As the Bundesliga suddenly becomes the new source of football fashion, the list of things it does rather well is extensive. There is the attitude to youth development which ensures youngsters get a proper chance to shine. There is the clear-headed approach to finance which means no club would ever be in a position to sink into administration.
And there is the rational stance on fan culture which allows supporters not to have to break the bank for a match ticket and when they turn up, lets them stand watching a game, beer in hand.
But if those at the top of the Premier League really take a look at what is happening in Germany as its top two clubs head to Wembley to dispute the Champions League final, when it comes to one important issue, they might note that the Germans are not so very different from the rest of the football world. Roberto Mancini in particular ought to take a note of how Bayern Munich approach the transfer market.
For all the appropriate cooing about the German system, Bayern maintain a pretty old-school approach to team-building. They may well have produced some formidable performers from their own resources. Any club that develops the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller clearly knows how to nurture talent. But Bayern have also been adept at spending their huge commercial income wisely in the market. And it is how they buy that marks them out as properly run club.
What Bayern do is what every leading club should always do in order to maintain their dominance. They enter the transfer market with two ambitions in mind. The first is to strengthen their own squad. The second is to weaken the squads of their immediate opponents.
The transfer of Dortmund’s Mario Goetze, more than likely to be followed in the summer by the recruitment of his colleague Robert Lewandowski, is a prime example of this methodology. These are two exceptional players who will improve even a side as good as Bayern. More to the point, however, their departure will make it much harder for Borussia Dortmund to maintain their assault on Bayern’s growing domestic hegemony.
It was the same when Manuel Neuer joined the club. Not only did he make Bayern a better team, his departure horribly compromised Schalke’s chances of again challenging the Bavarians for the Bundesliga title.
This is not a new idea. Liverpool used to do it all the time under Bob Paisley. Buy in a position of strength and if possible make sure your shopping spree destabilises your immediate rivals. David Johnson and John Wark were recruited by Paisley from Ipswich and with one stroke of the pen emasculated the selling club’s championship potency.
And if to the modern ear it sounds ridiculous to suggest Ipswich were title contenders, under Bobby Robson they were just that, proper rivals to Liverpool. Or at least they were until Paisley snaffled up their best two players.
It does not happen so often these days in English football. Sir Alex Ferguson did it on several occasions in the early days of the Premier League – with the purchase of Andrew Cole from Newcastle, or Eric Cantona from Leeds, for instance. But others seemed to get wise to his approaches.
Which was why it was something of a surprise when Robin Van Persie was bought from Arsenal last summer. That was a piece of business on a par with Bayern’s double swoop for the Dortmund men.
It both provided United with a world class addition to their squad – an addition who undoubtedly made the difference in this season’s title race – and pulled the carpet from under a rival. Without Van Persie, the man who had carried them for so long, Arsenal were simply no longer going to provide a challenge.
It was the sort of business Manchester City really should have been conducting last summer. Never in their history had the club such an opportunity to ensure they brought in the best and messed up the rest. But instead of the double whammy provided by Van Persie, for whatever misguided reason, City brought in Scott Sinclair from Swansea, a transfer which fulfilled neither of the two requirements evident in the recruitment of Goetze and Lewandowski.
With the German way of doing things now football’s favoured fashion, you wonder if City will now pull out the stops and go for a Teutonic spree this summer.
Gareth Bale, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney: how about that for a trio of signings that would absolutely follow the Bayern model? How about that for a statement of intent?