With Chelsea's victory over Bayern Munich still fresh, here are five UEFA Champions League-inspired thoughts and observations from another MLS Saturday:
Sometimes football simply doesn't make sense. The cliché that a club's name is on a trophy can't have any truth, and yet it was hard during Chelsea's Champions League final victory not to feel it had some greater power behind it.
CNN's Pedro Pinto and Alex Thomas set the scene for the UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea.
Didier Drogba scored the winner in a dramatic penalty shootout as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich Saturday to win the European Champions League for the first time.
The world's most important annual club soccer game is set to kick off in Munich on Saturday. Here are five thoughts on the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea (FOX, 2:45 pm ET).
UEFA president Michel Platini talks to Pedro Pinto about the Champions League final, financial fair play and Euros.
The annual Super Bowl of world soccer is finally here. Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea (2:45 p.m. ET, FOX) may lack the sexiness of recent European finals -- neither team finished at the top of its own domestic league, after all -- but I still think this should be a highly entertaining contest.
A list of arguably the 10 most pivotal moments in the illustrious history of Bayern Munich.
The five best Bayern sides ever:
In the inner sanctum of the Bayern Munich players' quarters, on a wall next to the communal dining areas, there's a giant black-white picture with photos and red letters. They spell out the clubs unofficial mantra Mia san Mia (We are who we are) and a number of its defining ideals. Full of confidence, loyal, technically brilliant, innovative, effective, focused, attacking, tactically flexible. In between those big words there are snap shots of 11 men who don't need any names or introduction, Bayern's all-star team:
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick as Borussia Dortmund swept aside Bayern Munich 5-2 in the German Cup final to win the domestic double for the first time in their history.
Borussia Dortmund capped a second successive title-winning season by setting a new Bundesliga points record in the final round of matches on Saturday.
Sol Campbell and Keir Radnedge discuss the big challenges faced by new England manager Roy Hodgson.
"The best don't always win," Fernando Torres said after Chelsea's dramatic 2-2 draw away to Barcelona. It's a soccer truism that becomes ever more pronounced at the highest of levels. It's why no one will begrudge Chelsea or Bayern their advancement to the May 19 final at the Allianz Arena, both second legs could have easily turned out very differently. It ultimately came down to missed penalties on Tuesday and Wednesday, a margin of error so small that it should stop us from making sweeping statements. The reasons for success were as complex and open to debate as those for failure.
Bayern Munich will enjoy home advantage when they play Chelsea in the European Champions League final after defeating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu following Wednesday's dramatic penalty shootout.
Bayern Munich may be leading Germany's bid for success on European football's main stage, but Borussia Dortmund rule the roost domestically after winning the Bundesliga title for the second successive season on Saturday.
Mario Gomez gave Bayern Munich a precious 2-1 advantage in their Champions League tie against Real Madrid with an 90th minute winner in the first leg in the Allianz Arena Tuesday.
Borussia Dortmund took a giant stride towards defending their Bundesliga title with a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich Wednesday in a top of the table clash.
Borussia Dortmund maintained their three-point lead over title rivals Bayern Munich with a comfortable 3-1 win against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Barcelona booked a place in the European Champions League semifinals after convincingly beating AC Milan 3-1 on Tuesday, but the victory didn't come without its controversies.
Bayern Munich cut Borussia Dortmund's lead at the top of the Bundesliga to two points with a 2-1 home win over Hanover Saturday.
Germany international striker Mario Gomez grabbed a hat-trick as Bayern Munich routed Hoffenheim 7-1 Saturday.
Jupp Heynckes sent a timely reminder this week: he is still Bayern Munich's manager. "I'm under contract (until 2013) and I expect to fulfill it," the 66-year-old Heynckes told the press on Thursday, "I'm doing this job very passionately and I'm fully committed. Managing is not work for me". He even looked like he meant it, despite admitting that the next two home games -- Saturday's visit of TSG Hoffenheim and Tuesday's Champions League match against FC Basel -- were of "paramount importance." Tabloid Bild was so impressed with Heynckes' cool demeanor that they called the press briefing "Bayern's best performance of 2012."
