MUNICH: Bayern Munich earned their seventh straight Bundesliga crown on Saturday’s final matchday with a 5-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt but their most hard-fought league title in a decade highlighted the need for a major overhaul.
German football fans have thoroughly enjoyed the tight title race between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund but with 78 points, it is their lowest tally in their seven seasons of dominance.
Gone are the days of complete domestic control under big-name coaches such as Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti when league titles were won as early as March.
When Bayern decided not to buy any players during last year’s summer transfer market, it meant the manager’s position would be filled by an inexpensive option like Niko Kovac, who arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt.
Despite his team still in the running for the domestic double, it has been a rollercoaster debut season at Bayern for the Croat, whose future in Munich is still unclear.
The champions were challenged throughout the season,, dropping nine points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund late last year.
After a solid start back in August and four wins in a row, they then managed to win only two of their next eight matches.
A leaking defence, with world champions Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels far from their best, coupled with a string of serious injuries to world champion Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman and Arjen Robben put them behind Dortmund.
But Kovac gradually found options in central defender Niklas Suele and winger Serge Gnabry among others to start turning their season around in late December, with the help of solid Joshua Kimmich and top scorer Robert Lewandowski.
Germany international Gnabry proved especially important for Bayern, netting 10 times and setting up another fives goals in his first season in Munich while the return from injury of Coman gave them instant speed down the wings.
By the end of January and after another dry transfer window, they had won seven league games in a row, hunting down stuttering Dortmund before they crushed their league rivals 5-0 in April to become firm favourites for the title.
With veterans Franck Ribery, Robben and Rafinha leaving and several other players possibly on their way out, Bayern are set for major changes next season.
That could also include a new coach, with Kovac having spent most of the season under pressure. Even a double may not convince a success-spoilt Bayern to stick with him next season