The hype is on German football

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Last week’s matches for the first leg of Champions League semi-finals set a new trend for journalists, bloggers and football enthusiasts around the globe. With massive wins at home against Spanish powerhouses, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund confirmed what many, like me, were expecting. German football model is the one to go for.

When many spent their time talking about how vertical and aggressive the German game has gotten (well, everyone saw that since Low’s team in the World Cup of 2010), I focused my attention to what interests me the most nowadays. The management model that is proposed by Bundesliga clubs, something unique for a top league, looks brilliant.

Borussia Dortmund's  yellow wall of fans at Westfalenstadion
Borussia Dortmund is a great example of the German football management model. For the fans, by the fans.

And it is not that what is happening inside the four lines doesn’t matter to me, pretty much the opposite actually. In Borussia’s case, it has been 3 years now that I’m waiting for a Champions League performance that matches the football they have been playing in their domestic league. Personally, the best football I have ever seen played with such consistency.

Many would disagree and say that wouldn’t be close to Guardiola’s tiki-taka, but that has never attracted me, even if I love the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. I just found it to be¬†extremely¬†boring, the same feel I get when watching most of the physical Premier League matches. Bundesliga currently has the balance I would expect from football, strong players playing good football. With a lot of resources. That’s something that German fans advocate for, and in my view, that is why they are coming, and coming strong.

But back to the main subject here, Germans are thriving and they are proud to do so without external resources and with economic¬†responsibility. With Bundesliga’s current fair financial system currently in place, clubs are audited during the whole year, to be sure of their financial state.

That doesn’t mean that all clubs are debt free, but plays its part in keeping the league sustainable and able to achieve long term growth, as it is possible to see happening at this moment.

From all Bundesliga clubs, only two are privately owned, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen (Volkswagen and Bayer), with the majority of other clubs being owned by the fans. There is the exception of Hoffenheim as well, which is backed by a local billionaire, but once again, that differs a lot from Arab or Russian money invading European Leagues.

German fans don’t really respect how the three clubs above conduct their business, even if the first two where clubs initiated by the factory workers and that got where they are by the “right” way and the latter being a club backed by a successful local business, like happens in many other places. It would be hard to imagine a German club owned by foreign money.

The way the fans in Germany think is actually what is driving their football towards the greatness that is to come. Their passion for the stands, for the colors of the club and for the game surpasses winning by any means.

Executives have noticed that while the club keeps its traditions and roots, the fans will back them to eternity. That mentality is starting to pay off. And not only that, but the wins of last week are echoing around the world, with enthusiasts wanting to have the same done in their local clubs.

Right now it is easy to look at the German clubs and say “let’s go that way”. But their model requires good governance and complete commitment to the fans, something that many of the men in charge of clubs is not prepared for. Most will advocate for the short term success and try to build greatness from it, like it has been done in the past, but dominance is not built over a couple seasons.

Jurgen Klopp is worried that with the money Bayern is granted and currently generating, Bundesliga might become a one horse race in the future and that may be the case.

However, who wouldn’t prefer leagues which raise the social value of clubs, support the community around it while being sustainable over business models where billionaires dump money into mercenaries of the ball? I know I do and I hope that this become the preferred way to go.