In the next edition of our Last Word on Football Team of the Decade series, we take a look at Bundesliga leaders, Bayern Munich.
As far as decades go, Bayern have had one of the best. Die Roten have won eight Bundesliga titles, five DFB-Pokals’, five DFB/DFL-Supercups, one Champions League, one UEFA Suoer Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.
FC Bayern Munich: Team of the Decade
Manager: Jupp Heynckes
FC Bayern Munich’s team of the decade has many great players, and three great managers to choose from. Jupp Heynckes has had three spells as Bayern manager. The most notable of these was during the 2012-13 treble-winning season that began Bayern’s absolute domestic dominance. Pep Guardiola won the domestic double twice during his spell, while Carlo Ancelotti won it once, but Jupp Heynckes is the only one to win the Champions League.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer has been Bayern’s number one since joining in 2011, a decision that was not just unpopular with fans of FC Schalke 04, but also those of Bayern. The former Schalke captain was born and bred in Gelsenkirchen and supported Die Königsblauen from day one. Many Bayern fans wanted a goalkeeper from Bavaria or at least one who was not a former Schalke legend.
At the same time, Neuer’s first season at Bayern was a complete nightmare. He gifted Borussia Mönchengladbach the winner on the opening matchday at the Allianz Arena, and then made another mistake against Die Fohlen in Gladbach. The season ended with Neuer committing an error against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal final. Like many players in this team of the decade, he bounced back from that campaign, becoming one of Germany’s greatest ever goalkeeper.
Right Back: Philipp Lahm
Not only is Philipp Lahm Bayern’s and the German national side’s best ever right-back, but he is also arguably one of the greatest ever. The Munich native, who joined the club when he was twelve, made over 300 appearances for the club. Lahm is the type of defender that almost never makes a mistake, but also has the touch, vision, and technique to play an important role going forward. His ability on the ball is so good that Pep Guardiola even employed him as a holding midfielder at times.
The German is also incredibly two-footed, often playing at left-back. While Joshua Kimmich is an excellent heir to Lahm’s throne, the young defender has to prove himself for many more years before comparisons can be made.
Center Backs: Jérôme Boateng and Dante
The centre back partnership for Bayern’s team of the decade was a difficult decision. The one clear choice is Jérôme Boateng. The Berlin native joined Bayern in 2011 and has since been an ever and solid presence. The problem arises in choosing Boateng’s partner. In the 2011/12 campaign, Holger Badstuber played almost every minute of league play. His Bayern career was looking increasingly promising until a terrible knee injury against Borussia Dortmund in 2013. Another injury meant he missed the vast majority of the 2013/14 season. Sadly, Badstuber’s career never recovered and he moved to Schalke in 2017.
Another possible partner for Boateng is Mats Hummels, but during the former Dortmund captain’s three-year spell, Bayern’s defence was not its strong point, famously conceding three goals against Liverpool at the Allianz Arena in 2019. At the same time, Niklas Süle is still too inexperienced. That leaves only one real option, Dante. Dante came to Bayern in 2012 after three successful seasons at Mönchengladbach. The Brazilian formed a solid partnership with Boateng and won the Bundesliga by a record margin of 25 points, conceding just 18 goals the entire campaign. Dante and Boateng were the key centre backs that season, Bayern’s most successful of the entire decade.
Left Back: David Alaba
Much of Bayern’s team of the decade is obvious. Since the 2011/12 season, David Alaba has played almost every minute of any Bayern match at left-back. The seemingly unbreakable Austrian defender formed a beautiful attacking partnership with left-winger Franck Ribéry. Although the 2011/12 campaign was maybe Bayern’s most difficult ever, narrowly losing the Bundesliga to Dortmund, losing the DFB Pokal final to Dortmund, and losing the Champions League final to Chelsea in the Allianz Arena, Alaba was a key part in making the 2012/13 season Bayern’s most successful ever. It says a lot about a group of players that they can bounce back from a horrid season in such dominant fashion, and few others symbolise this better than Alaba.
Defensive Midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger
The team of the decade selection is not just based purely on ability or trophies won, but on the connection to the club itself. Bastian Schweinsteiger personifies Bayern. He is Bavarian-born and bred, a Bayern fan from day one, and often attended the famous derby against 1. FC Nürnberg from a young age.
