Thomas Muller has extended his deal with Bayern Munich until the end of the 2023-24 campaign, the Bundesliga champions have announced.

The Germany international, who has spent his entire 14-season senior career with Bayern, was due to be out of contract at the end of the next campaign.

However, after playing a vital part in the Bavarian giants' 10th successive league triumph this season, Muller and Bayern have agreed to fresh terms.

"I'm delighted to have extended my contact with FC Bayern Munich until 2024," Muller told the club's official website on Tuesday.

"The journey we've been on since I joined the FCB academy in 2000 has been a fantastic success story up to now.

"It gives me immense pleasure to hold up the red colours year after year, on and off the pitch – even if the wind blows in your face from time to time. Let's keep going together."

 

Muller has won 11 Bundesliga titles with Bayern in total, with his latest triumph seeing him overtake David Alaba (10) as the competition's outright most successful player.

He has made 624 first-team appearances in total and has also lifted two Champions Leagues, the Club World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and six DFB-Pokal crowns.

Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn said: "Thomas Muller is an icon who wears the club badge on his heart. 

"FC Bayern has always been characterised by continuity, and therefore we're pleased that we've managed to extend the contract of this important player. 

"He's someone who assumes leadership and is also an important character in the dressing room with his personality."

Muller has been as important as ever for Bayern this term, having registered 17 Bundesliga assists – four more than next-best Christopher Nkunku – and scored seven times.

Indeed, those 24 direct goal involvements is a tally bettered only by Erling Haaland (28), Nkunku (31) and team-mate Robert Lewandowski (36).

The 32-year-old still has some way to go to beat the Bundesliga record for assists in a single campaign that he set in 2019-20 when setting up 21 goals.

After tying down 2014 World Cup winner Muller for the next two years, Bayern are reportedly hopeful of agreeing fresh terms with compatriot Manuel Neuer in the coming weeks.

Julian Nagelsmann bemoaned Bayern Munich's underwhelming performance and suggested change is needed after the Bundesliga champions succumbed to defeat at Mainz.

Bayern secured a record 10th straight league title with Klassiker victory over Borussia Dortmund last weekend but were caught cold by Mainz after first-half strikes from Jonathan Burkardt and Moussa Niakhate.

Robert Lewandowski reduced the deficit with his 18th away league goal this season, setting a Bundesliga record for a single campaign, while taking his tally to 49 in all competitions – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues.

Leandro Barreiro Martins restored the two-goal cushion after the interval for Bo Svensson's hosts as Mainz coasted to just a second league win over an uncharacteristically poor Bayern in their last 10 attempts.

Nagelsmann expressed frustration with his side after the defeat but acknowledged a downturn in performance was to be expected after the title win.

"We had too many performances and defeats of this kind this season," he told reporters.

"I have an explanation for it, but I won't give it to you. It's not for the media. I say it internally.

"After winning the 10th title in a row, it's a bit human but we still have to play for the badge on our chest.

"It seems like the passion isn't really there anymore. We reached a point where something needs to change. That's where we are right now."

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich fell to a 3-1 defeat at Mainz despite Robert Lewandowski setting another record.

Julian Nagelsmann's side sealed a record 10th straight league title by defeating Borussia Dortmund last time out, but were soon behind on Saturday after strikes from Jonathan Burkardt and Moussa Niakhate.

Robert Lewandowski halved the arrears with his 18th away league goal this season – a new Bundesliga benchmark for a single campaign – before Leandro Barreiro Martins restored Mainz's two-goal cushion after the interval.

Bayern were unable to respond as the champions suffered just a second defeat in their last 10 games against Mainz, who moved up to ninth with victory.

Burkardt cannoned against the crossbar and the post, while the unmarked Alexander Hack was denied by the woodwork but Mainz's early dominance soon paid dividends.

Sven Ulreich thwarted Karim Onisiwo from close range yet could not stop Burkardt when the striker powered a left-footed attempt home following Dominik Kohr's headed offload.

Niakhate doubled Mainz's advantage when he tapped in after Anton Stach's flick, before Lewandowski rolled into the bottom-right corner following Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's pass to reduce the deficit.

Barreiro Martins almost restored the hosts' two-goal lead before the interval, only for his left-footed free-kick to curl narrowly wide.

