer, Matts Hummels, Iklay Gundogan, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Thomas Muller, to name but a handful, make national team coach Joachim Low the envy of his peers.

Germany's youth system and the relative buoyancy of its national economy are two key reasons behind their football ascendency. Any talent identification manager will tell you that growing a sport and improving standards is a numbers game. In essence, the more youngsters who play, the more stars you'll end up with.

Germany has tapped into its large Turkish, Polish and African immigrant population. And the scary thing is, it could do better. Being born in the country doesn't automatically entitle you to German citizenship. You have to apply for it.

That process is bound to dissuade some immigrants' children, although plenty still choose to play for Germany rather than the nation where their parents or grandparents are from.

Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira are two examples, although their stock has fallen slightly since their move to Real Madrid. And that's where my point about the economy comes in. Many Spanish football experts I've spoken to this week insist their country's austerity measures are having a negative impact on the clubs. Although the financial weakness of La Liga, Real and Barcelona apart, is not a new thing.

In contrast, Germany is dealing with the global economic downturn better than many other nations and the Bundesliga is one of the best run leagues in the world.

According to accountant Deloitte's reputable Sports Business group, Germany's Bundesliga is only the fourth richest in Europe behind England, Spain and France.

However, it's growing fast. It already has the best attendances of any of its European rivals while revenues for the entire league broke the $2.6 billion barrier for the first time last season.

So that's the reality, but let's return to the perception or, if you like, the X-Factor that German football has always had.

I was amused to see former England striker Gary Lineker's name trending on Twitter during Bayern's first-leg demolition of Barcelona.

It was down to fans poking fun at Barca defender Gerard Piqué who claimed, before the game, that Lineker's famous quote - "Football's a simple game. You play for 90 minutes and then the Germans win" - isn't true any longer.

After a 7-0 aggregate thrashing and the first all-German Champions League final, it's never felt more true.

It used to be a soccer stereotype. A slightly lazy cliche that didn't always bear close scrutiny: Germany always winning at football.

Yet, as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund imperiously brushed aside La Liga's leading clubs in the UEFA Champions League semifinals, the reality is coming close to matching that perception.

We've seen all-Spanish, English and Italian finals in the Champions League. Now, for the first time, a deutsches derby will decide who is the best club side in Europe.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Juergen Mauer

    "In essence, the more youngsters who play, the more stars you'll end up with..." This is a statement that I cannot let uncommented. Although the number of players are a factor, it is by far not the most important one. Much more important is what you are doing with them. Just look at the number the number of world class players a tiny country like Croatia (4 Mil. people) has produced over in the recent past. Or other smaller countries like the Netherlands, Portugal or Ururguay. If you do not develop the youngsters properly even a large number of players will only result in a large number of mediocre players – just look at the US with an estimated number of an estimated 20 million youth players. Means about 5 times more than the Croation population.
    In Germany in the 90s we had many more kids playing soccer than we have now (due to declining birthrates). Still the outcome was pretty average. Only after the huge failures in the European and Worldcup at the end of the 90s and early 2000s the youth development system was overhauled from the bottom, with emphasis on better coaching and a developmental focus throughout the whole system. Partly copying an approach that the Netherlands and France had put to work a long time before.This combined with the best league system in the world – from youth/amateurs/semi-pros up to the professional divisions – is what is driving the german success presently.

    May 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  2. Neo

    A great analysis, thanks for it!

    May 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  3. bliss

    It ll really be a good come back for chelsea imbracing and welcoming bk the special one!we cnt wait to see him bk at stamford bridge.

    May 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  4. Baretti von Wiegand

    As of 2004 the right of citizenship upon birth in Germany is granted.... cool deal! Things are changing for the better in good old Germany. The style of soccer is changing, becoming more technical, and creative like Southern europeans. Aloha from Germany. May the best team win!

    May 2, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  5. Nick

    Dortmund barely won when they played at Santiago Bernabeu.
    Bayern has been crazy this season, but Dortmund pretty much were lucky that Lewandowski scored on (almost) all his chances in Signal Iduna Park, otherwise bye bye to them!