Was it really "a wonderful defeat," as Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote? The supporters in the Weserstadion had certainly shown little leniency with their team at the final whistle, when the Germany players were jeered and booed on their way into the changing room. "We could have easily conceded three or four, we completely left the back four to their own devices tonight," admitted Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Müller. Miroslav Klose, too, thought that the performance against the French had been indefensible (pun intended). "Of course the timing of this game in the middle of the season is not great but it's pointless to look for excuses," said the Lazio forward. National manager Joachim "Jogi" Löw went one step further. He professed himself "angry" with the way France had dominated and won the match 2-1. "They were superior in the course of the 90 minutes, also in pure football terms," Löw told ZDF television. "We were shown that there's still much to do defensively before the European
FC Bayern Munich has been following Xherdan Shaqiri's progress keenly since September 2010, when the Swiss winger's raw ability was noticed in two Champions League meetings with FC Basel at the age of 18. "If Bayern was to call, I wouldn't have to think too long," Shaqiri said at the time, in response to Swiss media speculation that the Germans were interested to secure his services. Bayern kept tabs on the player and asked Basel keep the lines of communication open. "The name Shaqiri is anything but new to us," Bayern president Uli Hoeneß told Zurich-based Tagesanzeiger last year. In Swiss papers, a bid had been speculated throughout last season and again in the summer, so there was little surprise when an agreement was finally announced last week. Despite this sense of inevitability, it still took a number of coincidental as well as interrelated developments to bring the €11.6 million ($15.1M) deal to fruition.
Mario Gomez scored his 17th league goal of the season as Bayern Munich beat Wolfsburg 2-0 on Saturday to keep them top of the pile in the Bundesliga.
It was supposed to be a unique way to engage with their fans via social media -- but for Germany's most successful soccer club it turned into the ultimate public relations own goal.
Schalke joined Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday after a 3-1 win over Stuttgart at the Veltins Arena.
Leaders Bayern Munich crashed to a 3-1 defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach Friday as the Bundesliga resumed after the winter break.
You don't often see soccer clubs talking up the impact of one of their rivals' new signings while the rivals in question are downplaying the move as "business as usual." Yet, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have found themselves engaged in exactly that curious dialogue after Borussia Mönchengladbach attacking midfielder Marco Reus recently announced that he would move to the German champions next summer, snubbing an offer from Bayern in the process. Dortmund will pay the contractual release clause of €17.5 million ($22.1M) for the 22-year-old, who has scored 10 goals in 15 matches this season.
Six minutes into Bayern Munich's game at VfB Stuttgart on Sunday, it was shaping up to be a rather traumatic afternoon for Mario Gomez. The 26-year-old striker had come under a bit of criticism for going 344 minutes without a goal before the match and just missed "a sitter" against his former club, a gentle tap-in from a meter out. Somehow, Gomez managed not to connect with Arjen Robben's inch-perfect low cross. "It was a 1000 percent chance," he said later, still unable to comprehend his miss.
A double from Bundesliga top scorer Mario Gomez saw Bayern Munich win 2-1 at 10-man Stuttgart on Sunday to open up a three-point lead at the top of the German table.
Borussia Monchengladbach's title hopes suffered a big blow on Saturday with a shock 1-0 defeat at bottom club Augsburg that stopped Lucien Favre's team moving top of the German Bundesliga.
MANCHESTER -- Ivica Olic was slightly limping at the late-night banquet in Manchester's Worsley Park hotel but still smiling when a reporter asked him about his running battle with Man City defender Stefan Savic a couple of hours earlier. "Big problems," the Bayern Munich striker said in broken German, before smiling even more. His foot was hurting from a kick by Savic in the opening minutes but it obviously didn't seem to matter all that much. Olic got his retaliation in by elbowing Savic into the advertising board a little later and was duly booked for his troubles.