But Barreiro Martins' luck was in after the break when his strike deflected in off Benjamin Pavard.

Burkardt dragged wide and Onisiwo smashed onto the crossbar from the edge of the area as Bayern, who repeatedly appeared frail on the counter-attack, were unable to mount a comeback.

What does it mean? Bayern caught cold on the road at Mainz again

Bayern had won eight of their last nine league meetings with Mainz, though the one blemish on their record came in this fixture last season when the hosts ran out 2-1 winners.

Mainz scored first on that occasion and followed suit in this game as they opened the scoring for four straight games against the Bavarian giants – no other current Bundesliga side have achieved this consecutively more than twice.

Super Stach shines

Stach was a constant presence in the middle of the park for Bo Svensson's team, setting up Niakhate's goal – one of a game-leading seven key passes the midfielder supplied for Mainz.

Legendary Lewandowski

Despite speculation of a move away from Bayern with just over a year left on his contract, Lewandowski continues to deliver. His tally in all competitions this season now stands at 49.

No player has managed more goals in Europe's top five leagues, while the Poland international also put his name to yet another Bundesliga record.

What's next?

Bayern host Stuttgart on May 8, while Mainz make the trip to Hertha Berlin the day before.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann reiterated his desire for Robert Lewandowski to stay at the club amid ongoing speculation over his future.

Lewandowski has scored 33 goals in the Bundesliga this season, 12 more than nearest rival Patrick Schick, to fire Bayern to a record-setting 10th straight league title with three games to spare.

The Poland international has found the net once every 81 minutes in the top flight this campaign, while no player has managed more than his 48 goals across all competitions in Europe's top five leagues.

However, questions persist as to the future of Lewandowski, who is entering the final year of his contract at the Allianz Arena with Barcelona reportedly preparing to swoop for the 33-year-old.

Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic insists the talisman will not be sold to avoid losing him on a free transfer, but Lewandowski suggested no new contract talks have been opened by the club.

Nagelsmann, speaking ahead of Saturday's visit to Mainz, reaffirmed his stance on wanting to keep his star striker at Bayern for as long as possible.

"It's always good when you have planning security in all areas of life. I've said it at least 50 times that of course I wish he would stay, nothing has changed this week. That's my point of view," he told reporters.

Salihamidzic has already rebuffed talk of signing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who will reportedly be available for a €75million release clause at the end of the season, as a replacement for Lewandowski.

Nagelsmann echoed Salihamidzic's sentiment as he ruled out moving for Haaland, who has scored 82 goals and supplied 19 assists in 86 appearances in all competitions since his Dortmund debut in January 2020.

Pressed on comparisons between the two strikers, the Bayern coach responded: "These are two different types of players that you can't compare. It's like apples and oranges."

 

Lewandowski is likely to feature at Mainz, fitness permitting, but Nagelsmann confirmed he will be without Thomas Muller, who has 17 top-flight assists this term – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues.

"Muller is ill and will not travel this weekend. We will try to give some players the opportunity to start," he continued.

"[Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting will definitely be in the starting line-up, that much I can say for sure. 

"The virtue of a winning mentality is noticeable in the lads even after the championship in training. My everyday life is a little more relaxed than in the middle of the season."

Bayern would surpass the Bundesliga record for most away goals in a season (47, a record set by Bayern in the 2019-20 season) with two strikes at Mainz, but Nagelsmann appeared uninterested by that feat.

"You always have to be a bit careful when it comes to respect for the opponent," he added on the possible record. 

"Of course we always want to score a lot of goals, that's what makes football so appealing. It won't be easy, but we're trying hard to find goals and play a good game offensively."

Toni Kroos future at the Santiago Bernabeu has suddenly become precarious, with the relationship between the player and Real Madrid disintegrating.

The 32-year-old's dramatic drop in form has called into question whether he will see out his contract, which expires at the end of next season in 2023.

With that in mind, there are reports Real Madrid will look to both replace him and bolster their midfield in the same transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE POGBA AND TCHOUAMENI FOR KROOS

Real Madrid are seeking to replace Toni Kroos and strengthen their midfield, with the intent to sign both Paul Pogba and Aurelien Tchouameni, El Nacional is reporting.