    Though it is deserved to both of the teams to be in the final. I hope Bayern win this one, it's so deserved and it would of been a nice dismissal for Josef "Jupp" Heynckes

    May 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  6. Swipes

    Well, to start off – there have been two German clubs battling for the throne of Europe in the past. The current Bayern Munich coach can tell you that one first hand.

    Second, what I don't understand is the mythology brought about by this article. You even stated yourself Germany has been consistent for decades on the international level. No one, besides perhaps Brazil, has matched it. They won the WC in 1990, Euro in 1996, and played in the WC final in 2002, before their more recent "young" dominance that we are more accustomed to today. Germany is consistently ranked in the top 5 by FIFA, typically in the top 3... public information.

    Lastly, Bayern has been at the top of the champions league consistently since... well since I can remember. Then spells of Leverkusen, Dortmund, Schalke all trickle in every now and then.

    I just find it "funny" that people are now speaking of this era. It has never really changed. La Liga was, to be blunt, never close to the quality of the Bundesliga. The recent crop of Spanish players is fantastic, but that is a recent spell.

    I would go so far as to argue that the Italian league, once Europe's finest, is also far above La Liga. But that is a different article.

    May 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  7. euro121253

    Just small adjustment to defensive line-up will put Barcelona on top. No running forward (Gladiola did that against Real Madrid when Barcelona won 2-0 at Madrid) to prevent counter-attacks, no midget defenders when you have tall opposition in attack like Bayern and changing to 4-4-2 to dominate middle field with attackers like Tello/Pedro, and Messy to be able to take on defenders

    May 3, 2013 at 12:29 am | Reply
  8. SayanIndia

    The article fails to mention the robust mental attitude of Germans in general that remain a significant factor to their success.

    In all three times Germany triumphed in the FIFA World Cup, it edged past the highly favourite ones in the process (Hungary in 1954 and Netherlands in 1974 and 1990).

    In my humble opinion Germany post 1990 lacked the much necessary formidable stopper combination essential for triumph in the highest arena albeit winning the Euro in 1996. The return of that combination will certainly revive the “German era” in soccer field.


    May 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  9. tacticmaster

    German football is dominant now because it develops players from a very young age. Their government support it as well.

    May 6, 2013 at 8:09 am | Reply
  10. Khadijah

    I was not so surprised by Bayern because they lost the previous trophy to Chelsea and to overcome this they came all the back to the FINAL so YES thats good for them but if they succeed in winning this trophy then thats something NEW to hear.....
    Also im surprised to see Dortmund in the Finals rather than Madrid that was really tough for both the teams but eventually luck really pulls up some club so looks like a German Bundesliga is again to be played but this time the Champions would be crowned not League Champions but German Champions of Europe

    So lets put it this way that may the best and the most deserving team WIN!!...that night.

    May 8, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  11. ercan

    burak yılmaz

    May 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  12. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    German teams play straight-forward energetic football. Accurate, disciplined and fast. Defenders find hard to pin them down.

    May 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  13. Francis

    I am not sure the germans will dominate....they have always been there or thereabout in most competitions whether international or clubs tournmament. But I see them challenging the BPL in the coming years with a new vision. Most countries are suffering economically and other leagues like serie a are not attractive lately. I expect them to play attractive football with the arrival of Guardiola and be really competitive in europe and raise the profile of the bundesliga around the world, esp in Asia. Further, Bayern players will be expected to do well in the world cup next yr. It is really good times for german football.

    May 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Reply
  14. Germandude

    Bayern made a good judgement call. They brought in a number of aging stars that other teams thought were past their prime. They used the expertise and soccer IQ of these aging stars to dominate Europe. However, I think that next year things will be back to normal with Spanish and English sides dominating Europe. I also don't think Germany will win World Cup they are not as strong as Netheralnds, Belgium, or Span at the moment.

    June 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Reply

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