Bayern Munich are back on top of the Bundesliga after beating 10-man Werder Bremen 4-1 at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
10-man Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw by Liverpool at Anfield Sunday but have a five-point lead the top of the English Premier League.
Bayern Munich have moved five points clear at the top of the German Bundesliga table after a hard-fought 2-1 victory at bottom club Augsburg on Sunday.
One third into the new season, it's a good time to look at who's who, who dunnit and who didn't. Here's this fall's list of Bundesliga movers and shakers.
Kevin-Prince Boateng scored the fastest Serie A hat-trick in 10 years and Mario Yepes grabbed a late winner as AC Milan came back from 3-0 down for a sensational 4-3 victory at Lecce Sunday.
Bayern Munich's 4-0 win over hapless Hertha BSC on Saturday was so comprehensive that Berlin midfielder Andreas Ottl professed himself "rather satisfied" afterward; it really could have been much worse for the visitors. The imperious league leaders kept another clean sheet -- their eighth in as many games -- and only looked troubled once during the 90 minutes, when the camera closed in on a glum-looking Arjen Robben in the Allianz Arena stands. The 27-year-old winger's continuous struggles with injuries and speculations about his standing in the team remain unseemly blots in the red and white copy book.
Bayern Munich's 10-match winning run came to a halt on Saturday with a 0-0 draw at Hoffenheim that saw goalkeeper Manuel Neuer go past 1,000 minutes without conceding a goal.
Bayern Munich's 2-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League wasn't quite as comfortable as the result suggested. Talk of "the invincibles" or of the team being an Bavarian answer to Barcelona is clearly premature. However, the quality of the performance against a top Premier League side did show that a run of 10 wins without conceding a goal (in all competitions) wasn't merely a result of a particularly kind fixture list. Bayern, as a team, is functioning better than almost any European heavyweight at the moment -- the turnaround from last season has been truly spectacular. Seven reasons explain the radical improvement:
Champions League newcomers Manchester City are still waiting for their first win in the competition as a double from Mario Gomez gave in-form Bayern Munich a 2-0 Group A victory at the Allianz Arena.
The joke was too obvious, but it still had to be made. "Finally, no more debate about the residency", wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday, in a nod to 2004-2006, when California-based Jürgen Klinsmann's reluctance to move back to Germany had dominated the headlines with regularity.
Ever since income from the new Allianz Arena stadium (opened May 2005) significantly boosted Bayern Munich's spending power, its transfers have adhered to a strange symmetry . Little to no investment in even years (2006, 2008, 2010), after championships, has alternated with veritable shopping sprees in the odd, unsuccessful years (2007, 2009, 2011) as the German record title winner sought to address past failings and inevitably ended up paying over the odds. This summer seems like another case in point.
Editor's note: This is Part 3 of a four-part imaginary tournament between 16 of the all-time greatest club teams in soccer history. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here.
Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a four-part imaginary tournament between 16 of the all-time greatest club teams in soccer history. Part 1 can be found here.
The post-Bosman age of contractual freedom has made it much harder for the smaller European teams to hold onto their best players. In the case of German champions Borussia Dortmund, however, the fact that it succeeded with the youngest ever side now rather than, say, 20, years ago, actually works in its favor. In those days, every half-decent Germany player was snapped up instantly by Serie A clubs and Jürgen Klopp's side would have been dismantled in the time it takes to drink an espresso. But the Bundesliga's newfound prosperity has stopped the migration across the Alps in recent years. The crème of young German talent will only move to a handful of European super-clubs now, and for that reason alone it is unlikely that Borussia's brave young squad will suffer too much hemorrhage. It's therefore safe to disregard the "Mario Götze to Arsenal" or "Neven Subotic to Chelsea" rumors that will abound this summer. But some -- almost exclusively foreign -- players will still be on the
There's a popular saying in Germany: "Geld schießt Tore" -- money scores goals. It's a self-evident success formula in professional soccer, where a team's expenditure on players correlates strongly with results on the pitch. Bayern Munich, as the biggest and richest club in the Bundesliga, has always relied on that simple equation and will do so again this summer, when the squad will be strengthened, regardless of Champions League qualification. Bayern is currently one point a drift of Hannover, who occupy the third spot.