The highly rated Tchouameni has long been a transfer target for Madrid, while the expiration of Pogba's contract at the end of this season makes them both attainable.

Kroos' position in Real Madrid's starting midfield has become vulnerable with the form of Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde, while this transpires amid the backdrop of Luka Modric's contract extension. 

It was reported that Kroos sought to extend for another season and retire in 2024, but that possibility now seems unlikely.

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich are eyeing Luka Jovic as a potential replacement in the event of Robert Lewandowski's departure for Barcelona, Sport is reporting.

- Incoming Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag wants to sign outgoing Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala, according to the Corriere dello Sport.

- The Red Devils have also indicated to Napoli they are willing to pay £84million (€99.8m) for striker Victor Osimhen, La Repubblica reports.

- Arsenal have expressed interest in signing Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, per Football Insider.

Ousmane Dembele's signing for Barcelona had become emblematic of Josep Maria Bartomeu's turbulent presidency.

An untenably ballooning wage bill saw the club face bankruptcy in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions and in a need to cut wages, the French attacker has become an expendable asset.

However, Dembele is reportedly determined to make keeping him at Barcelona more feasible, despite being set to leave at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE OPEN TO BARCELONA WAGE CUT

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ousmane Dembele is prepared to reduce his salary in order to sign a new contract at Barcelona, Sport reports.

Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko and the Barcelona board reportedly met and the assertion was made that the France international was willing to take a pay cut to continue playing under Xavi.

Return on investment has always lingered over the 24-year-old attacker following his €140million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. 

Dembele has provided one goal in all competitions this season for the Blaugrana, but leads the team in assists with 11 from 28 appearances.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are looking to the Premier League to bolster their squad for next season, with Granit Xhaka, Douglas Luiz and Nemanja Matic all being considered, Calciomercato reports.

- Barcelona are also keen to sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski but no opening bid has been made yet, per Fabrizio Romano.

- The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are considering a £50m move for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

- Wayne Rooney has become to top candidate to replace the dismissed  Sean Dyche at Burnley on a permanent basis, according to the Sun.

The dominance of Bayern Munich is not just down to financial muscle, but more the lack of consistency from their Bundesliga competition.

That is according to former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos, who played 130 times for the Bundesliga giants before swapping Bavaria for Real Madrid in 2014.

Bayern became the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions after a 3-1 victory over Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund last Saturday.

Julian Nagelsmann's side had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020, before cruising to their record-setting triumph with three games to spare.

Many cited Bayern's financial power as an issue in the German top flight, such as being able to prise Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014.

Indeed, Lewandowski helped power Bayern to the title with 33 Bundesliga goals so far this term, netting once every 81 minutes on average.

However, Kroos does not believe that it is just the disparity in transfer activity that has aided Bayern's dominance, but also the lack of constant pressure from title contenders Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

"The competition has to be more constant. Teams like Dortmund or Leipzig are quite capable of keeping up in certain phases," said Kroos in the Simply Mal Luppen podcast.

"But they are not as consistent. It's not just about money."

While Kroos was quick to question the competition provided by Dortmund and Leipzig, the 32-year-old could take nothing away from another fantastic season for Nagelsmann's men.

"It's an exceptional performance, especially mentally," said the midfielder. "It's no surprise that they are the best team in Germany in terms of quality.

"But wanting to do it year after year and giving the championship title meaning is something special."

 

Thomas Muller was also integral to the success of Bayern once again, with his 17 assists in 30 top-flight games this season unmatched by any player in Europe's top five leagues.

The evergreen Muller also surpassed former team-mate David Alaba (10 titles) as the Bundesliga's most decorated player of all time, having been ever-present in the 10-in-a-row feat alongside the title win in 2010 (11).

Kroos believes his former colleague Muller relishes the prospect of protecting Bayern's dominance every campaign.

"You can also say at some point, after the eighth, ninth, tenth time: 'Well, then not for a year.'," Kroos added.

"But I have the feeling that he has a lot of fun defending the thing year after year."

Jordi Cruyff declared "dreaming is free" when asked about the prospect of Barcelona signing Robert Lewandowski and says now is not the time to talk about Frenkie de Jong's future.

