FC Bayern's 2013 || Part I: The Glory

Lennart Preiss

"There were two possible outcomes after the final in 2012: either we fell apart as a team, or we grew even closer together. The second of these is what happened. This footballing tragedy and our bitter tears of grief released incredible inner strength." -Captain Philipp Lahm

Unlike 2012, which was characterized by unexpected success and unprecedented heartbreak, 2013 was a year of unprecedented success and most surprisingly, a feeling that the best of this group of players is still somehow ahead of them.

The Backstory

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It's easy to forget that heading into 2011-2012, the locker room was thought to be in shambles, still recovering from the final Louis van Gaal season which was marked by underachievement and dressing room turmoil. Because of this, Jupp Heynckes was brought in for a third time to sort of mop up the mess van Gaal. Many thought he was little more than a steadying hand for one transitional season.

Of course, that's not at all how Heynckes' first season and a half went. After coming second in two cups and a rather distant second in the league, the team banded together and ran rampant in the first half of the next season.

From the start of last season (2012-2013) and more precisely the installation of Matthias Sammer as Sport Director, a tunnel-vision of sorts has been apparent within the ranks of the club, which is to say that all distractions that observers of FC Bayern had come to deal with were cast aside. Now, all there was to do was hone in on the ultimate goal of winning every match and every competition while playing nothing less than the best football the team was capable of.

And so went the first half of last season, comfortably wrapping up the Bundesliga by the winter break and streaking through both cups European and domestic, setting up the year 2013.

Just before the pause, Bayern drew Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal Quarter-Finals, pitting the two favorites for the competition against one another in a relatively early stage.

Before a match could be played in the new year, it was announced that Pep Guardiola would be taking over for retiring Jupp Heynckes.

At the time many saw Jupp as having been pushed out of his job, but the official story of Heynckes approaching the FC Bayern Board about stopping at the end of the 2012-2013 season has since been corroborated by his refusal to re-enter the game with another club.

Everything Up For Grabs

Bundesliga play returned with a stretch of simple victories over the likes of Fürth, Stuttgart, Mainz, Schalke and Wolfsburg, no win by fewer than a 2-goal margin, before the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 away to Arsenal.

With opening goals from Kroos and Müller before sealing the 3-1 win through Mario Mandzukic, the Bavarians looked primed to stroll through the second leg and look forward to the quarterfinals.

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That was just the problem three weeks later when the London club traveled to Munich.

With an especially complacent performance that so much resembled the 2012 Champions League Final, Bayern were one goal away from elimination for a nerve-wracking 6 or 7 minutes but managed to hang on in the end, advancing on away goals after the aggregate was tied 3-3 by Laurent Koscielny in the 86th minute.

The near-disaster of that evening, it could be argued, was the wake-up call that propelled the team to the Triple.

Bayern wouldn't lose another competitive match (not counting the DFB-Super Cup here for obvious reasons) until falling to Manchester City at home in nearly 9 months.

Between the two Arsenal matches, FCB beat Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim and Fortuna Düsseldorf in the league and had to contest their Pokal Quarter-final against BVB in Munich.

Bayern were able to capitalize on a passing error by second-choice Dortmund defender Felipe Santana, which set up a vintage Arjen Robben curling shot from the top of the box that gave Roman Weidenfeller no chance.

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The 1-0 win was more comfortable than the scoreline would indicate, and Bayern drew VfL Wolfsburg in the semifinal, also to be played in Munich.

A narrow win away to Bayer Leverkusen and a laughable 9-2 demolition of Hamburg preceded Bayern's next challengers in Europe, Italy's Juventus Turin.

The first leg in Munich got off to a lucky and fantastic start for FCB with David Alaba scoring within 30 seconds on a shot that was deflected by the boot of Arturo Vidal and swerved, against the laws of physics, out of Buffon's reach.

Thomas Müller added to the lead in the 63rd minute after a Luis Gustavo shot fell into the path of Mandzukic, who squared for Müller's shot into a mostly empty net.

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The win came at a high cost for Bayern, as midfield anchor Toni Kroos was dealt a season-ending injury in the 18th minute.

Only one week separated the two Juventus fixtures, and in between Bayern clinched the Bundesliga in Frankfurt on a Bastian Schweinsteiger back-heeled goal in the infrared kits.

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In Italy, Juve tried to (literally) knock the two-goal deficit out of Bayern any way they could but weren't able to find any attacking inspiration of their own and were deservedly knocked completely out of the tie after conceding a free kick goal just after the hour mark to Mario Mandzukic, after a fortuitous rebound fell to the Croatian. The delivery was courtesy of Schweinsteiger, and the initial shot was from Javi Martinez. Throughout, the Italians never threatened from open play, with only Pirlo free kicks testing Manuel Neuer.

In stoppage time, substitute Claudio Pizarro put the finishing touches on a gem of an away match to send the aggregate to 4-0.

The semifinal draw assigned FCB to play the other FCB, and with the Bavarian one having already clinched the league, only the DFB-Pokal Semifinal stood between now and the Barcelona matches in the way of meaningful games.

Now halfway through April, and the Triple discussions in full-force, Bayern had no trouble beating a Wolfsburg side in a down year for the Wolves, putting up 6 goals at home to advance to the final of the German Cup. Diego got the only goal for VfL.

On April the 23rd, Bayern announced the signing of Dortmund star Mario Götze by activating his release clause that Dortmund included in his contract, even though the Schwarzgelben would later blame Bayern for bullying them during the transfer.

On the same day, the Reds were set to play Barcelona in Munich. Although maybe unthinkable at the time, the match itself ended up writing all the headlines.

