It seems in German football that there are two directions for success, packing up and heading to Bavaria for the comforts of Bayern Munich, or simply leaving the Bundesliga.
Using Bundesliga clubs as a springboard to success is a process that the league knows all too well. From Leroy Sane to Toni Kroos, the league has lost a formidable number of sublime talent to other European clubs. The reason for this is potentially the lack of competition that the league has to offer as well as the amount of money on the table elsewhere.
Many players are accused of taking the easy way out and signing for Bayern Munich, a club where silverware is practically guaranteed as well as a healthy salary. Despite all of the glitz and glamour that Munich have to offer a player, their youth system is also one to admire. The Säbener Strasse youth academy has graduated some of the club’s best players, including David Alaba and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The academy focuses on integrating the youth players with the team, which looking at the transitioning team that Munich have now, has been a success and is certainly an attraction for young players. It not only benefits players on the field but teaches youngsters the values of playing for the club, as well as assisting them into making the correct decisions as a young talent.
The impressive nature of Munich’s youth system doesn’t stop at Säbener Strasse, bringing in youth talents from abroad or from fellow German clubs has its benefits. When the Bavarians signed 20-year-old VfB Stuttgart youth graduate Joshua Kimmich in 2015, it was unclear just how good the German could be. A transfer fee of €8.5m was enough to lure him from the comforts of Stuttgart and after three years at Bayern, he’s now worth somewhere around the sum of €60m and is rated as one of the world’s best fullbacks. Kimmich’s ability was fully unlocked at Bayern, the trust that the club placed in the Rottweil-born talent was admirable, considering his expectation to fill the boots of German legend, Philipp Lahm. While at first glance, a young players decision to join Bayern can come across as a short-term remedy to money and fame, the club’s work with youngsters should be recognised as one of the best that Europe has to offer.
Bayern Munich is the summit of success as far as German football goes; however, the league is heating up, especially with the introduction of RB Leipzig to the top seeds of the league. Whilst their promotion in 2016 was one of a controversial nature, Leipzig have inspired the Bundesliga adding a hint of competition to the top of the table. Like Bayern Munich, their youth set up is impressive, bringing through some of the standout performers in their second-place finish last season. Leipzig clinched the signing of the Stuttgart-born striker from his home club two years ago, and his development has been remarkable since. Werner is now set to lead the line for Germany at the World Cup this summer, taking over the legacy of Miroslav Klose.
Werner isn’t the only young star that has a future in the Bundesliga, in October 2017, Hamburg’s Fiete Arp became the first millennial to score in the Bundesliga. Arp reportedly turned down interest from Chelsea in the summer, in a favoured stay at his home club in Hamburg. It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to youth players in the league, could change be coming as young players regain trust in the Bundesliga?
In the past, numerous players have toyed with the opportunity of playing in the league, using it as a steppingstone to get a more glamourous move to other countries. Such decisions shouldn’t be frowned upon as mentioned, the competitiveness of the league is missing and some players don’t desire to move to Bayern Munich. Leroy Sane made the move to Manchester City last season, the transfer was questionable, as after two encouraging seasons with Schalke, the German opted for a move to England, which many thought was too soon. The same applied to Julian Draxler, who left Wolfsburg in an ugly manner to join PSG. Despite the initial opinions on the transfers, both players were crowned champions of their respective leagues this season, which could act as inspiration to players and agents in the Bundesliga.
The loss of elite players should act as an incentive for the league to find a way to muscle Bayern Munich off the top, however the financial background of the league and the teams involved makes it an impossible mission to get teams to challenge whilst maintaining German tradition in its football. The Bundesliga is special because of the relationship between fans and club, subsidising this for competition simply would defeat the object of the German league. In a league where money is power, the road to success can often be short in Germany, as other leagues provide a new taste for young players that is craved by many.