Lewandowski has only 14 months remaining on his Bayern Munich contract and has been linked with a move to Camp Nou.

Erling Haaland is also reportedly a target for the Blaugrana, but Manchester City are the favourites to land the Borussia Dortmund striker.

Barca technical director Cruyff on Wednesday stated the Catalan giants are keeping their options open in the transfer market.

He said at the inauguration of the Cruyff Court Constanti: "I haven't ruled out anyone. I'm not very willing to talk about names. There will be others who respond.

"The only thing you do is annoy the clubs where they play, I'm more concerned about the [current] squad. They're all great players."

Quizzed specifically about prolific Poland captain Lewandowski, Cruyff replied: "He is a player who has a contract, we are the last to decide. Dreaming is free."

 

De Jong's Barca future has been the subject of speculation, with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain thought to be keen on the midfielder.

Cruyff says the focus must be on securing Champions League qualification rather than potential transfer business.

He said: "They ask me about him because there is some criticism or doubt and I said that he is a highly valued player within the club and in the world of football and this is not the time to talk about this type of thing.

"We are in the middle of something that is above everyone, each one of us. We have to meet the minimum objectives and we are fighting for it."

Cruyff also revealed contract talks with Gavi and Ousmane Dembele are ongoing after Ronald Araujo signed a new deal this week.

"I think that these days or these weeks, it's time to work on them, we'll see if they end well or not," he said. "We're trying to achieve the same success as with Araujo."

Erik ten Hag appears as though he will have a huge say over his own Manchester United transfer targets.

The Dutchman has inked a three-year deal at Old Trafford, with the option for a further year.

Ten Hag will officially take over on July 1, with Ralf Rangnick remaining in interim charge.

A face familiar to the Premier League could now be headed to Old Trafford with Ten Hag from Ajax…


TOP STORY - TEN HAG TO BRING HALLER TO UNITED

Manchester United may make a move for Ajax striker Sebastien Haller in the off-season according to The Sun.

Haller currently plays under ten Hag, who will take over at United at the end of the campaign.

The Ivory Coast striker, who spent two years with West Ham United, has netted 33 goals in all competitions for Ajax this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are optimistic that they can land Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski in the off-season, reports Sport. Lewandowski is contracted with Bayern until 2023.

- Liverpool have contacted 22-year-old Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni about a move to England, claims Foot Mercato.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Inter are not interested in signing Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, contrary to reports. Pjanic is currently on loan at Besiktas from Barcelona.

- David de Gea and Manchester United are ready to enter into talks on a contract extension reports 90min.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Luka Modric will ink a new deal with Real Madrid running until 2023.

Former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich player Torsten Frings believes it was the latter's experience that led to them winning this season's Bundesliga title, their 10th in a row.

The Bavarians secured the championship after a 3-1 win against Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Frings played for Dortmund between 2002 and 2004, before spending the 2004-05 season with Bayern, winning a Bundesliga and DFP-Pokal double.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Frings pointed to Bayern's key experienced players, while suggesting that Dortmund suffered too many "slip-ups" to challenge.

"The paths both teams are taking are different," the former Germany international said. "Bayern have a lot of experienced players in the team, a real axis with [Manuel] Neuer, [Thomas] Muller, [Robert] Lewandowski and [Joshua] Kimmich.

 

"They have leading players in the national team, they have the Best FIFA Men's Player, a striker who scores 40 goals every year [Lewandowski].

"On the other hand, Dortmund are a club where [sporting directors] Sebastian Kehl and Michael Zorc have to be praised for the players they bring in and the profit they make by selling them on.

"But that is the difference. Bayern have a team of experienced players who are always on the spot. And Dortmund have a very talented team that certainly has what it takes to play for championships.

"But every now and then there is a slip-up, where perhaps the experience is missing a bit. And when you make three or four slip-ups in the Bundesliga, it can be too much."

Bayern Munich signing Erling Haaland "doesn't make any sense" for sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic because they have Robert Lewandowski.

Haaland is believed to be available for €75million due to a clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract and is set leave in one of the upcoming off-season's major transfers. 

The Norway international has scored 82 goals and supplied 19 assists in 86 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund since making his debut on January 18, 2020. He has averaged 1.1 goals per 90 minutes, a record that is only bettered by Bayern striker Lewandowski (1.2) among players in the top five European leagues.

Haaland has been touted as a potential replacement for Lewandowski, who Bayern were said to be open to offers for with his contract expiring at the end of next season. 

However, Lewandowski leaving the Allianz Arena at the end of the campaign has been ruled out by Salihamidzic, who therefore sees no reason to pursue Haaland. 

"It doesn't make any sense," Salihamidzic said when asked on Sky90 about Bayern moving for Haaland. 

"We have the best striker in the world. We have Lewandowski." 

Asked if there was any player Bayern would break the bank for, Salihamidzic replied: "That's up to the supervisory board. But we don't want to put the club at risk. That will continue to be our philosophy in the future. 

"Of course, after the Champions League win it would've been great to keep all the players – like [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ivan] Perisic – but we can't ruin the club financially. We can't do squad planning like that. 

"We have a philosophy at the club. We have 14 top players in the squad and a number of top talents we want to develop. We don't have the money for 20 top players like in England." 

One player who could be heading to Munich for next season is Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, though Bayern are yet to agree to reported demands of a €30million fee. 

"He is a good player. We're in talks, I can say that much," Salihamidzic revealed. 

"With a transfer like this, a lot has to go right. I can't say [how it is looking]. It's difficult, like all transfers." 

Salihamidzic is also expecting to see more from Leroy Sane, who has failed to score or assist in his past eight appearances in all competitions for Bayern. 

"He's an incredibly talented young man who has everything. He's super fast, he can dribble and has this mental strength. But he has to deliver now," he said. 

"When he's showing good body language, that's good, but if he doesn't, that's not good. I don't want to see this. I spoke to him about it. 

"He has potential, but I want to see that on the pitch. We spoke several times. The people in charge, the coach, the players, everyone expects him to explode on the pitch. It's hard to say why he's not performing as expected. He's listening well. I hope he'll do it." 

Robert Lewandowski will not be sold by Bayern Munich at the end of this season, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has insisted. 

With his contract due to expire at the end of 2022-23, it had been reported that Bayern were open to selling Lewandowski to avoid losing him on a free transfer. 

Barcelona have been heavily linked with a move for the Poland international, who was on target in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund that clinched the Bavarian giants' 10th straight Bundesliga title. 

Salihamidzic simply replied "no" when quizzed on Sky90 about whether he would consider selling Lewandowski if an offer of €40-50million was received. 

Asked if that meant the 33-year-old striker would be staying at Allianz Arena, he responded: "Yes, he has a contract until 2023." 

Salihamidzic said contract negotiations with Lewandowski are set to begin but stressed the importance of Bayern sticking to their budget. 

"Of course [we want to keep him]. Lewandowski is highly appreciated. The fans love him. But he's our top earner at the club. We also have to look at our financial possibilities and how much money we have," he said. 

"I spoke with Lewa. We'll also talk to his agent. He has a contract until 2023. We have all the time in the world. We have the best striker in the world and we're proud of that. We haven't negotiated yet. But that's what we'll do now [that the title has been won]." 

Lewandowski has been involved in 53 goals (48 scored, five assisted) in all competitions this season – more than any other player in the top five European leagues. 

Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer are 10-in-a-row heroes for Bayern Munich, the lone mainstays of a decade of Bundesliga dominance.

Saturday's win against Borussia Dortmund means Bayern are German champions again, and veterans Muller and Neuer have been instrumental in the latest success.

Muller now has 11 Bundesliga titles in all, having also been a part of the triumphant 2009-10 team, and that stands as an all-time record.

There have been times in recent seasons when both Muller and Neuer have come under scrutiny, their places in the Bayern side being called into question.

Stats Perform has looked at how these two pivotal figures for Die Roten have bounced back in magnificent style.


The reinvention of Thomas Muller

Muller was integral to the title-clinching 3-1 win against Dortmund on Saturday, with the 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner setting up Robert Lewandowski to make it 2-0 just before half-time.

Such contributions are expected of him nowadays, but the 32-year-old has reconfigured his game to reach this halcyon period in his career.

Muller went from scoring a career-high 20 Bundesliga goals in Pep Guardiola's final season at Bayern (2015-16) to just five in the following campaign under Carlo Ancelotti.

That drastic drop-off naturally caused many to wonder what was going on, even though Muller, handed his debut by Jurgen Klinsmann in 2008, had built up plenty of credit in the bank.

Muller's goal involvements (goals and assists) had dipped below 20 for the first time since 2011-12 during Ancelotti's only full season at the helm, as he added 12 assists to those five goals. Before this conspicuous 2016-17 season, Muller's goal hauls had always at least matched, but often comfortably beaten, his tally of assists.

In every season since, he has finished with more Bundesliga assists than goals.

Eight goals and 14 assists arrived in 2017-18, a campaign that saw Jupp Heynckes replace Ancelotti in early autumn, and that suggested Muller was back on track, only for another dip to follow during Niko Kovac's reign. Six goals and nine assists from Muller in 2018-19 saw him dip back under that 20 involvements mark, and as his 30th birthday approached there were concerns his best days were in the past.

How wrong Muller's critics were. As well as being a goal threat, Muller is now the most menacing creative force in German football. The departure of Kovac brought Hansi Flick to the Bayern top job in November 2019, and Muller finished that campaign with eight goals and 21 assists – the most assists in a Bundesliga season since such detailed data collection began in 2004-05.

 

He matched that career-best 29 goal involvements in 2020-21 (11 goals, 18 assists) and is well on the way to a similar haul this time (7 goals, 17 assists).

Muller has had nine seasons in which he has managed at least 20 goal involvements in the Bundesliga, not bad for a player that Ralf Rangnick almost pinched away from Bayern during Klinsmann's reign. Bayern academy boss Hermann Gerland is said to have told the club to reject the offer from Rangnick's Hoffenheim, and they owe him eternal gratitude.

Muller averaged 1.08 goal involvements per game under Flick, his best under any permanent Bayern boss, and has managed 0.89 during the first year of Julian Nagelsmann's reign, a sliver under the 0.93 he achieved in Guardiola's time at the club. He averaged a career-high 67.27 touches per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga under Flick, dipping to 64.34 under Nagelsmann.

Under Louis van Gaal, Ancelotti, Guardiola and Heynckes, he averaged in the 50s when it came to touches per 90 minutes, so his role today is more involved. Bayern can only hope it will stay that way.

When Bayern have had Muller in their starting XI since the start of the 2009-10 season, the campaign where he made his first big impact, they have won 74.7 per cent of games; without him, they have won 68.4 per cent (54 of 79). That has meant an average of 2.4 points per game when he has made the starting XI, to 2.2 when he has not started.


Neuer saves Bayern time and again

Like with Muller, there is a marginal gain to be observed from having goalkeeper Neuer in the Bayern side. Neuer joined from Schalke in 2011 and has made such an impact he is now the Bayern captain.

When he has started in the Bundesliga (307 games), Bayern have won 77.5 per cent of those games and picked up an average of 2.4 points, but when Neuer has been absent (64 games) those figures drop to a 71.9 per cent win rate and 2.3 points. The goals-against figure rises from 0.7 goals to 0.9 on average, too.

Now 36, Neuer has so far fended off a challenge from Alexander Nubel, who has been loaned out to Monaco this season to guarantee first-team action.

Nubel was also acquired from Schalke, joining Bayern in June 2020, but the 25-year-old has barely had a sniff of a first-team opportunity, and that is down to Neuer's form.

From 2012-13 to 2016-17, Neuer enjoyed five seasons where his impressive save percentage for each Bundesliga campaign fluctuated only slightly, between 78.57 per cent and 79.78 per cent per campaign.

Major doubts over his long-term future surfaced when he twice suffered broken metatarsal bones in 2017, forcing him to miss almost all the 2017-18 season.

There have been shaky times since his lay-off too, most notably when Neuer's save percentage was a distinctly low 59.65 per cent in 2018-19, the lowest mark of all Bundesliga goalkeepers with at least 20 appearances that season.

Yet a corner was soon turned, and this term the save percentage stands at 73.75 per cent, his best effort since that five-season hot streak in the mid-2010s. From seeking a succession plan, Bayern have shifted the emphasis to hoping that Neuer has years still to come at this level.

