The 1990s for Bayern Munich are epitomized by events off the pitch than on it. Results-wise, it was not a bad decade by any means, but it would be wrong to consider it wildly successful. Bayern won four league titles as well as one DFB Pokal and one UEFA Cup title, the first and only in their history.
Titles won in the 1990s:
Bundesliga titles: 1989–90, 1993–94, 1996–97, 1998–99
DFB-Pokal title: 1997-98
UEFA Cup title: 1995-96
The decade had more significance off the pitch, as the media continuously wrote about the mayhem that was “FC Hollywood,” a nickname coined at the time and still used to this day. A newly unified German media wrote frequently about a team that constantly made a greater impact in the papers than on the pitch. Outspoken individuals such as Lothar Matthäus, Mario Basler, and, of course, Giovanni Trapattoni symbolized the character-rich era that produced gems like this, arguably the most iconic press conference meltdown in Bundesliga history:
Bayern went through seven managerial changes in the decade (excluding a caretaker manager), which is the most of any decade to date. Since taking the helm in 1987, Jupp Heynckes had led Bayern to one league title in his time as manager, but he was in a tough spot by October 1991. Bayern went title-less in the 1990-1991 season and Bayern found themselves in 8th place going into matchday 12 against the 14th-placed Stuttgarter Kickers. The Kickers were newcomers to the league and had previously spent only one season in the top flight. There was no reason why Germany’s best club, playing at home at the Olympiastadion, should not get their fifth victory of the season.
What happened led to Jupp Heynckes’ dismissal. Bayern was humiliated by the small club from Stuttgart, who plays in Germany’s fifth tier today. The Kickers scored twice in the second half and increased the lead to three after the hour mark. Roland Wolfarth scored Bayern’s goal, but their degradation was complete at the last minute when the Kickers finished the game off.
Uli Hoeness recently admitted that firing Heynckes was his biggest mistake of his career. That confession is easy to make in hindsight, because what followed Heynckes’ dismissal was not pretty. Heynckes’ replacement, Sören Lerby, brought Bayern to the bring of an unthinkable relegation battle before he was sacked in early 1992. Erich Ribbeck took over as coach and, with the help of Franz Beckenbauer as sports director, Bayern managed to reach a 10th-place finish.
2. Bayern Munich 2-1 FC Nürnberg, 23 April 1994
Bayern had to rebuild and spent a large amount of money after the disastrous 1991-92 season. Ribbeck’s tactics were heavily criticized, leading to his own dismissal. Beckenbauer took over the team as head coach, with immediate positive effects. Bayern won the league title in the 1993-94 season. The most remarkable game of that season was played at home against FC Nürnberg on the 32nd match day.
Bayern is chasing their first title since 1990, Nürnberg is just above the relegation places. Bayern was only a few points ahead of FC Kaiserslautern and desperately needed the win, but the team became frustrated as it became apparent that Nürnberg was only interested in defending.
Bayern got a corner, which reached the head of defender Thomas Helmer. Squeezing the ball past the wrong side of the post, there was confusion when suddenly the entire stadium broke out in a loud cheer. Linesman Jörg Jablonski, who was position on the other side of the pitch, thought the ball had gone in. The head referee took his colleague’s word and allowed the ‘’goal’’ to stand.
Later in the game, Nürnberg equalized, but Helmer scored a screamer of the goal. In a twist of fate that can only happen in the beautiful game, Nürnberg missed a penalty in the last minute after Christian Wück was brought down by — you guessed it — Thomas Helmer. The final score was 2-1 Bayern.
But Helmer’s dubious goal led to serious controversy, and the DFB ultimately decided that the game should be replayed. Bayern won the second game with 5-0. This time, Helmer did not score.
3. Girondins de Bordeaux 1-3 Bayern Munich, 15 May 1996
In 1994, Franz Beckenbauer became Bayern’s new president and hired Giovanni Trapattoni, the first Italian manager in Bundesliga history. Trapattoni’s German was extremely poor (see the video of his legendary press conference above). The team was in chaos. A 6th-place finish was not enough for Trapattoni to stay in Germany.
