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Bayern Munich and the case for beautiful football against Bayer Leverkusen

Will the real Bayern Munich please stand up?

FC Bayern München Training Session Photo by M. Donato/FC Bayern via Getty Images

This week, news emerged suggesting that former Bayern Munich player and boss, Hansi Flick might be headed to FC Barcelona. Barcelona once was the bastion of beautiful football until, of course, they became the laughing stock of European football.

However, the thought of what Flick can do with their young team spearheaded by the magical but pragmatic Robert Lewandowski up front has me excited, similar to the excitement that used to fill me up when I used to drag myself out of bed every weekend to watch Flicki-Flacka — high octane football with high lines and filled with goals — and it used to fill my soul.

Yes, the game is about winning. But it is also called the “beautiful game.”

There was something symbolic and absolutely special about Aleksandar Pavlović’s goal against Borussia Mönchengladbach this weekend. Yes, it was a Bayern product’s first goal at home; yes, it was a generational goal as the assist came from the only other player who is a true product of Bayern’s academy in this squad, Thomas Müller (we have not forgotten you, Josip Stanisic!); yes, of course it was a vital goal against a team that has too often had Bayern’s number in recent years; but, more than anything, it was such a beautiful goal, one that was so beautiful to watch, that it filled your soul. Bayern Munich, once in a while, plays like itself; this was one of the rare occasions.

This brings me, of course, to Thomas Tuchel. The former Chelsea boss keeps winning games; quite a few have turned out to be snooze fests, not worth dragging myself out of bed for. It seems he seems himself ensconced in Bayern’s plans for the future. And many fans will argue that they are happy to sit through ugly 1-0 wins as long as they are wins and not dire losses as against Werder Bremen.

Yet, there is something to be said about beautiful football and winning.

Statistic: Number of fan club members of FC Bayern Munich from 2005/06 to 2018 (in 1,000s) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

This graphic from Statista shows the number of fan memberships in Bayern. The biggest jump came in 2012/13. That year, a wounded Bayern played magnificent football and broke a few records to become the best team in the world. Ugly football can sometimes win a side trophies. Yet, is it worth sacrificing beautiful football when you can win trophies with it too?

Bayern plays Bayer Leverkusen this weekend, a team which has often played beautiful football but fallen at crucial hurdles. In midweek, despite a few calamitous errors, Leverkusen secured a spot in the DFB Pokal semifinals against VfB Stuttgart. Before, after and between the errors, they played short passes, vertical passes, crosses, through-balls and so much more, all beautiful, all endearing.

When Bayern wins ugly they stop becoming endearing. In 2001, Bayern did not win the Champions League by playing beautiful football. Yet, Bayern played eye-catching football throughout the 70s, in 2012/13 and in 2019/20. Eye-catching football can win you more games it seems, at least when it comes to Bayern.

If Thomas Tuchel reverts to his U-shaped game plan, this weekend’s game between Bayern and Leverkusen might turn into a contest between a negative and positive approach to the game. However, Bayern does revert back to beautiful Bayern once in a while such as the games against Stuttgart and Borussia Mönchengladbach showed.

It may take beautiful football to bring down Leverkusen. Tuchel’s U-shaped approach might do the trick too considering how shaky Leverkusen’s backline has looked lately. Yet, Bayern Munich is so much more than a winning machine. It is a club filled with heart. And a big part of that is playing the beautiful game the way that it is meant to be played. Will Bayern play beautiful football? Or will they use a negative approach to beat Bayer Leverkusen?

Looking for more thoughts and analysis on the Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen match? Check out our Bavarian Podcast Works — Preview Show on Spotify or below:

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