Bayern Munich secured the Bundesliga title for a 10th consecutive season as they saw off rivals Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in Der Klassiker.

Dortmund needed a win on Saturday to halt Bayern's procession to a historic crown, but despite a steely second-half showing the visitors never looked likely to prolong the title race.

Indeed, they were run ragged in the first half as Bayern cruised into a 2-0 lead courtesy of Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski.

Emre Can's 52nd-minute penalty made matters more interesting, though an eighth straight Klassiker victory was capped off by Jamal Musiala's goal late on.

Bayern's fans were in party mode after 15 minutes, with Gnabry slamming a wonderful strike beyond Marwin Hitz from the edge of the box after Dortmund failed to clear a corner.

With Erling Haaland skewing wide at the other end, Gnabry swept in a second just before the half-hour mark, yet it was disallowed by VAR for Kingsley Coman having strayed offside.

Nevertheless, it was 2-0 in the 34th minute – Lewandowski helping himself to a customary goal against his former club when Bayern pounced on Dan-Axel Zagadou's error.

Leon Goretzka and Lewandowski passed up chances to stretch Bayern's lead and the hosts were made to pay early in the second half when Can coolly converted from the spot after Joshua Kimmich's foul on Marco Reus.

Bayern were suddenly living dangerously, and first Manuel Neuer and then Lucas Hernandez had to make last-ditch interventions to deny Reus.

Lewandowski dragged wide and was then denied by Hitz as Bayern searched for a third, yet it came via substitute Musiala, who tucked in from close range in the 83rd minute to round off a decade of dominance.


What does it mean? History made by Bavarian giants

Bayern are the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions – they had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020.

Fittingly, Bayern sealed the title against their great rivals, though it has been a rather one-sided rivalry in recent seasons. In fact, only against Hamburg (between 1982 and 1985) have Dortmund suffered as many consecutive defeats against an opponent as they have Bayern (eight).

Lewy hits another against his old side

It was only fair that Bayern's talismanic striker got in on the act as they clinched the title. Lewandowski has scored more goals against Dortmund, who he left in 2014, in all competitions than against any other club in his career (27).

Haaland frustrated

It may well have been Haaland's final Klassiker appearance, but it was not one to remember.

After that shot in the first half, the 21-year-old – who might well be bound for Manchester City – had to wait until the 80th minute for his next attempt, which was blocked. Another half-chance fell his way a moment later, but the Norway international blazed over from the centre of the area. He was taken off before the game was up, having failed to get any of his three efforts on target.

What's next?

Bayern travel to Mainz in their next outing, while Dortmund host Bochum.

In this footballing climate, what are Bayern Munich and where do they sit in its pecking order?

From Barcelona, to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in recent years, the financial and footballing disparity between Europe's elite and the rest has warped perception. Lifting the league trophy at the end of the season no longer provides safety for a head coach.

Even then, Bayern are an extreme example. In the six years since Pep Guardiola left for Manchester City, they have gone through six head coaches, despite winning the Bundesliga in every season over that same period.

Bayern have been global standard-bearers for nearly four decades. Where other clubs and leagues have had lull periods away from the very highest levels of European football, they have consistently been in contention for silverware, even in relatively weak periods.

Just as importantly, though, the superiority clubs like Bayern now enjoy almost automatically dictates they will dominate possession in many games, irrespective of the ideology of the coach in charge and whether their teams can function with the ball as a consequence.

Niko Kovac's first season in 2018-19 was a good example of this. Bayern came nowhere near functioning in possession relative to the array of talent they had and still – along with some aid from Borussia Dortmund's regression to the mean after initial xG over-performance under Lucien Favre – managed an 11-point turnaround from third place in February to win the Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, they were comprehensively beaten by Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League with the majority of possession. Things declined even further under Kovac in his second season, before Hansi Flick took over the head coaching role, conquered Europe and subsequently replaced Joachim Low as the German national team coach at the end of the 2020-21 season.

This is the wider context that must be considered for Julian Nagelsmann's first season and what follows, because both club and international football ultimately acts within a continuum. Ahead of this weekend's Klassiker, much like that first season under Kovac, there's a dissonance that will accompany Bayern's title win.