Jupp's Bayern effectively ended the tie before it could even get going, with marauding and sweeping attacking play that countered Barça's possession-oriented approach. Heynckes and his team effectively said "Fine, you can have all the possession you want, but we'll still have all of the attacks."

If there was ever an advertisement for possession being a meaningless statistic, this was it. Barcelona had roughly 60% of the ball, and yet managed to work their way into dangerous areas only about twice, while Bayern were putting up four goals.

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Thomas Müller (twice), Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben scored for the Reds who could have had two more if only obvious handballs were called against Alexis Sanchez and Gerard Pique (though the latter would eventually help the Bayern cause in his own way).

A narrow win in Freiburg to set the new Bundesliga points record and it was back to the Champions League, as Bayern now set out to defend their 4-0 advantage at the Nou Camp.

However, just as the club was about to embark on its most glorious journey, things behind the scenes appeared to unravel.

Scandal And Demolition

President Uli Hoeneß was arrested for what amounted to tax evasion against the Free State of Bavaria.

Before the second Barcelona leg, he offered to resign on a temporary basis at a board meeting but the FC Bayern Supervisory Board refused this motion, standing fully behind Hoeneß while the legal process played out.

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On the pitch, Bayern dismantled the once-favored Barcelona again, with goals from first leg scorers Müller and Robben, as well as a helpful own goal from Pique, which was arguably the prettiest goal of the round.

Meanwhile, Dortmund were busy riding Robert Lewandowski to Wembley, creating the first ever all-German final of this sort.

The Bundesliga finale for both Bayern and Heynckes came fittingly away to Borussia Mönchengladbach in what was almost certainly the wildest match of the season, and maybe of the year.

Stunning goals from Ribery and Robben canceled out Dante apparently still thinking he was playing for his old team and Bayern went on to win a wild match 4-3. Due to Dortmund's shock loss to Hoffenheim, Bayern finished the season 25 points ahead of second place, a record, and also with 91 points, a record as well.

The Finale

Now the stage was set for the match to end all matches.

Bayern had the opportunity to chase away their demons of 2012 both European and domestic in one match.

FCB also had the opportunity to eliminate Dortmund, singlehandedly, from every competition the two teams entered at the beginning of the season.

And that they did.

Dortmund dominated the first 15 minutes but that was all, as even though they'd get a goal, it was more from a silly mistake of aggression from Dante than a decent BVB attack.

Mario Mandzukic scored to take a 1-0 lead in the 60th minute but the goal advantage was given right back 8 minutes later when Dante kicked Marco Reus in the area.

Ilkay Gündogan leveled the match from the spot, leaving everything to play for in the last 20 minutes.

Bayern continued their onslaught, and after a few near misses and brilliant plays from Dortmund's defense and Weidenfeller, managed to find the winner in the final minute of the match.

A long ball from the back found Franck Ribery in the penalty area. The Frenchman left it back for Robben who split Dortmund's centerback pairing and chipped Weidenfeller to Roman's left for the winning goal.

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Having just scored, Robben dashed to the end of the field and celebrated, looking up in the luxury boxes at the Bayern delegation, all in one moment going from perennial Champions League goat to the hero of the best team to ever play in Germany if not the world.

Robben, whose missed penalties against Dortmund and Chelsea in 2012 both had large parts in sinking two of Bayern's trophy hopes, now had himself eliminated BVB from the Pokal and Champions League.

Other Bayern players, like Schweinsteiger, did not immediately celebrate following the final whistle that would arrive some three minutes later. Instead they dropped to the hallowed Wembley turf, the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders.

Jerome Boateng used the time to give Neven Subotic a piece of his mind, to the approval of every Bayern fan.

The fans in the Bayern end hugged and cried; the ones in the Allianz Arena did the same, then stormed the pitch; all feeling the same as Bastian Schweinsteiger.

To hell with May 19, 2012. To hell with being the generation of chokers. To hell with Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona. And to hell with Jürgen Klopp's mouth, to hell with all of the new Dortmund fans that appeared in the week preceding the game. Bayern had done it.

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Most of the players were smiling or crying as they ascended the steps to where they would be presented their medals; a few Dortmund players flashed wry smiles at Hoeneß and Rummenigge as they greeted their future bosses.

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Lahm recalls exactly how he felt in that moment, climbing the steps:

I was thinking about the previous year and the unbelievably agonizing minutes after the final in Munich. All these thoughts came back to me at that moment. Thankfully, it was completely the reverse in London.

With the lift of the Henkelpott it was time to celebrate.

For about two days the players did that; Ribery even slept with the trophy.

But now it was time to focus on one last match, the Pokalfinale in Berlin against VfB Stuttgart.

The Triple

It should be noted, that because of a mix-up in communication (read: blackmail) with the Brazil FA, Dante and Gustavo were forced to be in Confederations Cup training or else they would have allegedly never played for Brazil again. Javi Martinez and Spain, in the exact predicament, had no trouble allowing him to stay and play for his club in the match.

It was supposed to be an easy match, and it was for most of the time. Bayern were ahead 3-0 at the hour mark courtesy of Müller and Mario Gomez, who had two goals to his name in his final Bayern match before transferring to Fiorentina. The first, ironically, was assisted by Lahm meaning that two former Stuttgart players scored. But then, Martin Harnik scored twice for VfB and set up a nervy final 10 minutes, much like the Arsenal second leg.

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Bayern held on, though, and the first German Triple was theirs.

The win sent Jupp Heynckes out on the crowning achievement of his career, and sent Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Mario Gomez and Luis Gustavo out of Bayern on top. 169782933

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Part II will be published on 12/31/13 and will feature FC Bayern's year after the conclusion of the Triple-winning season.

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