This is the translation of an article originally written by İlhan Özgen for topraksaha.net in Turkish. It has been translated by @blogtifosi.
October 1st, 1969… Salif Keita, one of the first African players to be widely known in Europe, had beaten Maier to neutralize Bayern Munich’s 2-0 lead in the first leg. While French champions Saint-Étienne were up to the round of 16, there was a long way to go ahead of the Bavarians.
May 12th, 1976… Franz Roth’s free-kick had crowned Bayern as the champions of Europe for the third consecutive year as they beat Saint-Étienne by 1-0. Roth —who had also scored the only goal in the 1967 Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1967— had led his team to victory once again. That generation’s European Cup campaign had started with a defeat against St-Étienne and was ending with a triumph against The Greens. But what had changed?
Branco Zebec —who had brought the Meisterschale to Munich the previous season— was the manager of Bayern at the beginning of the 1969-70 season. However, things didn’t go that well in the second season. The manager had been made the scapegoat for three successive losses — a tradition that hasn’t really changed since then. Udo Lattek —whose only experience was being Helmut Schön’s assistant— was the new coach. “By courtesy of Kaiser Beckenbauer,” the German media had already written. Lattek started making his moves with all those speculations going around. Young blood such as Breitner and Hoeneß was promoted to the A team at first. Defender Johnny Hansen from Nürnberg and defensive midfielder Rainer Zobel from Hannover 96 came along. The aim was clearly to lighten Beckenbauer’s defensive responsibilities, who was also starting to play as a libero with the national team.
Although they couldn’t hit the target with those moves in 1970-71, a historic title came at the end of the next season. Bayern Munich were the Bundesliga champions, having scored 101 goals. Every player to be a part of the starting XI except for goalkeeper Maier had scored while Gerd Müller made his mark with 40 goals. That great performance of Bayern and Müller the Bomber went on for 2 more years — he scored 36 and then 30. On May 11th, 1974, Bayern announced themselves as the champions for the third consecutive season. Gerd Müller was under the limelight again, scoring against Offenbach and bringing glory to Bavaria. “We didn’t celebrate with ecstasy. We were focused on the European final and we saved the party for later,” said midfielder Zobel.
Four days after Offenbach, Bayern were finally where they’d been dreaming of, in the European Cup Final against Atlético, who had beaten Celtic after a pitched battle. It hadn’t been a clear way to the final for Los Rojiblancos. In the first semi-final, 10 yellow cards and 3 red ones came out of Doğan Babacan’s pockets. All for Atlético players. Knocking out the Scottish in Madrid, they’d crowned their most successful epoch up until the 2010s with a European Cup Final.
Maybe the focus Zobel mentioned had caused stress. Bayern were playing a faltering, uncreative football on May 15th. Schwarzenbeck, who was not giving Atlético striker Gárate any space to move, and Beckenbauer the boss were playing the best in the team. Bayern were playing defensive football, just like in the game against Ajax in the Netherlands which got them eliminated after losing 4–0 in 90 minutes. Their plan, throwing long balls to Hoeneß, Kapellmann and Torstensson, didn’t work out. These 3 players had been brought to the team by Lattek. Kapellmann was brought in as a replacement for Hoffmann (who was one of the causes of the offensive breakdown against Ajax the previous year) and his job was to push the Müller-machine’s button when it stopped working. Torstensson had joined the club in mid-season. The Swedish player had been the nightmare of the Bavarian side as they played against Swedish champions Atvidaberg. After the penaly shootout, Die Roten were going to the second round and Conny Torstensson was going south to join them.
All these strategies weren’t enough for Bayern Munich to find a goal in 90 minutes. At overtime, the first goal came from Atlético Madrid. When Aragonés scored the late opener with a free kick, there were just 6 minutes left until the final whistle. While Bayern were all out pressing with Beckenbauer coming forward, the unexpected happened and Schwarzenbeck scored the equaliser with a meteoric long-range shot. There was no penalty shootout at the end of the game, the winner would be decided two days later, on the same pitch. Most of the players from that time’s Bayern Munich squad including Zobel and Hoeneß describe that match with words like ‘the best game Bayern ever played’. However, it’s hard to talk about one side dominating the game… Maybe having the moral edge was Bayern’s real advantage. Thus, with fast breaks, Hoeneß’ pace and Müller’s finishing skills determined the score: 4-0. Lattek and his students were finally on top of Europe. This victory had caused a total relief so, at the last game of the Bundesliga, they lost to Mönchengladbach at home, 5-0.
The summer of 1974 would be a stage for the handover ceremony between the Netherlands and Germany. The German national team, which included six starters from the Bayern Munich who had ended Ajax’s monarchy just a few months ago, won against the Netherlands in the final and gave a clear message. “I am the king of the 70s.” The rise of West Germany may well be associated with Bayern Munich but when we take a look at the pitch, it can be seen that Helmut Schön was an expert on what today is called ‘team chemistry’. In front of Maier, Schön ‘copy-pasted’ Bayern’s strong defence and replaced Danish Hansen with Mönchengladbach’s skipper “Terrier” Berti Vogts. One of the most significant defects of Bayern was their lack of creative players. To solve this problem, Schön used a Gladbach-Köln partnership. While legendary playmaker Wolfgang Overath was moving the ball around the pitch, his young midfield partner Bonhof was helping the backline as well as going forward instead of Zobel and Roth, whose priority was to fill the spaces Beckanbauer left behind. The wingers were from Frankfurt. Grabowski and Hölzenbein were probably the best wingers in Germany to support Müller. During the World Cup they won, the contribution they got from the individual talents was no less than the Netherlands’. That victory boosted Bayern Munich’s confidence for the following years to maintain their lead.
