Matthias Sammer is someone that knows both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund very well. After a tenure as Bayern’s sporting director, he became and advisor for Dortmund, a team that he both played for and managed in his playing and managerial career. He understands the rivalry and what separates the two clubs currently more than most would. Having clinched their 10th straight Bundesliga title last weekend, Sammer feels like he knows what it is at FC Bayern that keeps them ahead of their direct Bundesliga rivals like Dortmund.
“Football is about performance, but also about the material requirements for it. Here FC Bayern has created a quality that is exceptional and makes the club one of the top clubs in Europe. That’s the initial situation, that’s a fact,” Sammer recently explained (Sport Bild). Even in a transitional period with both managerial and front office changes, Bayern has been able to maintain their domestic dominance despite disappointing exits from both the Champions League and DFB-Pokal.
In an effort to condense his thoughts on just what, exactly, keeps Bayern ahead of their direct domestic rivals, Sammer broke it down into two, separate categories that are conducive with one another when they both work as they should; quality, and team spirit. “In my opinion, the big secret of FC Bayern consists of two factors: the sporting quality and the spirit that prevails throughout the club. For me, spirit means: really wanting to give everything for success every day and having fun at the same time,” he assessed.
At a club like Bayern, the pressure is always on. Even the slightest slip-ups cause a tsunami of attention from the press and pundits alike, as we’ve seen in Julian Nagelsmann’s first season in charge of the club. At other clubs, the pressure isn’t as great in Sammer’s eyes, which, in a way, lets them off the hook a little bit more and consistently sets lower standards. “If you are currently experiencing the unrest after the defeat against Villarreal in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, what is pouring down on the club from inside and outside, you know: Only titles count in Munich! Strange as it may sound, that’s the big plus. If there is a failure, everything is questioned. Other clubs have a different mindset. People there are satisfied with smaller successes, failures are glossed over,” he explained.
At Bayern, there are no fine lines or in-betweens. Something is either considered as success or failure based off of the high bar they always set, and maintain for themselves. It’s in the club’s DNA. Players of other clubs might not think in the same way as FC Bayern players because of this. For Bayern, failure is not an option and it comes with the harshest levels of scrutiny from both the inside and outside. At other clubs, it’s just not the same, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the level of mental toughness to be consistently successful and dominant.
“At Bayern there is only: victory or disaster! This affects the mind, spirit and mentality of every player. I was allowed to experience that in Munich. This relentless focus on success, which Bavaria has had for decades, is sometimes exhausting. But that must also be formed in the competition. Developing this greed is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. But that is exactly the key of FC Bayern,” Sammer concluded.