CNN's Pedro Pinto reports on the nightmare season that FC Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga are having.
"Typical Germans," Sir Alex Ferguson sneered after Manchester United's away-goals quarterfinal exit against Bayern Munich (4-4 on aggregate) in the Champions League 12 months ago. The Scot was referring to the perceived gamesmanship of Ivica Olic, Franck Ribéry, Mark van Bommel and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who all made sure referee Nicola Rizzoli was well aware that United defender Rafael had already been on a yellow card before his dismissal.
A 1-1 draw away to sixth-placed team 1. FC Nürnberg wouldn't result in the dismissal of the manager in most clubs, but as everyone in Germany knows, Bayern Munich is a law unto itself at the best of times. Louis van Gaal was unceremoniously sacked for good and with immediate effect on Sunday, after last month's announcement that he would leave at the end of the season. These are the 11 (interrelated) reasons why it didn't work out:
You don't win 21 Bundesliga titles in 41 years without a certain a degree of bloody-mindedness. At Bayern Munich, it used to manifest itself in an unapologetic transfer policy that could best be described as BIMBY -- best in my backyard. The Bavarians would routinely buy up the domestic competition's outstanding talent to kill two birds with one stone: while their own status as Germany's best (and wealthiest) team was strengthened, their league rivals would be instantly weakened, sometimes fatally so.
After signing a contract extension (until 2014) and tentatively solving the "Michael Ballack question" -- the Germany captain will have an unofficial farewell match against Brazil in August -- coach Jogi Löw has few problems left. The biggest one might be finding places for a wave of new, exciting prospects in the squad. Here's a projection of Germany's next top model professionals (under 22 years).
After 188 minutes of wildly entertaining, at times outrageously open football Tuesday, it all came down to Bastian Schweinsteiger's tired legs. The Bayern Munich midfielder failed to keep up when Goran Pandev started running from the halfway line and could only watch in horror as the Macedonian smashed in the epic winner that sent Internazionale into the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Even just 10 years ago, a game like the Bayern vs. Inter clash on Tuesday night would have been, generally, unthinkable. Why? Because it was a German team versus an Italian team. In other words, discipline versus defensive nous. Lazy stereotyping was probably off the mark even back at the turn of the millennium, but at least it was grounded in some kind of reality, some kind of expression of national characteristics. Today they're simply way off base. Bayern and Inter provided plenty of evidence of this.
Observations from Champions League action this week:
"Everything that's modern is also ephemeral," Matthias Sammer said Tuesday. It's a pretty strange world view -- easily rebutted by anyone who's ever been to a museum of modern art or used electricity -- but does the former Borussia Dortmund player and manager have a point when it comes to the more narrow confines of Bundesliga football?
Things really couldn't have gone more swimmingly for Bayern Munich during its winter training camp in Qatar. Long-term absentee Arjen Robben was back on the pitch, moving freely and feeling good. Franck Ribéry, another worry in recent months, was as sharp as he has been since getting injured in Euro 2008. New addition Luiz Gustavo, who will most likely start as a left back, added quality to the squad, and the central midfield pairing of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mark van Bommel was reunited.
There have been no matches in Germany since Dec. 22, but football certainly hasn't stopped. In fact, there's an unusual amount of transfer activity this winter. These are the top 10 stories/rumours/developments to keep an eye on before the real fun begins again on Jan 14.
"This is a defeat we can live with," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told sponsors and reporters at the official post-match banquet in the team hotel. "We'd all be well advised to deal with it in a serene manner."
