There will be relief that football 'made in Germany' has once again become an attractive proposition – and that it has made it to Wembley without any shortcuts via Russia or Abu Dhabi
Unlike in the rest of Europe, there was surprisingly little appetite in Germany to proclaim a "power shift" after the astonishing defeats of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first legs.
Spiegel Online caught the prevailing mood well when it warned that "Germany isn't Spain yet, not by a long way", citing the Bundesliga's considerable points gap behind La Liga in the Uefa coefficient rankings (the Premier League is sandwiched between both leagues in second spot), the Spanish national team's recent trophy haul and the "extreme" nature of the two matches last week as reasons for caution: "Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world, looked like the saddest footballer in the world", while "Robert Lewandowski [the Borussia Dortmund striker] put in a performance that cried out for the invention of new superlatives."
At the same time, there was a kind of quiet, almost unspoken kind of satisfaction that on 25 May at Wembley, a German team looks set to lift the first international trophy since Bayern Munich won the European Cup in 2001. An all-German final would serve as proof that the Bundesliga (DFL) has at last caught up with Joachim Löw's national team, whose ascent back to the apex of World football has happened more quickly because of the less important role of finances in comparison with club football. More crucially, it would also go some way to validate the league's quaint business model: clubs owned and controlled by their members, run profitably.
Granted, the reality is not quite as lovely as the DFL prospectus makes out. In Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, there are two clubs who are wholly owned by their parent companies, Volkswagen and Bayer Pharmaceuticals, respectively. And TSG Hoffenheim 1899, a fourth division village club who have shot up to the top flight thanks to the multimillion-euro investments of a local billionaire, are a "sugar daddy" club in all but name. Yet these are the exceptions, not the norm. For all their international aspirations and sophisticated corporate structures – they are set up as publicly-listed companies, with the members owning the majority of shares – both Bayern and Dortmund have remained rooted firmly in their local communities, sensitive to their core audience's desires and needs.
The biggest controversy in Munich before news of president Uli Hoeness's tax troubles broke centred around the demands of the most loyal of fans from the Südkurve standing to get a higher ticket allocation for Champions League matches, when the Allianz Arena is converted to an all-seater stadium. These fans pay €120 (£101) for a season ticket, or the equivalent of €7.05 per Bundesliga game. "We could charge them double or triple," Hoeness told the Observer in 2010. "But we know that's a lot of money for people, and that it would make them think twice whether they could afford it. For Bayern, it would only be a few extra more million. The kind of money that changes hands in a transfer negotiation in five minutes."
Last week in Dortmund, the "Kein Zwanni" fan initiative convinced Borussia to reduce the ticket prices for away fans, in the hope that other clubs will reciprocate. "It's unacceptable that our fans travel 400km to Stuttgart and then pay €60," said the CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. The most expensive standing ticket in the current season was €23 incidentally, for Bayern fans at Nürnberg. Dortmund, too, will lose out on a few millions of revenue next season thanks to the new tariffs. But keeping ticket prices low makes good business sense in other respects. Affordability serves as a bar to obsolescence and gentrification in the stands, it keeps the stadiums loud and hostile. "Without this atmosphere, this game would not have been possible tonight," Jürgen Klopp said after the pulsating Westfalenstadion had urged his men on to the thrilling win over Real Madrid. He was being genuine.
Wembley's probable finalists have won the past four German championships between them. Financially, however, they are not on the same page – another fact that explains why no one in Germany is ready to herald a new dawn of Bundesliga domination. Dortmund are almost accidentally brilliant this season, total outliers in relation to their resources.
After "living the dream"-style spending in the wake of a successful IPO in October, they found themselves nearly insolvent in 2005. (Bayern actually loaned them €2m when Borussia couldn't pay their players in February 2004). It's been a long, hard road back into the black for them. Their record turnover of €215m for 2011-12 was dwarfed by Bayern's €373m in the same season, and is barely enough to squeeze into the top 10 of Europe's wealthiest clubs. Wages are at around a third of what Bayern offer, which explains why they are vulnerable to losing their best players to their rivals. The Bavarians put noses out of joint by poaching prodigy Mario Götze – the 20-year-old had a release clause – this month and have lined up a deal for Lewandowski, as well. "I'm afraid we will have a Scottish situation in this league soon," Klopp warned 10 days ago. His club will do well to remain competitive after another round of blood-letting this summer.
Bayern have no such worries. Germany's Manchester United – they have won 22 titles in 50 Bundesliga seasons – reel in staggeringly lucrative commercial and sponsorship deals from German blue-chip companies, two of which (Audi and Adidas) are also minority share-holders. Only Real Madrid (€512m), Barcelona (€483m) and United (€396m) made more money in 2011-12, according to the Deloitte Money League. In other words, it should not come as a surprise that they are regulars in the latter stages of the Champions League.
Like the rest of the league, Bayern have also benefitted greatly from Germany's youth development system. Over-hauled at a high cost after disastrous results at the turn of the century, it now churns out ever more technically proficient talents. The steady supply keeps costs down; in the Bundesliga, indigenous players don't come with the kind of premium that is attached to English players in the Premier League. Bayern and Borussia had 13 natives in total in their starting XIs last week, as many as the four English clubs combined fielded in their respective last Champions League matches. The availability of highly-trained, relatively cheap locals have in turn enabled the Bundesliga clubs to seek out better, more special foreigners that can really make the difference at this level.
Unless Bundesliga regulations are relaxed to allow more outside investment, it will take the best part of a decade for other German clubs to get anywhere near Bayern's level. "The deficit cannot be made up," said Watzke. Therefore, there will be no wholesale domination of European football, even if Uefa's financial fair play regulations will bite. Good governance, profitability and the continued production of good players should at least allow the Bundesliga to close the qualitative gap to their wealthier foreign competitors a little, however.
In the meantime, there will be relief, rather than triumphalism, that football "made in Germany" has once again become an attractive proposition beyond the folkloristic fun of beer, sausages and terraces in the grounds – and that it has made it to Wembley without any shortcuts via Russia or Abu Dhabi.