The Champions League and a total absence of uncertainty this season resulted in the muted jubilations at their title triumph
Not unlike Prince Charles, Bayern had a whole lifetime to prepare for their coronation. But still, when the moment came on Saturday afternoon, they greeted it with a helplessness that was almost touching. After a few hugs, everyone was standing around on the Commerzbank-Arena pitch, wondering what was next, waiting for something to happen. But nothing did. There were no beer showers. No speeches by jeered German FA and league luminaries. No ticker tape. No trophy. In a most welcome departure from recent custom, no one handed out naff "Meister" T-shirts and caps, either.
They couldn't just walk off to the dressing room. But what could they do, without any suitable props at hand? It took an eternity before Dante, one of the nine Bayern players who had never won the league before, ran over the to the Bavarian supporters' section and swapped his shirt for a paper Meisterschale (championship bowl). Later, Franck Ribéry grabbed a megaphone to lead a couple of minutes' cheering. Jupp Heynckes was thrown into the air. And that was that.
Matthias Sammer, the chief non-party planner, wasn't even there to supervise the lack of festivities. Bayern's sporting director and "Spaßbremse" (killjoy) incarnate had run off to the dressing room at the final whistle. "This title belongs to the team and the coaching staff, the physios and the doctors," he told ZDF Sportstudio later that night. "I don't have to be at the centre [of attention], I don't need to jump around. That wouldn't be good for my knee."
Too much of a good time wouldn't be good for the team either, the 45-year-old had warned with a fervour that was verging on self-parody in recent weeks. "Top pros don't celebrate," he reiterated on Saturday, in case anyone was still in doubt. "Important games lie ahead of us." The Champions League return leg against Juventus on Wednesday was the main spoiler, obviously. "It's a bit of shame but we can't lose our concentration," said the president Uli Hoeness. "We can't get sloshed tonight."
Bayern had made hard work of the match in Frankfurt. Everyone looked a little exhausted after the Juve game while David Alaba missed a penalty. It took a fine back-heel from Bastian Schweinsteiger to grab all three points. The players knew that there was no point in fighting for the right to party after their 11th win in a row since the winter break (a new record) sealed their 23rd championship in record time. "It wouldn't make a lot of sense to go too far and then spend two days sorting out our bodies," said Thomas Müller. He advocated the joys of temperance instead: "You don't have to have a drink – water is also OK."
There really was no need for Sammer to bang on about it. But that didn't stop him from issuing one final, historically charged warning. "It's a pleasure, it's a [nice] feeling [to win the championship]," he said. "But we can't go crazy in the next couple of days. Juventus won the title in 1997 and then they celebrated, that's the only reason [Dortmund] beat them in the Champions League final." Poor Karl-Heinz Riedle and Lars Ricken: written out of the narrative.
The impending meeting with the Italians wasn't the only reason for the muted jubilation. Bayern's utter dominance this season was also to blame, in two different ways. A slightly surreal 20-point lead over Dortmund saw them secure the Meisterschaft at the beginning of April, in the middle of Germany's worst spring since records began. "I have won a few championships before, as player and coach, but it was never this cold," noted Heynckes with a smile. The unseasonable temperatures in Frankfurt did their thing to cool the euphoria to below-zero levels.
The other factor was the total absence of any doubt about this outcome. Bayern have won titles in a start-to-finish manner before. But even the most convincing league triumphs have come with a bit of a wobble, with two or three bad results and the accompanying "Bayern in crisis" stories, both imagined and real. In Hollywood films, the script demands that every happy ending is preceded by a moment of gloom. Without those spells of uncertainty, however, success is only half as sweet.
The club on the whole seemed to greet their first trophy in three years in the pleased but unsurprised manner of a man who has just been reunited with his cat after the wayward beast had gone missing – again – for a couple of hours. "The trophy is back where it belongs," one of the 300 or so supporters who came to the public training session at Säbener Strasse on Sunday morning said. Another one echoed the sentiment, using the exact same words. It all brought to mind Paul Breitner's famous quip before he defected to Real Madrid in 1974: "In this shit club, one can't even celebrate properly." It's brutally true. Bayern, in a sense, never really win the championship; they can only defend or lose it. The sense of entitlement is so deeply ingrained that neutrals will never warm to them. But it's also been their secret of success.
