'This Bayern will rule Europe'

Bayern legend and Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning skipper Lothar Matthaeus sees the club going all the way in the Champions League this season, after the addition of Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa.
Bayern legend and Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning skipper Lothar Matthaeus sees the club going all the way in the Champions League this season, after the addition of Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Club icon Matthaeus feels new signings will inspire German giants in Champions League

Every time Bayern Munich win, the German Bundesliga loses - so goes the questionable adage often heard in European football circles.

The Bavarians have dominated the domestic competition for the past three seasons, scooping the title by the not insignificant margins of 25, 19 and 10 points.

No team have won the league for four straight years, but few would bet against Pep Guardiola's troops claiming yet another record.

Even so, club icon Lothar Matthaeus wants his former employers to aim even higher this season, after they added playmaker Arturo Vidal and silky forward Douglas Costa to their ranks.

According to Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning captain, the duo will be game-changers in the Champions League, where Bayern were brushed aside by Real Madrid and Barcelona in the semi-finals of the last two editions.

NOT BY CHANCE

"We worked very hard at it over the past decade, and I believe we will continue to reign in many years to come."

LOTHAR MATTHAEUS, who expects German football dominance to continue

"Bayern's main weakness before was they lacked speed down the wings and a midfielder who could drive them forward," the 54-year-old told reporters at the Bundesliga's new regional office at Duxton Hill yesterday.

"Now, they have a complete squad, better than Barcelona, better than Real Madrid. They are equipped to go all the way in the Champions League."

Although Bayern began the new Bundesliga season with a ruthless 5-0 demolition of Hamburg on Friday, Matthaeus believes they will not have it so easy on the home front.

Wolfsburg, he noted, will build on their second-place finish and the recent Super Cup victory over Bayern, while Dortmund will be rejuvenated under new manager Thomas Tuchel and the return of star forward Marco Reus from injury.

"I hope for more entertainment in the league. Bayern are favourites but there are three or four teams who will come close this season," said Matthaeus, Germany's most capped player with 150 appearances.

"The Bundesliga is certainly not a one-team competition."

Few would argue against a Die Mannschaft icon renowned for his perceptive passing, positional sense, well-timed tackling, as well as powerful shooting. In 1991, he was named Fifa's first World Player of the Year, and remains the only German to have received the award.

After a less successful stint in management, Matthaeus now enjoys his career as a pundit, and will be part of Fox Sports Asia's coverage of this weekend's opening Bundesliga matches.

A vociferous leader on the field, he is not afraid to be frank off it too. The seven-time Bundesliga winner feels that Bastian Schweinsteiger will not be missed at Bayern, noting that the Germany captain's move to Manchester United was "good for everyone" and it was "best for him to leave".

He also questioned Asia's obsession with the English Premier League (EPL).

"Where is England in the Champions League and the Europa League?" he wondered aloud, pointing to the fact that no English outfit reached the quarter-finals of Europe's two main club tournaments.

"If you want good football, look to Germany."

Displaying a deep knowledge of European football, Matthaeus noted how the Bundesliga had the highest goals per game (2.76) and average crowds (42,500) among Europe's top five leagues.

While English talents struggle to break into EPL line-ups, Bundesliga clubs have invested over €1.2 billion (S$1.88 billion) in youth development since 2001.

In fact, 22 of Germany's 24-man squad who won the World Cup last year came through the revamped system.

For Matthaeus, whom Argentinian legend Diego Maradona once referred to as his "best rival", the days of Spain's tiki-taka passing and France's midfield wizardry are over.

He said: "Germany has a strong national team and a top domestic league - and it's no fluke. We worked very hard at it over the past decade, and I believe we will continue to reign in many years to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline ''This Bayern will rule Europe''. Print Edition | Subscribe