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Lewandowski’s Bayern Munich exit could open the door for Bundesliga rivals

Only Gerd Muller sits above Robert Lewandowski in the list of all-time Bundesliga top scorers. This is proof of the Polish striker’s status as one of the greatest players to have ever graced the German top flight, and his transfer from Bayern Munich to Barcelona this summer represents the end of an era for the Bavarian club, and for soccer in the country as a whole.

In many ways, the time was right for Lewandowski to move on. His departure will give Julian Nagelsmann more freedom to impose his own style on Bayern Munich. The arrival of Sadio Mane from Liverpool suggests the German champions will look to become a more fluid and interchangeable team in the final third. 

This plan might keep Bayern Munich as the dominant force at the top of the German game. There could, however, be a transitional period. Nagelsmann is asking his players to play, and think, in a different way. It could take some time for his ideas and methods to be truly absorbed by the squad at the Allianz Arena.

For the first time in a number of years, the door could be open for a rival to walk through at the top of the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich’s title last season was their 10th consecutive. Their grip on the German top flight has been tight for the last decade, but it’s possible a rival could prise the trophy away from them.

Borussia Dortmund (the last team not called Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga) are arguably best-placed. They might have lost Erling Haaland to Manchester City this summer, but the club looks to have reinvested the money well. In fact, they might be a stronger team unit now than they were at any point with Haaland leading the line.

Karim Adeyemi and Sebastien Haller have been signed to give Dortmund a new-look attack, albeit with Haller likely sidelined after a testicular tumor was discovered in recent days. In the back, last season’s defensive issues perhaps have been addressed through the signing of Nico Schlotterbeck and Niklas Sule. There has also been a change of manager with Marco Rose fired and Edin Terzic hired in his place. Improvement is expected.

RB Leipzig also have hopes of a strong season after a difficult 2021/22 campaign. Domenico Tedesco has built a team that appeared much more competitive following his arrival at the club last December. RB Leipzig are once again an exciting possession-based team with an exciting young manager at the helm. 

Nagelsmann and Tedesco’s friendship dates back to their time together in the DFB coaching academy. Tedesco famously achieved better grades than the Bayern Munich boss with the rivalry between the two already established before they took over two of German soccer’s biggest clubs. It could reach another level this season.

Bayer Leverkusen should be mentioned as potential contenders after finishing third in last season’s Bundesliga table. Gerry Seoane has managed to keep the core of his team together over the summer and so there’s a good chance Leverkusen will continue on their steady upward trajectory. Challenging for the title might be beyond them, though.

The Bundesliga has earned itself a reputation for being one of the most entertaining in Europe, but this is at odds with Bayern Munich’s dominance. Of course, there are dominant teams in most leagues, but no club has won as many consecutive titles as the Bavarians have over the last decade. Nobody in Germany has been able to get anywhere near them.

It could be the case that the changes being made by Bayern Munich this summer set them up for another decade of dominance. Nagelsmann is replenishing an ageing squad. Signings like Ryan Gravenberch and Matthijs de Ligt have been made in the belief that they will form the core of Bayern Munich for a long time to come.

Bayern Munich have backed Nagelsmann as the man to carry the club into a new era. This summer has been about making corrections on last season, when the Bavarians faded after an exceptional first half of the campaign. This could involve a new formation, with a 3-5-2 rumoured to be a potential experiment. 

But in making this transition, Bayern Munich might be vulnerable. Their rivals must be ready to take this opportunity if it arises because it might be the only chance they get to establish a new order at the top of German soccer. Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and the rest can make the Bundesliga title race a true contest again. 

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