Last Friday, the sun was still shining in Bavaria. Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness held court in his favorite restaurant overlooking Lake Tegernsee, and he was in a splendid mood. After a difficult start to the season, things were finally looking up for the Bundesliga champion on the pitch. Off it, Bayern was in even better shape.
One sole error of judgment, a little slip or loss of concentration, and your entire career can go do down the drain. That's the frightening reality of life as a professional goalkeeper. The idea that an outfield player could be similarly affected by a single mishap seems absurd. But perhaps that's exactly what happened to Mario Gomez.
A rigged UEFA Cup semifinal. Germany's most successful soccer club colluding with the Russian mafia. Police searches of the home addresses of Bayern Munich executives, millions of euros in a secret club bank account, $1 million in cash at a player's house -- and a sizable amount of cocaine?
One prominent player agent in the Bundesliga has bought the domain mediocritysucks.de. He also loves sending out provocative letters with famous quotes from varied people -- Karl Marx, Confucius and Lukas Podolski have all been featured in the past. His latest missive came this week, in a letter with a big "Steven Gerrard for England" sticker, and it carried a good line at the back of the envelope: "We don't fear the competition, we are the competition."
Sometimes the best tactics can be the simplest. After all the talk about pupils overcoming masters, of the wily veteran against the protégé he developed over three years at Barcelona, there was no sense here that Jose Mourinho had outwitted the Bayern Munich coach, Louis van Gaal. Internazionale won the Champions League final because it has better players, and exploited Bayern's weaknesses.
Nearly 11 months of competition have come to this, a Champions League final to be duked out in king of rings, the Santiago Bernabeu. In the blue corner, the lip-curled sneer of Jose Mourinho, who actually seems to be enjoying his success at Internazionale -- this is a league and cup double-winning season -- about as much as a punch in the face. In the red corner, Louis van Gaal, whose Bayern Munich side thrashed Werder Bremen 4-0 to claim its own double last weekend.
At the start of this season's Champions League campaign, very few observers would have predicted that the two teams left standing on the eve of the final would be Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. And yet, after disposing of more fancied opposition in the semifinals, both teams are poised to make history in a final that has more than its fair share of subplots. Here's five things to note about the final:
Saturday's Champions League final between Internazionale and Bayern Munich has come to feel as though it's as much a clash between their respective managers, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, as between the clubs. The flamboyant Latin and the phlegmatic Dutchman are linked, of course, by the time Mourinho spent working under Van Gaal at Barcelona between 1997 and 2000.
CNN's Ben Wyatt asks viewers who will win this year's Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
First, a disclaimer. Yes, after three consecutive seasons of having three English league clubs in the Champions League semifinals, this year there aren't any. Not since 2003-04 has Europe's Final Four included no Premiership teams.
Dutch winger Arjen Robben scored a spectacular volley in the second half, and Bayern Munich advanced over Manchester United into the European Champions League semifinals.
Not that Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced; he clearly fancies Rooney to net the away goal that would take some nerves out of the return encounter at Old Trafford. "He's had an unbelievable season," he said -- and the United boss is also smiling about having Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand back in the center of his back line: "Strong in the back and strong as a team, and we look very strong now."
Forget the mustard deposited in the shoes of teammates, the water fights and the madcap episode in Dubai when he drove the team bus into a bollard. Bayern Munich's attacking maestro Franck Ribéry no longer seems in the mood for pranks; his usual happy-go-lucky demeanor considerably darkened by the club's steadfast refusal to allow him to leave for Real Madrid during the offseason. It's a severe shock to the system for any headliner to be told his desires are of no account.
It has been a weird summer of transfers. Most of Europe's top leagues kick off next month and yet, with a few exceptions (Real Madrid and, to a lesser degree, Juventus and Bayern Munich), there hasn't been too much going on. The window won't close until Aug. 31. In the meantime, here's an attempt at making sense of it all, with 11 questions facing 11 big clubs: