The Greatest: The latest in our series features the FC Bayern München team that dominated with a hat-trick of superb European successes in the mid-1970s.
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UEFA.com analyses the teams that changed football; this time, the FC Bayern München side who dominated the mid-1970s with a hat-trick of European Cup titles.
The golden age
West Germany won their first UEFA European Championship in 1972 and the backbone of that squad – still widely regarded as the best German national team ever assembled – was made up by Bayern. That key members of the squad like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier went on to help the Bavarians dominate the club scene over the next half-decade was no surprise to anyone who saw them.
The first German side to lift the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1974 after forcing a final replay against Club Atlético de Madrid courtesy of a last-gasp Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck strike, they went on to defend the title twice as Leeds United AFC and AS Saint-Étienne were downed in the following finals. The Bundesliga was full of powerful teams during the era, none more so than VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, but Die Roten still racked up four championships between 1970 and 1980.
- Hungary 1950-56: the Magical Magyars
- Real Madrid 1956-60: the European pioneers
- Benfica 1960-62: Eusébio's Lisbon marvels
- Inter Milan 1962-67: the 'Grande Inter'
- Ajax 1971-73: the kings of 'total football'
- AC Milan 1988-90: Sacchi's game-changers
- Real Madrid 1998-2002: the Galácticos
- Barcelona 2008-12: Guardiola's greatest
The baton handover
With the Munich outfit moving to the newly constructed Olympiastadion from 1972, Bayern made a significant step in their evolution to become a European powerhouse. Two years earlier, Udo Lattek had signed up as coach and brought in the likes of Paul Breitner and Uli Hoeness, two men who would become central figures as players over the period.
Beckenbauer, then already a star of German football, explained to UEFA.com how it was Lattek's finely balanced mix of players which led to success: "We had players who had experience at World Cups and European Championships, as well as young guys like Hoeness and Breitner. Our era was relatively short, but we took full advantage of our qualities to win three titles in a row in the Bundesliga and the European Cup."
The game-changing philosophy
Bayern's golden age was initiated by Lattek, but then shaped by Dettmar Cramer for the triumphs in 1975 and 1976. Both coaches felt they had superior individuals to their opponents and used man-marking systems, with Lattek favouring an attack-minded philosophy that saw his side score a record 101 goals in the 1971/72 Bundesliga season. Asked to describe Lattek, keeper Maier said: "He was like a 12th man, I never thought of him as a coach, he was a mate."
Under Cramer, Bayern played a 1-3-3-3 system, making defensive stability a priority, yet giving 'libero' Beckenbauer the freedom to get involved in attacking play at will. If all else failed, they could still count on the goals of Müller, who caused headaches among defences with his great ball control and exquisite finishing.
The tactical genius
German football in the 1970s stood for straight-forward, well-organised, disciplined football. The one player who embodied this more than anyone was Schwarzenbeck. Deployed as a centre-half, Schwarzenbeck acted as a vacuum cleaner for Beckenbauer, taking care of the dirty work while others shone in the limelight. Labelled by Kicker magazine as "the most modest international Germany ever had", his work ethic gave balance to a team that otherwise leaned towards technical quality.
Was he a classical tactical genius in the mould of Johan Cruyff or Alfredo Di Stéfano? Anything but, though all of Bayern's tactical designs would have come to nought without 'Kaiser Beckenbauer's adjutant'. And, of course, there was that not-so-insignificant moment of unlikely brilliance on 15 May 1974 to earn a replay in the 1974 final, after which the floodgates opened.
The star players
Gerd Müller: A constant throughout all three triumphant European campaigns was the reliability of Müller's goalscoring. An elusive striker with a killer instinct, Müller netted 18 times during the three winning seasons. "Without Müller and his goals, we'd still have our old wooden shed at the training ground," Beckenbauer later said of 'Der Bomber'.
Franz Beckenbauer: Nicknamed the 'Kaiser', there's not much left to say about Beckenbauer. Always the modest presence, the two-time World Cup winner (1974 as player, 1990 as coach) said he "simply got lucky" to start football at a time when professional structures were being introduced in Germany in the 1960s. Luck was certainly on Bayern's side when a young Beckenbauer – determined to join boyhood favourites TSV 1860 München – got into an on-field altercation with a member of the 1860 youth team as a 13-year-old and opted for Bayern instead. The rest is history.
Sepp Maier: Always one to lift spirits in the dressing room with pranks and witty remarks ("A goalkeeper needs to exude a sense of calm – and make sure he doesn't fall asleep!"), Germany's 'goalkeeper of the century' was of some value on the pitch as well. Whether it was frustrating opponents with his cat-like reflexes or his famous attempt to catch a disruptive duck strolling through the box, the dauntless, diving Maier set the bar high for future Germany No1s.
What they said
Franz Beckenbauer: "I will always cherish the memory of the first European title. It was the most important one and the feeling of victory changed in the next two years. We were already past our peak at that point and the performances dropped. But due to our experience we had the energy to focus in the most important matches."