The midfielder joined Bayern’s academy when he was 14 and remained at the club until the age of 31. Over the course of those 342 Bayern appearances, Schweinsteiger won eight Meisterschales, seven DFB Pokals, and the singular Champions League final in 2013. The German legend was the keystone for Bayern during the first half of the last decade, as Schweinsteiger’s incredible stamina allowed him to be a true box-to-box midfielder.
Defensive Midfield: Thiago Alcântara
Choosing Schweinsteiger’s partner in the midfield is difficult because of the wealth of talent that Bayern has seen in this position over the past decade. From Toni Kroos to Javi Martínez, the ability in Bayern’s midfield has often bordered on absurd. This decision, however, comes down to quality. Thiago Alcântara, although not being a part of the treble-winning side in 2012/13, has simply been Bayern’s best holding midfielder of the past decade. In terms of quality, the Spaniard’s skill and flair is the perfect complement to the warrior-like Schweinsteiger.
Right Wing: Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben’s Bayer career did not start as planned. In 2009, he reluctantly joined from Real Madrid and lost the 2010 Champions League final to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan. The 2010/11 season saw Bayern finish trophy-less, and the horrid 2011/12 season was not just bad for Bayern, but probably Robben’s worst ever. The Dutchman missed a critical penalty and then an open goal in a league title-deciding loss to Borussia Dortmund. The Champions League final was even worse. Robben missed a penalty in extra-time against Chelsea, which resulted in Bayern losing at home on penalties. Bayern fans scapegoated the winger. That summer, in a friendly against the Netherlands, Robben was cold-heartedly booed by those at the Allianz Arena.
The Dutchman rebounded, scoring the winner against Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final. Redemption was sweet, but revenge against Klopp’s side was even sweeter. Robben’s performance’s that season were crucial in Bayern winning the treble, and his ability to consistently score, assist, and create space helped the club win seven consecutive Bundesliga titles.
Attacking Midfield: Thomas Müller
Thomas Müller is one of four Bayern academy products that have made the team of the decade. Müller, like Schweinsteiger and Lahm, is Bavarian-born and bred, and joined Bayern when he was just 11-years-old. Müller was profoundly shaped by the defeats in 2012, especially because he scored what looked to be the winner against Chelsea in the 83rd minute of that European final. In the following campaign, Müller was instrumental in Bayern’s dismantling of Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final. In the 2015/16 season, he had his best campaign on record, scoring 32 goals in 49 appearances.
Left-Wing: Franck Ribéry
The Frenchman joined Germany’s record champions in 2007 from Marseille and made 273 appearances before moving on in 2019. Ribéry won nine Bundesliga titles and was crowned Europe’s best player for his role in Bayern’s treble-winning 2012/13 campaign. Never short of confidence, the nimble winger was incensed that he was denied the Ballon D’Or to Cristiano Ronaldo that season. While he is not better than Portuguese star, Ribéry was quite incredible that year, most notably setting up Robben’s winner in the Champions League final with a clever backheel. In his final game at the Allianz Arena on the Bundesliga’s final matchday, the legend sealed the victory and thereby the title with a goal to make the score four-one in Bayern’s favour.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski
Although there are three former Borussia Dortmund starters that made the controversial transfer to Bayern in the last decade, Robert Lewandowski is the only player to make the decade eleven of both clubs. While Mario Gómez and Mario Mandžukić were excellent strikers, both playing integral roles at Bayern, Lewandowski is simply on another level. The Pole has scored 230 goals in his 273 Bayern appearances, a remarkable record, while the side’s reliance on him over the past three seasons cannot be understated.
On the other hand, however, Lewandowski has disappointed in key Champions League ties against Real Madrid, missing multiple clear opportunities. One could argue that he be replaced with a “big game player” like Mandžukić, who scored the opener against Dortmund in the 2013 final. While the Croatian was superb that campaign, it would be hard to justify starting him over Lewandowski. The Pole, with his awesome combination of strength, instinct, and technique, is just too good to leave out.
Goalkeeper: Sven Ulreich
Defender: Mats Hummels
Midfielder: Toni Kroos
Midfielder: Javi Martínez
Forward: Serge Gnabry
Striker: Mario Mandžukić