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Bayern Munich ‘Former Favorites XI’

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An opinion piece about my favorite former Bayern Munich players.

Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Why not go down memory lane during another weekend in lockdown? The rules are simple: create an XI of your favorite former Bayern Munich players. A coherent article, written by someone excited to see your XI’s in the comment section below.

As a football fan, I think I appreciate most types of football players. I love the brutal center-back who plays the beautiful game as it was played in the 1970s, I adore the technically gifted magicians who inspired me to do rabona flicks in the backyard as a child and I love the underdog who has an inspiring background outside of the pitch.

Note: I’ve been a Bayern fan since 2000, so my players will only include players who have played for Die Roten within the last 20 years.

The formation will be my favorite formation: a classic 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn

Very obvious and predictably boring, I know. But I couldn’t exclude Oliver Kahn, one of my top 5 favorite football players of all time. The reason I started playing football, Oliver Kahn was my inspiration when guarding the goal for my local team. Lucky for the opponents, I wasn’t as good, and I wasn’t as batshit crazy.

Der Titan was a fantastic goalkeeper, and I was lucky to witness him in his prime. I don’t think I’ll ever see a goalkeeper being as decisive to a World Cup finalist team, and I don’t think I’ll ever witness a goalie being sent off for punching a football in the opponent’s net.

King Kahn forever.

Centre-backs: Patrik Andersson and Lúcio

I’ve written about Patrik Andersson’s first and only goal for Bayern before and I am certain there’s never been more of a dramatic ending to a football season.

Bayern needed to draw against Hamburg to win the league in the last match-day of the season. In the last minutes of the 2000/2001 season, Hamburg was winning with 1-0 and Schalke 04 were on course to win their first Bundesliga title since 1958. Bayern gets a free-kick inside the penalty area after Hans-Jörg Butt picked up a back-pass with his hands. Why Patrik Andersson took the free-kick will always be a mystery. But he did, and he smashed in the last goal a Swedish national has scored for Bayern.

I picked Lúcio due to his playing style. In one way, he was like a traditional English center-back. Strong, athletic, and a little bit crazy. An excellent defensive player, always giving his all while having the great aerial ability and tackling skills. On the other hand, he was brilliantly Brazilian. He loved to dribble and move up the pitch with horse-like steps, even though he wasn’t particularly good at it.

Full backs: Zé Roberto and Rafinha

Two Brazilians occupy the full-back positions. Playing everywhere on the pitch, Zé Roberto was one of the first technically skilled Brazilians I witnessed in the Bundesliga. Fun to watch with a professional attitude (played until he was 43), the Brazilian was easy to love for a young football enthusiast.

Why I picked Rafinha has nothing to do with his performances on the pitch, although he was a solid right-back for Bayern for eight years. It was his love for the badge, his positive attitude, and how respected he was from all Bayern players. He seems like a really cool dude, and if I could choose any former-Bayern player to have a beer with, it would be the Brazilian from Londrina.

Centre-midfielders: Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mark van Bommel

Bastian Schweinsteiger will, for me, always be one of the most important players who wore the Bayern shirt. Making his debut a year after the 2001 Champions League title, Schweini was loyal to the badge even when things in Munich was not good. Fussballgott, the Munich son, and the centerpiece to Bayern and Germany’s resurgence in world football. Excellent on the pitch and close with Südkurve on the stands. One of the biggest players of them all.

Mark van Bommel was a player that many didn’t like. He was a dirty player that had a streetwise style with referees. He was able to do a two-footed tackle and talk himself out of getting sent off. But he was also a leader with charisma, who helped teammates, like Miroslav Klose, settle in at Säbener straße during his time in Munich. Football today has become a little bit too soft for my taste, I miss van Bommel.

Wingers: Franck Ribéry and Mehmet Scholl

Franck Ribéry is my favorite player of all time. He’s the underdog that became a millionaire. The technical genius who had the heart of a lion. Lastly, he was a human being who, like the rest of us, made mistakes. While I respect near-perfect professionals like Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, I find it easier to sympathize with someone who acts like a human being by breaking the calculated media personality. A temperamental underdog that had unconditional love for Bayern, there will be no one quite like the Boulogne-sur-Mer native.

Alongside Oliver Kahn, Mehmet Scholl was my favorite player as a child. He was a typical number 7, who possessed great skill on the ball, creative vision, and a lethal right foot. Back when football was more physical, Scholl, who was short and slim, was very distinguishable and an easy player to like.

Strikers: Mario Mandzukic and Roy Makaay

It’s strange to think that Mario Mandzukic only played for Bayern for two seasons, yet he is one of my top 3 favorite Die Roten players of all time. Much of it has to do with that he was crucial in making Bayern a good team to a great one. Signed as a back-up to Mario Gomez, Mandzukic quickly replaced the slower German international. Mandzukic worked harder, ran more, and was overall a better complement for Ribéry and Robben. The main reason, however, why I love Mandzukic is due to his attitude. A player that was hard as nails, he always gave his all and never dramatized anything. He got an elbow in the face but refused to play hurt for anyone. A real fighter and a player that is very rare in the modern game.

Roy Makaay had effectiveness that could be compared with Gerd Müller’s. Don’t believe me? It actually was Franz Beckenbauer who said that back in 2004. ‘Das Phantom’ was a revelation that couldn’t stop scoring and he seemed to never miss a chance. Always celebrating with the classic celebration of stretching his two arms, Makaay was a classic striker who scored any way possible. In other words, he was a very easy footballer to like.