It was August 2014 and German football was basking in the warm glow of their World Cup triumph in Brazil.
The Bundesliga executives were hoping this would translate into another season of entertaining matches, capacity crowds and record revenues. They hoped this football boom-time would finally see their league treated on equal terms with the Premier League and LaLiga.
But there was one pretty significant problem – a lack of competition.
Bayern Munich had just won the title by 19 points from Borussia Dortmund and to rub it in had gone out and bought their best player and leading goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski.
Julian Nagelsmann will become Bayern Munich’s manager next season, moving from their Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig after a £21.7million compensation package was agreed
Bayern have also secured the signing of Leipzig’s star French defender Dayot Upamecano
It’s only likely to sustain Bayern’s Bundesliga dominance as they close in on nine in a row
The Bundesliga’s chief executive Christian Seifert remained bullish, however. Asked by Sportsmail at a press briefing ahead of the German season’s SuperCup curtain-raiser whether Bayern’s on and off field dominance was a concern, Seifert said he believed it would be a short-lived phenomenon.
Pointing out the fact that Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund had also been champions in the past decade, Seifert said the league had the right mechanisms in place to avoid one team winning it year after year.
Seven years and seven Bayern titles on and it’s fair to say that Seifert was some way off in his prediction.
Not only has Bayern’s dominance been sustained but it has grown and grown – they have been as ruthless in the transfer market and on the balance sheets as they have on the pitch.
It was all hammered home again this week when the champions-elect – that’ll be nine consecutive titles – poached Julian Nagelsmann as their next manager from closest challengers RB Leipzig.
Bayern are closing in on a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title and could seal it this weekend
Nagelsmann (right) will replace Hansi Flick (left), who has confirmed he will leave Bayern
Nagelsmann is only 33 but is already established as one of the game’s most brilliant coaches. The fact he was brought up in the town of Landsberg am Lech, 40 miles west of Munich, and is a childhood Bayern fan made it pretty inevitable he would someday coach them.
But Bayern’s swoop for him – a couple of months after they secured the signing of Leipzig’s star central defender Dayot Upamecano for next season – is just the club’s latest flexing of its muscles. Another power play.
It was no issue for Bayern to pay Leipzig a world record compensation fee of £21.7m to secure their desired successor to Hansi Flick.
You see Leipzig had emerged as a threat to Bayern’s dominance of the German domestic scene – this season’s title race has been tighter than the current seven point gap suggests – and so had to be put back in their place.
Taking one of their best players and then their manager is certainly a brutally effective way of hobbling the competition ahead of next season.
Striker Lewandowski was Borussia Dortmund’s leading scorer before Bayern swooped in 2014
Mario Gotze was another Dortmund player Bayern signed to end their Bundesliga success
The Bayern Ferrari has accelerated serenely into the distance, leaving everyone else covered in dust.
It was the same with Borussia Dortmund when Jurgen Klopp’s team won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Bayern responded by basically saying this could never occur again. In the summer of 2013, they paid the £33million release clause of attacking midfielder Mario Gotze, who had been excellent for Dortmund in their title charge.
A year later, they returned for Lewandowski having negotiated a pre-contract agreement in November 2013. Out of contract, he cost Bayern nothing expect a signing-on fee and has repaid this free transfer with 288 goals in 326 games.
And in 2016, Bayern poached – or rather re-signed – a third prize asset in the form of centre-back Mats Hummels, paying £31.5m.
Lewandowski has reached ever greater heights at Bayern, scoring 288 goals in 326 matches
Manuel Neuer was part of a Schalke team that reached the Champions League semi-finals
It has helped keep Dortmund at arm’s length ever since they last won the title. But Dortmund are far from the only club to have been affected.
If you are a Bundesliga club with a star performer and Bayern like the look of him, there is generally only one outcome. It has seemed at times as though the other 17 Bundesliga clubs are simply feeders to the insatiable beast at the top of the table.
Schalke had just reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2011 when Bayern bought their outstanding goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, paying £27m.
The following year they bought striker Mario Mandzukic from Wolfsburg and centre-back Dante from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Alongside Lewandowski in the summer of 2014 was midfielder Sebastian Rode from Eintracht Frankfurt, also on a free. In 2015 came Joshua Kimmich, just £7.65m from Stuttgart as well as keeper Sven Ulreich from the same source.
Serge Gnabry cost Bayern just £7.2m when they signed him from Werder Bremen in 2017
Schalke’s Leon Goretzka came to Munich after his Schalke contract ran down in 2018
In 2017, Bayern acquired Serge Gnabry from Werder Bremen for £7.2m but that was nothing compared to the way they milked Hoffenheim. Niklas Sule, Sandro Wagner and Sebastian Rudy were all signed for a combined £29.7m.
They picked up another bargain in 2018 with the out-of-contract midfielder Leon Goretzka, while 2019’s additions were Benjamin Pavard from Stuttgart and Michael Cuisance from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Now it’s Leipzig’s turn to be squeezed and they’re unlikely to be the last.
Goretzka has gone on to win a host of trophies with Bayern as they dominate domestically
Of course it angers their rivals. The Hoffenheim director Frank Briel made no bones about the situation after Bayern signed two of the club’s brightest academy prospects, Mamin Sanyang and Armindo Sieb, last year.
‘It is worth discussing, at least from a solidarity points of view, that Bayern are now actively involved in the talent-poaching business with a turnover of three quarters of a billion Euros,’ Briel said.
‘It hurts us because we do all the work at the academy for them.’
Other clubs are in need of the money and the financial squeeze brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic is only going to exacerbate the situation. Maybe there is a trickle-down effect that is beneficial for the wider Bundesliga.
Benjamin Pavard (right) in action for his former club Stuttgart prior to his 2019 transfer
Bayern are the reigning European champions and guaranteed tens of millions in Champions League cash each and every season – in contrast to most of their rivals. They also have a commercial clout miles beyond anybody else in Germany.
The opportunity to win trophy after trophy is obviously a huge temptation for any ambitious player and Bayern are as close to a certainty as you can get in football.
As Leipzig become the latest rival to be neutered by Bayern, Seifert’s hope of an egalitarian Bundesliga is further away than ever.