Europe’s Champions: 1973-74 – Bayern Munich
Posted on January 8, 2020
THE year 1974 really did belong to West Germany. Bayern Munich won their first European Cup and in the summer, the nation rejoiced as the World Cup was won. Suddenly, it was “cool” to be German and players like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß were among Europe’s finest.
Bayern were also crowned champions of the Bundesliga in 1973-74 and were just a couple of victories away from completing a treble, losing to Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal semi-finals. The Bavarians were a key element in West Germany’s World Cup triumph, six of the seven squad members from Bayern played in the Munich final. The foundations of the national team’s double of European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup were laid in Munich.
The European Cup had been dominated by the Dutch since 1970, but the Ajax team that won three successive titles between 1971 and 1973 was in sudden decline. Johan Cruyff, their talismanic leader, had moved to Barcelona and the team lacked leadership even though it still had all other components in place. Ajax’s glorious run – four finals in five years – ended in Sofia on November 6, 1973, CSKA beating them 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate – the sort of team they would have beaten when they were at their peak. The competition opened up for teams like Bayern, who later admitted their defeat in the European Cup in 1972-73 to Ajax (4-0 in Amsterdam) had taught them football was moving in a new direction. Bayern’s president, Wilhelm Neudecker had rather controversially said he would sacrifice Bundesliga success for winning the European Cup at the start of 1973-74.
In the European Cup, Udo Lattek’s team began their campaign with a 3-1 home win against Sweden’s Åtvidaberg, with goal-machine Gerd Müller netting twice. But in Sweden, they were beaten by the same score and only scraped through on penalties.
In that second leg, a young Åtvidaberg striker, Conny Torstensson impressed the Bayern hierarchy so much that the club immediately signed him for 580,000 Deutsche marks (around £ 100,000 at the time). Only Torstensson and Jupp Kapellmann cost the club significant sums, the Köln midfielder was secured for a Bundesliga record fee of 802,000 marks. The rest of the squad was mostly developed through Bayern’s youth scheme or signed from amateur clubs. Seven of Bayern’s mainstays were Bavarians, including Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Hans-George Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner and Gerd Müller. Aside from the Swede Torstensson, the only other non-German was Johnny Hansen, a Danish international full back acquired from Nürnberg in 1970.
With such an array of talent, Bayern were natural successors to Ajax, but they made relatively hard work of their European ties. In the second round, they were paired with Dynamo Dresden, a meeting between West and East Germany (and a precursor to the forthcoming World Cup where the two countries were drawn in the same group).
West v East
Dresden had narrowly won the DDR-Oberliga in 1973, beating off the challenge of Carl-Zeiss Jena. They had in their line-up the DDR’s leading scorer in Hans-Jürgen Kreische who later became black-listed by the East German Stasi after taking a bet with a West German politician during the World Cup. Neudecker saw the tie as an attractive clash of cultures and wanted to leverage the commercial opportunities. His expectations fell short – the home leg in Munich attracted 20,000 less than anticipated. But Bayern beat Dresden 4-3 in the Olympiastadion in Munich and drew 3-3 in the second leg. Elsewhere, Liverpool, the English champions, and twice-winners of the European Cup, Benfica, went out of the competition.
Bayern went into the Bundesliga winter break with a narrow lead at the top of the table, with Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach not far behind. Awaiting them in the new year were Ajax’s conquerers, CSKA Sofia. Torstensson showed his performances against Bayern were no fluke and scored twice as CSKA were beaten 4-1. Bayern lost the away leg, but they were through to the semi-finals.
Bayern were not popular in West Germany, though. It didn’t help when Franz Beckenbauer, after Ujpest of Budapest had been beaten in the semi-final, making Bayern the first German finalist since Eintracht Frankfurt in that legendary final of 1960, declared that reaching this stage was no more than what was expected.
Bayern were still one point ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach at the top of the Bundesliga but the title race reached a climax on May 11, with Gladbach losing in Düsseldorf 1-0 and a late Gerd Müller goal beating Offenbach Kickers in Munich. That meant with one game to play, Bayern were three points in front, making them champions for the third consecutive season, the first German club to achieve that feat in the Bundesliga.
Four days later, Bayern travelled to Brussels to meet a robust and uncompromising Atlético Madrid in the final. It was a tense game, ending goalless after 90 minutes. The smart money was still on the German side as they were younger than Atlético. Luis Aragonés, who would go on to manage Spain and lead them to European Championship success in 2008, gave Atlético the lead after 114 minutes with a free kick over the Bayern wall. The Bavarians were not finished, though, and a somewhat speculative effort from Schwarzenbeck netted in the dying seconds, sent the game to a replay, also in the Heysel Stadium.
The manner in which Atlético let it slip was demoralising for the Spaniards, but it also triggered the belief that German teams have a patient, in-built determination that enables them to keep going and chase lost causes. The replay demonstrated that Bayern would not leave Belgium without the trophy. A 4-0 victory, two goals apiece for Müller and the fleet-footed counter-attacker Uli Hoeneß, still stands as one of Bayern’s most comprehensive displays. It was heralded as German club football’s finest moment.
The very next day, Bayern, still nursing hangovers and excess on a night of celebration, had to finish their league campaign. Ironically, it was away to Gladbach. By half-time, it was 4-0 to the home team and the final score ended 5-0. It mattered not as Bayern had completed a magnificent season that opened the doors for further success. The next step was for their stars to prepare for the 1974 World Cup.
@Game of the People