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Hansi Flick has fused together a number of prodigious young talents with a smattering of veteran stars to create the continent’s undsiputed best team
It is official: Bayern Munich are the best team in Europe.
The Bavarians won their sixth European Cup thanks to a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final in Lisbon, ending a barren run of seven years without their name on the most-coveted club trophy.
Kingsley Coman was preferred to Ivan Perisic in Hansi Flick’s starting XI and the youthful option made the difference as the France winger scored the only goal of the game, heading home against his former club .
At 24, Coman is a relative veteran compared to the player behind him on the left flank for Bayern, with Alphonso Davies becoming a European champion at the age of just 19.
But that just hammers home the point that this is a very different Bayern team to the one who last won the Champions League in 2013.
Few faces remain from that victory over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium, though the older members of the squad have shown no signs of slowing down, even in the mini-tournament format of this season’s knockout stages in Portugal.
Robert Lewandowski was on the losing side in that 2013 final. but finally got his hands on the trophy with Bayern on the weekend he turned 32 having ended the season as the top scorer in every tournament he played in – including an astonishing 15 goals in 11 games in Europe.
Thomas Muller, meanwhile, broke the Bundesliga assists record in 2019-20, and despite having played over 500 games for the Bavarians is still just 30.
Manuel Neuer is the oldest member of the squad, but against PSG he brought back memories of his prime performances for Bayern in 2013 and Germany in 2014, showing exactly why national team boss Joachim Low still prefers him to younger upstart Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The only other starter in Lisbon on the wrong side of 30 was Jerome Boateng, who went off injured to be replaced by 24-year-old defensive colossus Niklas Sule, In truth, Sule would likely have been first-choice beside David Alaba at centre-back had injury not blighted his season.
Alaba has just one year remaining on his contract in Munich, but the club are optimistic he will sign a new deal having held talks with his agent in the past week. The same cannot be said, however, of midfielder Thiago Alcantara, w ho turned down a contract offer from the new European champions and looks set to leave the club as Liverpool continue to be linked with his signature.
The Spain midfielder was his usual brilliant best against PSG, and it potentially being his final appearance for the club is the only downside to the evening. Otherwise, everything looks pretty rosey for the Bavarians.
Thiago’s usual partner in central midfield under Flick this season has been Joshua Kimmich, but with Benjamin Pavard injured he was pushed back to his former role at right-back, and it was from there he provided the assist for Coman’s goal
At just 25, Kimmich is emblematic of this new-look Bayern side.
The heir to Philipp Lahm, he is seen as a future captain of the club and even Jose Mourinho believes he has the ability to play at the highest level in every position on the pitch.
“I see him as a top right-back, left-back, centre-back, No.6, No.8, No.10… he has the qualities to be anything,” Mourinho told DAZN .
“I think he looks to me, very intelligent related to football, very intelligent, understands the moments of the games and understands the difference between positions and understands what he has to do here and what he has to do there. I think he’s phenomenal, an absolutely phenomenal player.
“For Bayern to win the Champions League is much more important than for somebody to win an individual award, but I see this kid with Lewandowski, Neuer, I see this kid with these guys in an elite group capable of winning individual awards.”
Bayern Munich’s Champions League success was not down to the brilliance of one particular player or a moment of magic from an individual world-class talent. Instead, it was built on teamwork and the belief inspired by Flick.
This was exemplified in their dismantling of Barcelona, where six players got on the scoresheet and each assist came from a different player in their memorable 8-2 victory in the quarter-finals.
Serge Gnabry, 25, was the hero against Lyon in the semi-finals, and Bayern’s bosses have found him the perfect partner for next season in 24-year-old Leroy Sane.
They have also strengthened at the back by signing Alexander Nubel from Schalke to be Neuer’s successor in goal and convincing France wonderkid Tanguy Kouassi to leave PSG to play either in central defence or defensive midfield, with Javi Martinez set to leave the club.
Michael Cuisance, 21, was signed last summer from Borussia Monchengladbach and showed signs towards the end of the season that he can make an impact in midfield, while 26-year-old Corentin Tolisso is expected to stay in Munich should Thiago leave.
Similarly, 21-year-old Adrian Fein will be given a chance to fight for a place in the middle of the park after impressing on loan at Hamburg, giving Flick plenty of options and depth at almost every position.
The only thing outstanding from Flick’s desire for two players in every position is a backup for Pavard at right-back, but with the season finished and Europe conquered, the treble winners can now focus their attention on bringing in someone suitable.
Most of Bayern Munich’s players are entering their prime, meaning that this team could get even better. They won every single game in the Champions League this season, becoming the undisputed best team in Europe.
In the 1970s, they won the European Cup three years in a row. With this team and this head coach, could they do it again?
Do not rule it out.
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