?Just in case fans across Europe weren’t already aware, Bayern Munich are pretty good at winning Bundesliga title, with very little competition from elsewhere in Germany’s top flight.
But where the Bavarian giants are falling short time after time is in the Champions League, reaching four semi-finals over the last six years only to fall at the penultimate hurdle of European football’s elite competition.
On the face of it, Bayern Munich’s record since they last lifted the coveted trophy in 2013 is actually very impressive, but it’s a polar opposite opinion for those at the Allianz Arena.
Success in the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal – they’ve won three of the last six domestic cups – is always going to be overshadowed by how the club performs in the Champions League.
Bayern Munich have been in desperate need of a rebuild for a number of years and that’s something which has contributed to their ‘failure’ in Europe over the last three years specifically, most recently being knocked out at the last 16 stage of the competition.
New faces like Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard will give the club a much-needed facelift at the back, but it’s Bayern’s ability at the other end of the pitch that will be the difference between success and failure on the biggest stage that club football has to offer.
When Bayern Munich were at their treble-winning peak during the 2012/13 season, it was the devastating partnership of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry – nicknamed Robbéry – that proved to be the difference on so many occasions, with both players on the cusp of turning 30.
Switching to Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman last season was an inspired move (the former was voted as their player of the season) but now attention has to focus on Robert Lewandowski’s role in leading the line in Bavaria.
Jann-Fiete Arp will offer respite in Bayern Munich’s less important matches, but the Poland international will still be needed to carry the club through the latter stages of the Champions League.
As the competition’s sixth top goalscorer of all time and with a better record than the likes of Thierry Henry, Andriy Shevchenko and even Filippo Inzaghi, Lewandowski has already established himself as one of the all-time greats in the ?Champions League.
But just like Ronaldo Nazário, Zlatan Ibrahimovi? and Ruud van Nistelrooy, the Poland international – who’s been directly involved in 69 goals in just 80 appearances in the Champions League – is at risk of ending his career without a winners’ medal in club football’s biggest competition.
Constant links with Real Madrid throughout his career have appeared to hold Lewandowski back in recent years, with it widely thought that a handful of good performances in Europe would surely land him the only available step up from Bayern.
But Lewandowski’s expected decision to commit his future to the club will all-but end any chance of him ever being unveiled at the Santiago Bernabéu, and he can now focus on his chance to win football’s biggest prize solely with Bayern Munich.
Another major boost for the club heading into the new campaign is the extra experience they have with manager Niko Kova?, who showcased his best and worst abilities during last season’s Champions League campaign.
The Croatian is still a relatively inexperienced head coach – last year was his first-ever taste of European football – but 12 months in Bavaria’s notorious hot seat will have him ready to tackle the club’s high expectations next season.
For any chance of following in the footsteps of legendary managers Jupp Heynckes, Dettmar Cramer and Udo Lattek, however, Kova? will have to rely on Lewandowski’s individual ability to help usher in a new golden age for Bayern Munich in Europe.