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FC Bayern History, Part V

Transition & the Eighties

In Part IV, we looked at FC Bayern's golden years in the 1970s. Those years were truly the peak of FC Bayern’s soccer prowess. But it was always going to be difficult to follow what many still consider to be the greatest side in club history. What came next for Bayern was a period of transition that was as much about reinvention as it was about ensuring long-term success. On one hand were the impossibly high standards set by their predecessors and on the other the challenges of now being an established powerhouse in German soccer.

The triumph at the Intercontinental Cup in 1976 against Brazilian side Cruzeiro was a watershed moment for the club. By 1979, all of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier would leave Bayern. Beckenbauer and Müller went to play in the United States and Maier retired. All the while, the team experienced a slump that led to seventh and twelfth place finishes in the Bundesliga in 1977 and 1978 respectively. In that time the club experienced what is still the biggest home defeat in club history. Suffice to say, the club needed to find a way to replace seemingly irreplaceable players and to get back on track or risk falling off further.

'Breitnigge' and the 1980s

What helped Bayern kick-start their ascent was the uncanny ability to replace key players and capitalize on young German talent. Gone were greats like Beckenbauer and Müller, but in their place ascended young players like Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Paul Breitner to lead the team, the latter returning to the club after leaving in 1974. Together the two formed a renowned partnership that underscored Bayern’s return to success and eventual domestic dominance in the 1980s. “Breitnigge,” as the pair would come to be known, were reinforced by Belgian goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff, Klaus Augenthaler in defense and towering forward Dieter Hoeness (brother of Uli).  Thanks to the help of Rummenigge and Breitner, Bayern won the Bundesliga back-to-back in 1980 and ’81.

Bayern went on to win the Bundesliga seven times between 1980 and 1990 and the cup three times. All the while, they continued reinforcing the team with young talents like Lothar Matthäus, Andreas Brehme, Raimond Aumann, Roland Wohlfarth and later Stefan Reuter and Olaf Thon. The decade would be marred by Bayern’s misfortune in Europe, however. They reached the European Cup final twice, in 1982 (vs Aston Villa) and 1987 (FC Porto), but lost on both occasions despite going into the games as favorites and outperforming their opponents. More importanty, though, was Bayern's progress off the field, thanks in large part to one man.

Built by Uli

At the heart of FC Bayern’s rise in their period of transition was former player turned manager, Uli Hoeness. A successful albeit injury-plagued career forced Hoeness to retire early. His impact on the club would go beyond just the pitch, though. In 1979 Bayern President Wilhelm Neudecker announced Hoeness as the club’s new business manager at the age of 27. Bayern meanwhile were experiencing a terrible slump. They finished seventh and twelfth respectively in the 1977 and 1978 only to turn it around and become even more dominant than ever before, and it would be hard to imagine that turnaround without Hoeness.

When Hoeness took over as business manager in 1979 the club was in financial distress. The club was in debt and even bankruptcy loomed over them. Hoeness’ shrewd business acumen and moves helped Bayern not only turn around their financial situation but brought success back on the pitch. It was Uli Hoeness that signed his younger brother Dieter on the cheap from Stuttgart in 1979, a signing many questioned but turned out to be an invaluable part in their success. Similar value-for-money signings like Wolfgang Dremmler, Bernhard "Bernd" Dürnberger and Hans Pflügler helped Bayern back to the top.  In 1984 Bayern cleared that debt with the sale of Rummenigge to Inter Milan for a record fee and added to their funds with the future sales of players like Matthäus, Brehme, Reuter and Kohler. The club's commercial appeal grew significantly under Hoeness, as did the trophy case of course. 

Even if Bayern did not live up to the standards set by their predecessors, the 1980s was a decade of growth for the club, growth that confirmed their powerhouse status, both on and off the field.