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Opinion: In light of Lionel Messi’s transfer to PSG, the identity of Bayern Munich — and the Bundesliga — becomes more important

During the talks of a Super League, countries which had never heard of ‘50+1’ began to push for it; now, once again, Bayern and ‘50+1’ stand at the forefront of a battle to stop the beautiful game from turning into a billionaires’ playground.

Jupp Heynckes FC Bayern - Press Conference
Jupp Heynckes needed a record breaking transfer in Javi Martinez to win it all.
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Julian Nageslmann is worried.

He has seen Manchester City and PSG reel in player after player as if they are playing a video game and their budget is unlimited. In fact, he may already be unhappy with the squad at his disposal:

He wants a few players to add to Bayern’s ridiculously thin squad; however, anyone who has kept an eye on the Bayern squad knows that Bayern rarely has a squad the likes of City and PSG. The Bavarians cannot afford such a squad. The ownership model simply would not allow it.

You can either blame ‘50+1’; or you can thank it. That rule is exactly why Bayern is not in the position of Inter Milan currently, having to sell off arguably their best player in Romelu Lukaku because of financial problems. That rule is exactly why Bayern is not at the whims of a rich owner like Roman Abramovich or the Glazer family.

However, that being said, it remains in Bayern’s interests to be profitable. Even under 50+1, things can fall apart. Ask Schalke, who you will find in the 2.Bundesliga now. Bayern remains fiscally very responsible. That is the reason why Bayern has not gone down the way AC Milan have. Throughout history, big clubs have had seasons where they have been irrelevant. Bayern may be an exception. Even in their worst days, finding Bayern in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League would not surprise anybody.

Perhaps PSG will fail to win the Champions League once more; maybe Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the owner of PSG, will get tired of not being able to win everything. Maybe one day, his interests will drift to England and he will find a challenge in Newcastle or Burnley. PSG is at the whims of his interests. PSG’s fans can celebrate Messi’s transfer. But they do not get to have a say in the club’s decisions.

Bayern’s ultras have a voice; they have consistently voiced their displeasure at high ticket prices in Champions League away games. The PSG owner does not have to listen to the fans’ voices. The Bundesliga’s ultras in general keep ticket prices down and the beautiful game as intact as they can from the influence of money.

I doubt either PSG or Manchester City fans care considering the success their teams have access to which they never would have without their owners (they might have of course tried sustainable growth but why try that when you can climb to the top of the game within a season or two?). PSG and City’s success are based on finances; Bayern’s good finances are based on sporting success.

On Friday, Bayern will take the pitch against a historical club in Borussia Mönchengladbach. Gladbach will not gain tons of fans overnight, regardless of the result. The fans who join, however, will be ones to stay. PSG’s new fans, courtesy of Leo Messi, will perhaps leave once his contract expires.

Regardless, as money takes over the game at an accelerated speed and nations as well as billionaires start owning teams and pumping unlimited cash into said teams at an alarming rate, clubs like Bayern and a system like the Bundesliga must fight to stay relevant but also, to do better.

The very essence of football is competition. Competition is consistently being destroyed each and every day. PSG can afford to pay the salaries of Sergio Ramos, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Bayern, meanwhile, had to think hard before paying Leroy Sané. Bayern had to let go of David Alaba, part and parcel of the club, because they couldn’t afford to break the wage structure for him.

All that being said, I wonder if fans care about the purity of the game; the Super League seems to have suggested they still do. The next time the idea of a Super League is touted, fan voices might not matter too much. PSG, Manchester City and Chelsea might have outgrown their core bases of fans. Maybe, they can even have stadiums in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Russia etc.

Fans are blinded by transfers currently; the bill will come due when the Super League idea is hashed again. By then, the fans who care about ethics might be few and far between. By then, Bayern Munich might really have to consider whether ethics or being part of the biggest of big names matters.

Or, if Bayern can do what they did in 2020, and keep showing up when it matters, or Dortmund does what it did in 2013, and show up when it matters, perhaps, these clubs, bound by rules and bound by fan power, might stop the game from becoming a billionaires’ playground.

Share your thoughts about Messi’s transfer to PSG and how it will impact the game below! And, as always, thank you for reading!

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