Ultimately, a 10th consecutive Bundesliga title will not wash away the taste of Bayern's meek elimination at the hands of Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals. Those two legs were a microcosm of numerous aspects concerning this Bayern season – their true capacity in possession relative to the level of opposition, Nagelsmann's continual switching between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 formations, and finally from a standpoint of net gain, whether he's really getting the most out of the extraordinary creative forces that are Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

It is hard to overstate how Muller and Lewandowski provided more than goals and assists for Bayern under Flick. The utilisation of that duo was integral to the team's very functioning in possession, especially with Thiago Alcantara missing significant portions of that post-lockdown run late in the 2019-20 season. Kingsley Coman's decisive goal in the 2020 Champions League final against PSG was a perfect picture of the team when all three of Lewandowski, Muller and Thiago played – having initially tried to cover Muller, Leandro Paredes had to scramble, but it was too late, as Thiago fired his pass into Joshua Kimmich and Bayern got up the pitch.

Their combined touches in open play per 90 minutes under respective coaches makes for a good starting point. Under Kovac, Lewandowski and Muller held a combined 98.19 touches and 3.35 chances created from open play per 90 in all competitions. Flick's arrival leads to a dramatic spike for the two in both categories, with 107.6 touches in open play and 4.53 chances created in open play per 90.

 

 

Father Time will dictate an inevitable decline for the two as they approach 35, but more pertinently, Nagelsmann's approach has led to a return to their numbers under Kovac, with 98.59 touches per match and 3.85 chances created from open play between the two in all competitions this season. Then there's the discrepancy in eventual shot location.

The difference lies in involvement. Under Flick, Muller and Lewandowski effectively played as two strikers in a 4-4-2, while the wingers kept the defensive line pinned back, allowing the two with sufficient space to retreat and operate between the lines. Especially with midfielders like Kimmich and Leon Goretzka who do not like receiving the ball in tight areas, it was a critical component of Bayern's play and enabled them to open up the pitch.

Kimmich's increase in chance creation – his 2.83 per 90 this season is his highest out of the last four seasons in all competitions – is arguably born of the fact he is now Bayern's set-piece taker. His chance creation in open play has actually gone down from last season's 1.68 to 1.44, despite an increase in touches from 100.8 to 105.85.

 

 

Lewandowski and Muller's comparatively higher positioning and primary objective of threat behind the defensive line under Nagelsmann frankly makes the switching between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 irrelevant, because the 34-year-old has taken away the very thing that made Bayern function to begin with – the pair's ability to incorporate as well as get on the end of moves. Jamal Musiala's deployment in a 3-4-3 in the second leg against Villarreal only managed to clog the middle of the pitch up even further.

The player who has suffered the most with this change, however, is Serge Gnabry. His combined xG+xA figure of 0.92 in 2019-20 has dramatically decreased to 0.69 this year, while the middle of the pitch has been completely closed off to him, something evident in his dribble progression.

 

 

It all relates to the eventuality of Bayern's shot location and quality. Shot volume in Nagelsmann's first season has gone up to 20.13 in comparison to the 18.08 of that treble season under Flick, but they are shooting from further away, and with no increase in xG per shot. Against better defences, teams that hold high volumes of possession but ultimately struggle to play through the middle of the pitch are eventually found out. That has been the case this year, in Europe and particular in domestic losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach.

This all exists amid the backdrop of Bayern Munich's waning financial power and status as a destination in relation to the rest of Europe's elite. Bayern centre-back Niklas Sule is set to leave for arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund. Emerging stars from within the Bundesliga who traditionally would have been guaranteed to end up at Sabener Strasse such as Dortmund's Erling Haaland, or RB Leipzig's Cristopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol, appear destined for elsewhere.

In the meantime, Bayern are reportedly haggling with Ajax over the release of Ryan Gravenberch who, despite the hype, arguably will not transform their midfield – much like Corentin Tolisso and Marc Roca.

There is also the small matter of Lewandowski's contract not being renewed and running the risk of expiring at the end of next season.

Sustained success can run the risk of providing diminishing returns, much like Juventus discovered in Italy. The question for Bayern is how to avoid it both as a club and under Nagelsmann, but can they?

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