Even before last week's 4-0 demolition of FC Barcelona, this FC Bayern München side was being touted as the club's finest. With a win at the weekend handing Jupp Heynckes' team the record for most Bundesliga points in a season, they certainly have a strong case. The class of 1974 continue to cast a long shadow, however: they lifted the first of three straight European Champion Clubs' Cups, plus the Bundesliga that year, and many of the side then claimed that summer's FIFA World Cup with West Germany.
Paul Breitner, a notable member of the '74 team, says it is too early to tell. "I still favour the 1974 side, but if the current team manages to win the Champions League and reaffirms that success by winning it again, then they'd be the best Bayern side ever for me," he said. So how do the two squads measure up, man for man? Here, I compare Heynckes' most regularly used players with the generation of 1974.
Manuel Neuer v Sepp Maier
Maier has a lot going for him, not least three European Cups, a World Cup and a UEFA European Championship, but while Neuer has made a few blunders lately, so did Maier in his day. Neuer is definitely the more complete footballer, with most of his mistakes resulting from his more modern brand of goalkeeping. Such qualities were not demanded of Maier's generation, but his track record gives the older man the edge.
2013 0-1 1974
David Alaba v Paul Breitner
Alaba has been a revelation over the past year or so and is still only 20. Yet he will have to achieve something extraordinary if he is to emulate Breitner, one of the first attacking left-backs, whose pioneering work paved the way for players like Austrian international Alaba. Now 61, Breitner was also one of the best players at the 1974 World Cup, his penalty cancelling out the Netherlands' lead in the final.
2013 0-2 1974
Jérôme Boateng v Georg Schwarzenbeck
Boateng has improved a lot, becoming much more assured with the ball, but 'Katsche' gets the nod. Always 100% committed, Schwarzenbeck was happy to do the dirty work that enabled Franz Beckenbauer to shine – as a great man once put it: "No Kaiser without Katsche." Schwarzenbeck also hit a screamer in the 119th minute of the 1974 European Cup final against Club Atlético de Madrid to earn Bayern a replay and set the stage for the three successive European titles that followed.
2013 0-3 1974
Dante v Franz Beckenbauer
Dante by a mile. Just kidding. No disrespect, but nobody would question Beckenbauer in this head-to-head challenge. Arguably the greatest German footballer of all time, 'Der Kaiser' had outstanding vision, technique and influence. Plus, he captained his country to a World Cup. Plus, he won the World Cup as coach. Plus, he helped bring the World Cup finals to his country. At 29, Dante has some catching up to do.
2013 0-4 1974
Philipp Lahm v Johnny Hansen
No-nonsense Danish defender Hansen won his tackles but rarely ventured into opposition territory; Lahm relishes such opportunities and has become one of the most capable full-backs of his age. Adept on either flank (many Germany and Bayern coaches would have loved to be able to pick him twice) he has given plenty of assists in the UEFA Champions League. The skipper breaks the deadlock for the 2013 team.
2013 1-4 1974
Javi Martínez v Franz Roth
A close call, though Martínez was certainly the more expensive of the two at €40m. Neither player commanded a regular first-team place in the national sides that dominated their era, and both play a very physical game. Roth offered a lot more menace going forward, scoring 72 in 322 Bundesliga matches, and gets my vote by virtue of his decisive goals in the 1967 European Cup Winners' Cup final and the 1975 and 1976 European Cup finals.
2013 1-5 1974
Bastian Schweinsteiger v Jupp Kapellmann
It is not looking good for the current Bayern outfit but never fear, 'Schweini' is here. The experienced central midfielder outshines Jupp Kapellmann in almost every aspect. A mature leader who dictates the tempo of the game, his worth for club and country is often most apparent when he is absent from the lineup. The only thing missing from his repertoire is a major international trophy.
2013 2-5 1974
Toni Kroos v Rainer Zobel
Zobel was not a great player in his day, merely a very good one; he was a hardworking midfielder who was happy simply to be part of such a great Bayern side. Kroos brings a lot more vision to the current team, can dictate play, distribute the ball up front and has the ability to supply an absolutely lethal finish. He is also just 23 and evidently has plenty more to give over the coming years.
2013 3-5 1974
Franck Ribéry v Conny Torstensson
Not as simple a contest as it looks. A Bayern favourite, French dribbler Ribéry is widely regarded as one of the Bundesliga's players of the season, yet if his profile is not as high Torstensson netted ten goals in 21 European Cup games, many of them crucial, earning the nickname 'Mr European Cup'. He was less of a star in the Bundesliga, scoring 11 times in 81 outings, and it is in this respect that the pink-booted Ribéry edges the famously red-shoed Torstensson.
2013 4-5 1974
Thomas Müller v Uli Hoeness
These two have much in common: both quick (for a while Hoeness was considered Europe's fastest striker) and strongest on the wings, though able to play a more central role, they have each scored in European Cup finals. They have similar goalscoring statistics too, but while Müller has a better all-round game, Hoeness is a Bayern and Germany legend – taking the point on the basis of his mass of international titles.
2013 4-6 1974
Mario Mandžukić v Gerd Müller
Mandžukić has made a great impression in his first term and many have noted the impact of his goals and relentless pressing up front. However, in terms of goals per game, Müller is in a league of his own: Mandžukić manages 0.45 goals every Bundesliga match – Müller averaged 0.88; Mandžukić has scored 0.32 per game in Europe – 0.87 was Müller's figure; Mandžukić has notched an average of 0.26 goals a game for Croatia – Müller's rate for West Germany was 1.1.
2013 4-7 1974
A 7-4 win for Bayern's old school, then, but are they really that much better? It is hard to compare teams of different ages, since tactics and formations evolve so dramatically, but while the side of 1974 have the edge on paper here, the modern version may have more balance and depth. Moreover, the 1974 vintage are already legends in Germany; if the present lot go on to claim as many international trophies as their predecessors, they may be able to demand – and dominate – a rematch some day.
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