Instead, Otto Rehhagel was hired in the hope that he could continue the success he enjoyed at Werder Bremen. But disagreements between him and the board cemented the “FC Hollywood” moniker as yet another manager was dismissed. Bayern had reached the 1996 UEFA Cup Final and Beckenbauer took over the team in the final days of the 1995-96 season.
Playing against a side that included players such as Bixente Lizarazu, Christophe Dugarry, and one Zinedine Zidane, the final was played over two legs, one at home and one away. Bayern won the first leg at the Olympiastadion 2-0 after goals from Thomas Helmer and Mehmet Scholl.
Beckenbauer’s Bayern played both legs with three in the back, with Lothar Matthäus acting as a sweeper. Mehmet Scholl put Bayern supporters’ minds at ease when he opened the scoring in the 53rd minute. Bulgarian striker Emil Kostadinov scored a second goal. Although Bordeaux reduced the lead, Jürgen Klinsmann, then a 30-year-old veteran, confirmed that Bayern would be the new UEFA Cup champions when he scored the 3-1 goal. With the victory, Bayern became the third club to have won all three major European trophies.
4. Dynamo Kiev 3-3 Bayern Munich, 7 April 1999
Bayern’s path to the infamous 1999 Champions League Final at Camp Nou was blessed with some great games. Managed by Ottmar Hitzfeld, Bayern started the campaign by losing away to Danish side Bröndby in the group stage, but they managed to come first thanks to two wins against FC Barcelona. Crushing FC Kaiserslautern in the quarterfinal, Bayern faced Dynamo Kiev, a side that had knocked out Spanish giants Real Madrid in the quarters.
Dynamo Kiev had an exciting set of domestic talent, showcased most by their front man, 22-year-old Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko scored twice in the first-half but Michael Tarnat put Bayern back in the game just before half-time. Vitaliy Kosovskiy increased Dynamo’s lead and came close to scoring his second in a one-on-one against Oliver Kahn. Kosovskiy decided to chip the Bayern keeper, but the ball sailed just over the crossbar.
88,000 fans watched Dynamo Kiev completely outplay the Bavarian giants, but Bayern was still in the game. Let off the hook by Kosovskiy’s miss, Stefan Effenberg scored a clever free kick in the 78th minute. Bayern’s target-striker Carsten Janker equalized ten minutes later, and Bayern won a close game in Munich with 1-0. For the first time since the 1980s, Bayern was again in a Champions League final against yet another English side: Manchester United.
5. Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich, 26 May 1999
”It was not the best team that won but the luckiest” — Lothar Matthäus
”I don’t have the words to describe such a sickening moment. It is too brutal.” — Stefan Effenberg
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Football. Bloody hell.” — Sir Alex Ferguson
‘’I would say I have been very, very lucky as there have been many great matches I have refereed in. I can’t avoid mentioning the World Cup final but I also particularly remember the Manchester United v Bayern Munich final.’’ — referee Pierluigi Collina
The beautiful joy that can emerge from football would not be possible if the game did not also produce downright cruel moments. Bayern was the better team for every single minute of regular time. Mario Basler scored a spectacular free-kick in the sixth minute, and the rest of the game was epitomized by Bayern’s spectacular failure to put the game to bed. United won a corner just as the fourth official indicated that there would be only three minutes of injury time. Fans watching from the stadium or on TV could witness several celebratory flares from the Munich section. United scored off that corner. They won another corner a couple of minutes later. They scored again.
Samuel Kuffour was on the ground, crying uncontrollably while he punched the pitch, Pierluigi Collina had to drag other players to their feet.
Losing in such fashion is incredibly cruel. Though no one would believe it then, the years to follow would be extremely successful. Bayern jumped into the new century after experiencing it all. Soul-crushing defeats, record many titles and drama of the finest order.