Finishing as runners-up in three competitions last season was seen as a disaster. "We sat down with the coach and analysed the weaknesses and mistakes in brutal fashion," recounted Hoeness. The sporting director Christian Nerlinger, too smooth and uninvolved for Hoeness' tastes, was replaced with the driven, unforgiving martinet Sammer.
Dante and Javi Martínez were bought to add both solidity and subtlety at the back. Mario Mandzukic turned out to be a serious upgrade to his compatriot Ivica Olic. The 26-year-old's technical skills made him a better fit for Bayern's combination game while his hard-work enabled Heynckes to adopt high, early pressing as a new and important strategy. Xherdan Shaqiri and Claudio Pizarro were useful additions, too. "All five signings have worked out for us, our transfer policy was fantastic," beamed Hoeness, never one to dabble in pretend modesty.
The 61-year-old also reiterated that Dortmund's challenge had spurred Bayern on this season. Since his reign at the club began in 1979, Hoeness has seen many great teams, but none of them will have worked quite as hard and shown such relentlessness in their hunt for points. The team's fitness levels are nothing short of superb, too. "This is the best football in the club's history," Hoeness said on Sunday.
Much of the credit must go to Heynckes. There were fears that he might be a lame duck, unable to motivate the side after the triple disappointment of 2011-12. But he's handled all the difficult characters inside and outside the dressing room superbly. When Pep Guardiola's signing was announced during the winter break, putting Heynckes in an awkward position, he carried on winning without missing a beat.
With this championship, his first since winning the league in 1989-90 with Bayern, the former world-class striker with Mönchengladbach has come full circle. If he were to stop coaching after the season, it would be a fitting end to a remarkable but not always happy career.
For many years, Heynckes was little more than the supporting player in a Hoeness anecdote. The Reds boss would regularly recall his dismissal of the coach in 1991 as "the greatest mistake" he'd ever made. Bayern were nearly relegated that season, and Heynckes, who was seen as lacking charisma by the German media, had to resurrect his career at Athletic Bilbao. In 1994 he returned to coach Eintracht Frankfurt. His disciplinarian approach brought him into conflict with the stars of the side – Tony Yeboah, Maurizio Gaudino, Jay-Jay Okocha – and within months both him and trio were gone. Eintracht fans have never forgiven him for the break-up of one of the most exciting sides in their history.
Heynckes went back to Spain, winning Real Madrid's first European Cup in 32 years, but he was fired instantly. Stints at Benfica, a return to Athletic, then jobs at Schalke and Gladbach were short and ranged from the unremarkable to the calamitous. Then he retired, aged 62, with his reputation pretty much ruined.
Two years later, in April 2009, Hoeness surprisingly put him in charge for the last five games of a season that had begun with Jürgen Klinsmann at the helm. Heynckes finished in second place and made enough of an impression to get the Leverkusen job the following summer. After a couple of successful campaigns at the Bay-Arena, he was the logical choice to replace Louis van Gaal.
This year's title has ensured his legacy. There are still more records up for grabs. The biggest points tally. The most goals scored, fewest conceded. Perhaps it would be better if Bayern missed out on a few of those, however, because humans are programmed to mistrust freakish brilliance. They will automatically try and rationalise it by blaming the relative weakness of the competition. The ease with which Bayern have achieved their aims this season has already begun to devalue them in the minds of many observers.
The only way out of this quandary leads through Europe. Heynckes' Fallhöhe, the possibility of failure, has just become a lot greater. But so, too, are the possible rewards. A treble would arguably put him just ahead of Ottmar Hitzfeld and Udo Lattek in the pantheon of Bayern's greatest-ever coaches. Not bad for a man who the young Stefan Effenberg once threatened to beat up in the dressing room.
Results: Hoffenheim 3-0 Düsseldorf, Werder Bremen 0-2 Schalke 04, Hamburg 0-1 Freiburg, Frankfut 0-1 Bayern Munich, Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-0 Greuther Fürth, Borussia Dortmund 4-2 Augsburg, Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Wolfsburg, Nürnberg 2-1 Mainz, Hannover 0-0 Stuttgart.