ULI HESSE is an insightful writer and chronicler of the German game. His book Tor!, the story of his country’s football is something of a seminal work and he’s now produced the history of Germany’s most fascinating club.
Bayern: Creating a global super club, published by Yellow Jersey Press, is an absorbing read and goes some way to explaining just why Bayern are the most loved and most hated club in Germany.
What adds to the credibility of his book is that Hesse is a Borussia Dortmund season ticket holder. There’s no myopic fawning or anything fan-lit about it, but he reveals that Bayern is a unique club. As Hesse says, Bayern are Germany’s most successful club and they have done it without billionaire tycoon owners, insane transfer deals and eye-watering debts or ticket prices.
Bayern’s success in the 1970s, which is well documented in this book, demonstrates where the German reputation for being determined and clever about the use of energy and talent came from. Bayern, in winning the European Cup in 1974, 1975 and 1976, made their own luck, much to the frustration of their opponents. But success in Europe was not just a “nice to have”, it was a prerequisite to keep Bayern’s team of Maier – Breitner – Beckenbauer – Hoeness – Mueller together.
Paul Breitner comes across as a fascinating, contradictory character in Hesse’s book. “As long as I play well, I can get away with anything,” he is quoted as saying. Not everyone appreciated the rich Maoist with the afro haircut and the club’s president, Wilhelm Neudecker threatened to sell Breitner as he expected more discipline from somebody who earned as much as 10 workers combined.
Hesse calls the 1970s rivalry between Bayern and Borussia Moenchengladbach as a “Beatles or Stones” situation and also dispels some of the myths about the two clubs’ styles. Bayern always won when it mattered while Gladbach were often heroic losers. This made Bayern unpopular, which they seemed to relish, and drew affection for Gladbach from the neutrals.
More recently, Hesse notes that Bayern have moved on from the days when they were cynical, professional and uncompromising to become a stylish and entertaining football team for our times. He’s right there. An excellent book, one of the best about a major European club.