Bayern really got what they needed to stay on top of Europe. In 1975, they managed to reach the final again despite the team’s creator Udo Lattek being sacked due to horrible domestic performance. The man who replaced him, Dettmar Cramer, was chosen —once again— by the Kaiser. While working with the national team, Cramer influenced the overturn of Beckanbauer’s suspension because of impregnating a girl. While those whispers were getting louder around the man who was training his first elite club, the players were confident ahead of the final.
Sepp Maier expressed his feelings about the upcoming final in Paris by saying “I’ve played nine finals and never lost one! We will win either 2-0 or 2-1”. The rivals were Leeds United, and the game was set to be more controversial than the previous one. Yet again, Bayern Munich was playing poorly but somehow managed to win thanks to the ‘scorer of finals’ Roth and ‘routine scorer’ Müller. According to Hoeneß, they were lucky. Their English rivals had none of it, though. Leeds were the better side and during the second half, they took the lead through Lorimer’s volley. The British side were in a state of euphoria when the French referee Michel Kitabdjian blew his whistle and overturned the decision. Peter Lorimer later claimed that Beckanbauer was the one who made the decision to invalidate his volley. “As soon as I scored, I looked at the referee to make sure the goal stood. The linesman had no reaction and Maier also thought it was a goal. Moments later, Beckanbauer said something to Kitabdjian and he cancelled the goal. We were all surprised.” Actually, Leeds’ problematic captain Billy Bremmer was blocking Maier’s view when his teammate scored. Leeds’ players were ahead of their time, displaying one of the earliest examples of the passive offside rule of the 2000s.
That decision was the last of many to cause a revolt. Beckanbauer’s tackle on Allan Clarke in the last minutes of the first half was a position which would have ended up as a penalty on every single occasion, but the referee pointed to the corner flag instead. Even though Leeds players blamed the referee for the defeat, not all decisions were against them. Only minutes after the first whistle, Terry Yorath’s cruel challenge on Swedish right-back Andersson, which ended Andersson’s match and broke his patella, went unpunished. Despite all this, Bayern played in a boring way and used long balls frequently. They got the lead in their first try during the second half thanks to Roth, and Müller finished it off. The Kaiser was once again the protagonist when the trophy was in his own hands rising above Paris.
The script was similar the next season. The situation was far from what had been expected in the league, but the European title was only 90 minutes away. Moreover, Real Madrid were defeated in the semi-final with two masterful Gerd Müller goals. At this point, we need to open a parenthesis about Bayern’s identity; in one-match finals they would park the bus and in two-legged ties they’d always play with great expertise at home. The aforementioned Real Madrid tie and the Benfica matches before it are the most remarkable examples. ‘Beckenbauer’s soldiers’, who managed a tie in both away matches, scored 5 against Benfica and dominated the game against Madrid at Munich’s Olympic Stadium. Not a thing was different in the final. The unlucky rivals this time were St.-Étienne, who were as popular as chansons and student protests in the 60s and 70s in France. Dominating the French League, they had eliminated Dynamo Kyiv with an epic comeback and knocked out Dutch champions PSV to play Bayern in Scotland for the great cup. And they even played terrific football for 90 minutes. But the scoreboard was the same: Roth’s free-kick, 1-0, Bayern are the European champions once again.
Dettmar ‘Napoleon’ Cramer’s words best describe this final: “I was anxious before the match. Then footballers came to me and said ‘Don’t worry, if we have made it thus far, we will win.'” Speaking after the final, you could understand that he hadn’t believed they would win: “We had practiced far too many set piece variations for the final but our goal was not one of them!” Beckenbauer had the lead role in that free kick too. “There was a crowded wall. Franz said, ‘I will touch, you will shoot.’ It was the only way we could break through the wall. He touched and I shot!,” Roth explained. Der Kaiser proved his captaincy and intelligence with that single moment to lead his team to victory once again.
After that season, Bayern started splitting up. They finished in the 7th spot the next season and lost to Dynamo Kyiv (whom they’d already lost to twice before) in the 1975 Super Cup. Their three-year reign was coming to an end. The only consolation was the Intercontinental Cup they won versus Cruzeiro in December, 1976. The upcoming season, Beckenbauer went on to move to the USA like many others and leaderless Bayern got dragged into a brief interregnum era.
Looking at the whole Bayern Munich dynasty of that time, it needs to be said that the football they played wasn’t as glorious as their greatest rival (at the time) Ajax’s. But maybe that was what made the rivalry so fierce and maybe that was why people said it changed the course of football history. Vapid but winning football against a beautiful one. And a constant proving of both paths may lead to glory. Isn’t that still the subject of our discussions, only with names changing?