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FC Bayern History, Part VI

Nineties and the new millennium

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When we last left off, FC Bayern enjoyed a thoroughly successful and dominant spell in the Bundesliga throughout the 1980s. They won the league seven times during the decade but never quite reached the same level of international success of their predecessors in the 1970s. The club hoped to change that in the 1990s and re-establish itself as a dominant force on the European continent. But the coming decade posed its own set of challenges for the club including personnel changes and a carousel of coaches until they finally put all the pieces together to reach the ultimate prize. 

Bayern started the 1990s the way they ended the ‘80s and had a successful 1990/91 season all things considered. They finished runners-up in the league and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup for the third time running. Things would take a turn for the worse the following season, however. Stefan Reuter and Jürgen Kohler left for Italy and key players like Raimond Aumann and Brian Laudrup picked up long-term injuries. They would be eliminated early in the German Cup and finish 10th in the Bundesliga. It was the first time in over a decade that the club failed to qualify for a European competition. Worse yet, coach Jupp Heynckes was let go after a successful period in charge of the team.

Coaching Carousel

The club was yet again in a position to rebuild and brought in a host of new players. Lothar Matthäus returned from Italy, and the experienced Thomas Helmer and Brazilian Jorginho were brought in. Also joining were two young talents from Karlsruher SC – Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl. Bayern finished second in the 1992/93 season and won the league again in 1994 under the interim guidance of Franz Beckenbauer, who was also the club’s vice president at that point. Giovanni Trapattoni was announced as new coach the following year, the first Italian to coach in Germany. Bayern could not replicate that success under Trapattoni and finished sixth in the league despite reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League (newly-branded European Cup). He was subsequently replaced by Otto Rehhagel ahead of the 1995/96 season who had spent 14 successful years with Werder Bremen.

Things did improve under Rehhagel but only marginally. Bayern finished second in the league and reached the UEFA Cup final but Rehhagel was released in April of 1996, and Beckenbauer once again stepped into the coaching role. Under Beckenbauer, Bayern secured their first European trophy since the 1970s which brought some calm to the club. Trapattoni returned the following season and would stay in charge for two years. Bayern won the title in his first season and the German Cup a year later. It was Bayern’s first German Cup in 12 years. Still, the club failed to make meaningful headway in Europe’s premier competition. They were knocked out in the first round of the 1996/97 UEFA Cup and in the quarter-finals by rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League the following year. To return to ultimate European glory, Bayern had another answer, though. His name was Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Return to glory

Hitzfeld arrived in Munich with an already impressive resume, having led Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles and a surprise Champions League win in 1997. It did not take long for him to make an impact at Bayern either. He won the league with a record margin in his first year and reached both the German Cup and Champions League final. Although they lost both (the latter in dramatic last-minute fashion against Manchester United), the Champions League final put Bayern back on the map internationally. The next year Bayern secured the domestic double and reached the Champions League semi-finals again. Although their run stopped there it was another strong showing in Europe with impressive wins against European rivals and eventual winners that year, Real Madrid. Bayern were finally poised to lift the trophy that had eluded them for 25 years.

The 2000/01 season turned out to be one of the most unforgettable in club history. They successfully defended the league title (their third in a row) and did so in the most dramatic fashion possible (if that was even possible after the ’99 final). Bayern were losing 1:0 to Hamburg in the last minute, putting Schalke in a pole position to win the league. As Schalke supporters were already celebrating in their stadium Bayern defender Patrick Andersson scored a dramatic last-minute equalizer to hand Bayern the title. Four days later Bayern faced Valencia in the Champions league final after a run that included big victories against Real Madrid and Manchester United. The final held some drama of its own as Bayern missed a penalty in regular time and depended on a penalty shootout to determine the game. There, Oliver Kahn edged his name in Bayern folklore by saving three penalties and winning Bayern their first Champions League trophy in a quarter century. Finally, things had come full circle.