Bundesliga suffering under Bayern stranglehold


It took Bayern Munich just over half an hour to strengthen their vice-like grip on the rest of the Bundesliga - and reinforce the notion German football is becoming dangerously dull.

Bayern spent EUR35million on prising Portuguese teenager Renato Sanches from Benfica on Tuesday in a deal that could rise to EUR80m depending on his achievements in Munich.

While that move came out of the blue - Manchester United were reported to be in pole position to sign Sanches - confirmation of the capture of Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels around 30 minutes later was more predictable.

Over eight years after leaving Bayern for Dortmund, the Germany international returned for a fee thought to be in the region of EUR38m after weeks of speculation.

Hummels followed a path already trodden by Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski in quitting Dortmund for Bayern.

All three have been pivotal in Dortmund's rise to becoming Bayern's most consistent challenger domestically.

Their departures, therefore, have double significance: bolstering an already formidable Bayern squad while weakening the only opposition remotely capable of ending the dominance enjoyed by the Allianz Arena club.

Bayern will win a fifth successive Bundesliga title next season under incoming boss Carlo Ancelotti, of that there is little doubt.

It is a situation replicated elsewhere in Europe. Juventus have just won their fifth consecutive Serie A crown while Paris Saint-Germain's financial advantage over the rest in France means Ligue 1 is a procession.

Atletico Madrid battle admirably, with sporadic success, to prevent the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly winning everything in Spain.

England's Premier League considers itself the best in Europe yet La Liga undeniably possesses the best teams - Barcelona are the Champions League holders but will be deposed by one of the Madrid clubs later this month, while Sevilla will attempt to win a third straight Europa League crown against Liverpool next week.

What the Premier League has that the others do not is competition.

Yes, Leicester City's triumph is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence but at least four other teams - Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea - harboured genuine title ambitions last August, while another club, Tottenham Hotspur, surprisingly proved the Foxes' closet challengers.

And yet English fans routinely refer to the Bundesliga when describing the perfect football model.

And there is a lot to like.

Members, not investors, control Bundesliga clubs thanks to a '50+1' rule.

Ticket prices are cheaper than elsewhere in Europe and supporters continue to occupy terraces thanks to safe standing areas.

Add the option of enjoying a beer while watching the game and you can see why the Bundesliga is lauded by many.

The warning signs are there, however.

Leicester full-back Christian Fuchs, who spent seven years in the German top-flight before his move to England, told Bild am Sonntag in March: "Honestly, I think the Bundesliga is boring.

"In 95 per cent of cases, Bayern win the match.

"In England, the level is much higher and anyone can beat anyone."

With the Salad Bowl seemingly in permanent residence in the Bayern trophy cabinet, the club have understandably turned their attention to the Champions League.

Their domestic superiority has yet to translate to success on Europe's biggest stage - not even Pep Guardiola could improve a record of one triumph in 14 years.

And that remains the motivation behind signing the likes of Sanches and Hummels.

The wider problem - and it is not one that should concern Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and his colleagues - is the Bundesliga, at least in terms of the battle for silverware, is rapidly becoming a snoozefest.

There is so much to like about German football but without competitiveness on the field, those positives will only serve as a consolation.