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CATCH-22

Who should neutrals cheer for in a title race between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig?

Picking a favourite in the Bundesliga title race is like choosing between a punch in the face and a kick in the b*llocks.

In one corner, there’s the reigning champions Bayern Munich.

And in the other, RB Leipzig, the contenders… or should that be pretenders?


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Timo Werner has 20 league goals this season

EPA
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Timo Werner has 20 league goals this season

Most would opt for secret option No3: Borussia Dortmund.

Lucien Favre’s side are in the hunt, along with fellow outsiders Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen.

However, Dortmund – who are one of the most popular clubs in Europe – have exhibited a disinterest in the fundamentals of defending for most of the season.

While the general opinion in Germany is that Gladbach do not have the experience or know-how to sustain their challenge when the pressure ramps up — many of their regulars are in their early 20s.

As for Leverkusen, they are German football’s infamous bottlers, the Bundesliga’s Spurs.

If we consider just the two favourites, Bayern and Leipzig, who should the unbiased neutrals be rooting for?

Seriously, you’re not allowed to say Dortmund

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Seriously, you’re not allowed to say Dortmund

The case against Bayern is obvious; they have won the last seven league titles consecutively.

There’s nothing inherently evil about them, they are just the playground bullies.

In the same way Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United became hated because of their dominance, Bayern are despised in Germany because they are the undisputed top dogs.

Because it stems from jealousy, this type of hatred is a badge of honour.

Fans may not like Bayern, but they respect the Bavarians’ quality.

Robert Lewandowski is the only player with more Bundesliga goals than Werner in 2019/20

Reuters
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Robert Lewandowski is the only player with more Bundesliga goals than Werner in 2019/20

Leipzig are loathed for a different reason entirely.

Their trophy cabinet consists of a titles from the lower tiers of German football (fourth and below) and two Saxony Cups, the equivalent of the EFL Trophy.

The club were originally known as SSV Markranstadt until Red Bull bought their license in 2009 and implemented as extensive re-brand.

The energy drink company changed the name to RassenBallsport Leipzig, though you’ll rarely see them referred to by their official name as the marketing team have done their best to ensure the common usage of RB Leipzig.

German clubs are forbidden from being named after sponsors (in the manner of Red Bull Salzburg) but many assume the RB stands for Red Bull, as is the club’s intention.

Loud and clear

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Loud and clear

Traditionalists see the club as an elaborate advert for an energy drink, one that corrupts the purity of domestic football in Germany.

Huge financial investment allowed Leipzig to fast-track their way from the fifth tier to Champions League qualification in a decade.

Imagine if Harrogate Town qualified for the 2029/30 Champions League under the name Red Bull Leeds for an English equivalent.

Leipzig’s rise to the top has been marked with numerous protests from fans of rival clubs.

Union Berlin fans remained silent for the first 15 minutes of their side’s meeting with Leipzig in 2014.

Dynamo Dresden supporters threw a severed bull’s head onto the pitch during a cup game.

Fortuna Dusseldorf introduced a rule that stated their club were never to arrange a friendly with Leipzig or offer them any recognition beyond what is required.

Eintracht Frankfurt’s COO, Philipp Reschke, once said: “We would prefer our worst enemies. We would vote for a traditional club like Bayern. We would vote for the heart.”

Nearly every club displays banners with slogans that centre around the artificial, soulless, manufactured nature of the club.

Gladbach fans proudly claim their club to be ‘traditional’ when facing Leipzig

Getty Images - Getty
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Gladbach fans proudly claim their club to be ‘traditional’ when facing Leipzig

Leipzig only loosely adhere to the ’50+1 Rule’ that states German clubs must hold a majority of its own voting rights, so that members retain overall control.

But whereas as approximately 140,000 Dortmund fans have a stake in their club, only 20 ‘fans‘ have a stake in Leipzig.

That’s because the club priced the required membership at an extortionate rate (the cheapest package is in excess of £1,000) — Dortmund’s membership starts at approximately £50.

The 20-odd ‘fans‘ with control over Leipzig are mostly Red Bull employees.

Even Celtic fans have taken aim at Leipzig

Kenny Ramsay - The Sun Glasgow
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Even Celtic fans have taken aim at Leipzig

Hence why a title race between Bayern and Leipzig is a Catch-22.

The closest Premier League scenario would be Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea takeover.

Neutrals instantly took a disliking to the Blues as the Russian deployed his billions to land the club their first league title in 50 years.

Jose Mourinho’s men were maligned for ‘buying success’ and compromising the integrity of English football.

However, when Chelsea won their first Prem crown of the Abramovich era (2004/05), they ended Man United and Arsenal’s decade-long duopoly.

Though many felt uncomfortable with the means of Chelsea’s success, there was no doubt the Premier League benefited from the addition of a team capable of competing with United and Arsenal.

Conflicted

AFP - Getty
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Conflicted

Fans in Germany are desperate for Bayern’s stranglehold over the Bundesliga to come to and end… but not if it means crowning Leipzig champions.

The rest of us have to decide what outcome is the lesser of two evils: a league sapped of competitiveness by a predictable winner, or a victory for the corporatisation of football?

Come on Dortmund, sort your defence out.


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