Batman has The Joker. Real Madrid and Barcelona have each other. England has a bunch of a heroes and anti-heroes. Who does Bayern Munich have?
The German giants, who last season won their fourth straight league title, the Bundesliga, have gone about swiftly in the transfer market. Bayern lost little time in replacing the now Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola with Italian Carlo Ancelotti. On the player front, they once again raided Borussia Dortmund, the closest thing have as a rival in Germany, for the services of ball-playing centre-back Mats Hummels. Then, well before the less-prescient scouts were set on alert at the European Championship, they completed the transfer of Portugal's teenage star Renato Sanches.
In other words, barring an implosion or a Leicester City act in Germany, Bayern will win their fifth straight, and 26th overall, league title in the 2016-17 season. The closest analogy on this context is Scottish league's Celtic. The Glasgow giants have had no realistic challenger to the domestic title since the demotion on Rangers, and in all likelihood, win their sixth straight title this coming season. There is, however, a major difference. The lack of competition back home in Scotland has harmed Celtic's standing in Europe, their best performance this millennium being the runners-up in the 2002-03 season of the Uefa Cup, now the Europa League. Bayern on the other hand, are the favourites for the Champions League.
A lack of competition in domestic league, where they play more matches, should theoretically hamper the sharpness of a team. That clearly has not been the case with Bayern. The major reason for that is, regardless of Bayern's dominance, the other German sides are not bad. Two German clubs made it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League last season, as against one each from England and France. Though 2014-15 saw Bayern as the sole German representative in the last 8, 2013-14 had two, Borussia Dortmund being the other club.
On Uefa's coefficient ranking, which takes into consideration the performance of clubs in Champions League and Europa League, Germany are second only to Spain. In other words, Bayern's dominance in the German league is the dominance of a supremely talented team over a really good league.
Which leads us to the question, why so?
According to financial service firm Deloitte, Bayern Munich were the fifth biggest football club in the world in 2014-15 in terms of revenue. The 474 million euros (Rs3505.95 crore) it generated is almost the double the next German club made, 280.6 million euros (Rs2074.64 crore) by Borussia Dortmund. Schalke 04 come third with 219.7m euros (Rs1624.88 crore). For context, the richest club, reigning Champions League winners Real Madrid, earn 577m euros (Rs4267.77 crore), not too ahead of Bayern, considering the Germans suffered a 3 per cent drop in revenue as against the previous year.
The money Bayern have at their disposal is clearly more than what's required to win the Bundesliga. Which is precisely why they are targeting the Champions League. They won a treble of the domestic league, the Cup and the Champions League in 2012-13 under former coach Jupp Heynckes, but could not add another European title since then. The decision to hire Italian manager Ancelotti, who has won three Champions League titles in his coaching career, is rooted to that ambition.
With a good manager and two great recruits to complement the already strong side, Bayern, and Barcelona, who also have made some great additions, are the two best bets for the Champions League. That meanwhile answers our first question. Does Bayern have a Joker (or Batman)? Yes, two in fact. Barcelona and Real Madrid.