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FC Bayern History, Part IV

The Golden Years

Who would have imagined that a club nearly destroyed by the war, facing financial difficulties and suffering relegation from the first division would bounce back a decade later to become a dominant force not only in German soccer but on the entire European continent? That is exactly what happened with FC Bayern after they won promotion to the newly-formed Bundesliga in 1965. In the 15 years that followed FC Bayern would win a combined 13 trophies, provide the German national team with a World Cup-winning core of players and set multiple records along the way in what truly was a golden era for the club.

But before all the silverware came flowing in, let us rewind back to the 1950s when the seeds of all the future success were first sown. As Bayern were scaling the Oberliga Süd table in the late 1950s and early 1960s, plans to form a consolidated national league were being put together around the country. The new Bundesliga would officially open in the 1963/64 season. The only problem? How would a country with several different leagues decide who was to participate in the newly-found Bundesliga? For FC Bayern, this question was accompanied by a harsh reality.

Sixteen slots were available to teams from Germany’s five Oberligen to participate in the new league, and 46 submitted applications. Teams were ranked based on financial and on-field performances over the ten previous seasons. Each winner of the 1962/63 Oberliga season received automatic entry. FC Bayern was one of the 20 finalists, and their improved performances over the years should have been enough to guarantee entry. However, another condition stated that no two clubs from the same city would be allowed in. Because rivals 1860 Munich won the Oberliga Süd in the 1962/63 season they made the cut despite the fact that Bayern had a greater points total over ten seasons than their cross-city rivals. 

Rapid Ascent & Dominance

It did not take long for Bayern to win promotion and did so impressively in 1965, helped in large part by young unknown players by the names of Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller. Once Bayern arrived in the Bundesliga there was no looking back. Coached by the eccentric Zlatko Cajkovski, Bayern finished third in the league in their first season and won the German Cup for a second time with Beckenbauer scoring in the final. Winning the Cup also qualified them for the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year. Cajkovski realized the potential and talent of his young players and built the team around Maier, Beckenbauer and Müller with an offensive style of play that captivated fans around the country.

Bayern retained the German Cup in 1967, but more significantly, they won their first European trophy after a dramatic extra-time final against Glasgow Rangers in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Next up was the Bundesliga title. New coach Branko Zebec instilled greater discipline and balance in the team, and they went on to win the league championship along with their third cup in the 1968/69 season, thereby achieving the first league and cup double in Bundesliga history. Four years after gaining promotion, Bayern had won both domestic titles and triumphed in Europe, all with a small core of players. But they would not stop there.

The 1970s were the true peak of FC Bayern’s soccer power. Udo Lattek took over as coach in 1970 and Bayern immediately added a fourth German Cup. A year later, the club won their second national title, the first of three consecutive league championships. It was also the first time any team won the Bundesliga three times in a row. In the last of those three seasons (1973/74), Bayern took yet another great leap forward and won the European Cup (what is now the Champions League), the pinnacle of European club soccer. In that final, Bayern scored a dramatic last-minute equalizer in extra-time to force a replay against Atletico Madrid where they came out convincing winners. It was the first of three consecutive European Cups, matching Ajax Amsterdam’s unprecedented feat three years prior. FC Bayern was now a domestic and international powerhouse.

Legends in the Making

The story of Bayern’s success during the 1960s and 1970s is also the story of some of its greatest players, players who came to define and symbolize the club and whose names now decorate the halls of the team museum. Beckenbauer was one such player. A technically gifted and versatile player, Beckenbauer became the leader and eventual captain of Bayern as well as West Germany during their World Cup-winning campaign in 1974. His graceful style and strong on-pitch personality symbolized the club, and the libero role became synonymous with his name. Then there was Müller. Shy and reserved off the field but absolutely deadly on it, Müller quickly carved out a reputation as one of the game’s greatest goalscorers. He scored 33 in his first season with the club and didn’t stop until his very last. He remains the club’s top goalscorer to this day and has scored over 1000 goals in his career.

Other notable players of that era include goalkeeper Sepp Maier who spent his entire professional career with Bayern and was known for his quick reflex saves. No Bayern player in history has played more Bundesliga matches than Maier. There was also Uli Hoeness, the star of the 1974 European Cup final and a talented attacker who later successfully ventured into the club’s management. All these players played significant roles in Bayern and Germany’s success in the 1970s and laid the foundations for decades to come. This era is still considered as the club’s greatest era by many but that success would be greatly challenged at the end of the decade. 

Click here to read Part III.