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Niko Kovac frank about the fierce competition for the Champions League

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The game done changed.

FBL-GER-BAYERN-MUNICH Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

At his latest press conference, there seemed to be a new side of Niko Kovac that was unseen before. He very candidly spoke about many of Bayern Munich’s offseason trials and tribulations, but his most incisive comments concerned came the Champions League and why Bayern haven’t made the final since 2013.

Since 1976, 43 years, Bayern have won the title twice. We want to do better, but no one can guarantee it.

He’s right. Winning the Champions League is incredibly difficult, and Bayern’s recent run of success from 2012 to now has definitely skewed fan expectations. Being the biggest club in Germany sets certain projections of success on the European stage and Bayern’s frustrating exits have only exacerbated them. But the real problem Bayern faces on the biggest tournament goes much deeper than just fan disappointment according to Kovac.

Bayern no longer plays against clubs but against states. Players earn double or even triple in England and Spain.

There’s a lot to digest there, but essentially, Kovac is throwing some major shade at clubs like Manchester City and Paris-St. Germain who are, essentially, owned by wealthy oil-states. Bayern have to operate as a business, with shareholders, a corporate board, etc., while other major European clubs don’t have to follow these rules. Now, to be fair, there is Financial Fair Play which is supposed to deter clubs from splashing cash like Pacman Jones at a strip club, but our very own Karl Heinz Rumenigge and Ulli Hoeness have been critical of how much impact FFP rules actually have at leveling the playing field.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the 50+1 rule in Germany, which KHR has also publicly criticized. The rule is arguably a deterrent not only for Bayern, but also for other German clubs that struggle to grow the game and keep up with their mid-level English or Spanish counterparts. The irony here, is that while KHR and Kovac are against more money from billionaires taking over European soccer, ending the 50+1 rule would open up German soccer to exactly that.

The Bundesliga currently has the lowest cost of attendance and highest number of butts-per-seat than any league in the world, and that is in no small part thanks to the 50+1 rule, which ensures that it is the fans who own the team, and not some Daddy Warbucks who then jacks up the ticket prices. However, it is silly to expect the Bundesliga to compete on the same field as other clubs who are clearly playing by a different set of rules. With all the rumors of tension between Kovac and the board, this seems to be one thing that they can bond over.