In Germany, there are two heavyweight giants and two formidable foes. This a rivalry at the forefront of German football. Similar in name to the Clasicos’ around Europe and South America, Der Klassiker is identical only in name and not in nature. There is no religious or political difference between the two. It’s a rivalry that shapes Germany’s most successful team.
Der Klassiker is a match-up that gets the world watching, but it is only a recent phenomenon. The first time Bayern Munich faced Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, was only back in 1965. Dortmund with the honours that day and it was also a game best remembered for a missed penalty from a Bayern youngster Franz Beckenbauer. We will know what happened to him.
The 1960s and 70s belonged to Bayern, domestically at least. An 11-1 thrashing of Dortmund in April 1971 – remains the highest margin of victory between the two. Bayern became crowned champions that year and Dortmund finished as one of two relegated sides. The champion’s Gerd Muller top-scoring with 40 league goals for the season – 18 more than his next rival. Bayern’s rival on the pitch was Borussia Monchengladbach.
The 1980s saw a Dortmund revival of sorts, but the following decade was a more balanced affair between the two. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s introduction as Dortmund boss paid dividends and now a sleeping giant of German football, Dortmund would go on to secure their Bundesliga title in 1995.
The club defended their crown the following season with one Klassiker meeting involving an altercation between two of German football’s greatest stars. Bayer’s Lothar Matthaus accused his rival Andreas Muller of being a cry baby and was then slapped. Dortmund had the last laugh of this particular contest, when the following year, they won the Champions League for the first time, in Bayern’s back yard. The Olympiastadion in Munich the venue for Dortmund’s shock achievement.
If a slap looked severe, then how about a kung fu kick and a bite. Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn made all the headlines in 1999 with those kinds of attacks on Dortmund’s, Stephane Chapuisat and Heiko Herrlich, respectively.
Dortmund’s rise continued under the leadership of Jurgen Klopp. In 2013, the two teams met in a unique setting of what was the Champions League Final. Bayern was victorious at Wembley Stadium, and that victory saw the pendulum swing towards the newly crowned European champions.
This once colossal rivalry had taken on a new shape. Instead of trading blows, the two clubs were trading players. Mario Gotze left Dortmund in 2013, only to return in 2016. Matt Hummels was doing the same, but going the other way. The main star who has moved from one to the other is Robert Lewandowski. The former Dortmund man made his move to Bavaria in 2014. The Polish striker’s record at Bayern is stunning - 153 goals in 182 games.
Dortmund’s loss was undoubtedly was Bayern’s gain – but once again there is a shift in German football. Lucien Favre has developed a young, vibrant team in the Bundesliga. The likes of Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and the ever-loyal Marco Reus have launched Dortmund to second place in the league this season.
The leaders are, of course, Bayern. An experienced side but with the likes of Lewandowksi, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer, now thirty or over. The question of can they replace those stars and the impressionable Arjen Robben before remains an interesting debate.
Regardless of how this season ends, Der Klassiker is a rivalry that encapsulates German football. It has grown in strength and will continue to excite the sporting world for years to come.