On Tuesday, the news Borussia Dortmund fans had long dreaded became official, as Bayern Munich bought Dortmund captain Mats Hummels for $43 million, with the star German defender leaving Dortmund after over eight seasons. Making it plain to all, even Bayern's biggest Bundesliga rival is only playing for second.
The move included Hummels signing a five-year contract with Bayern, and earlier in the day Bayern purchased 18-year-old midfielder Renato Sanches from Benfica for $40 million, making him the most expensive Portuguese player ever sold out of the Primeira Liga (and it could escalate to over twice that figure with performance clauses).
Those two moves were announced a half-hour apart, leaving Dortmund, one of Europe’s biggest clubs, and Bayern Munich, now worlds apart.
With the amount of money that Bayern is now willing to throw around, even Dortmund is being left in the dust --- so how can the rest of the Bundesliga hope to compete?
Four years ago, with Europe heading into the Euro 2012, it was Dortmund coming off back-to-back titles under Juergen Klopp, with the charismatic coach and his team leading many to believe that Germany would finally be two-horse race, that didn't sit too well with Munich’s upper crust, who have done everything to prevent a recurrence.
Clubs that have won at least two league titles and played in at least one Champions League final over the last six seasons: Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.
That's the entire list.
Even with many hailing Dortmund as one of the world’s five best clubs this season, the gap between Bavaria's best and the rest of Germany has never been bigger, and Dortmund still isn't able to protect its own squad from being picked over once Bayern decides its rival has gotten too close for comfort.
Brawny Bavarian bank account. Bayern continues to report record revenue, with Bayern's revenue alone representing 22% of the 18-team Bundesliga's take in 2013-14, a year which ended with the club paying off its 25-year Allianz Arena stadium loan 16 years early.
Like Dortmund, Bayern's youth system was a pipeline for several of its stalwarts, including Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, David Alaba, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, now at Manchester United, but the German giant has been far more aggressive in the transfer market recently -- now taking one of Dortmund’s signature stars for the third time in four seasons.
After finishing fourth in the Bundesliga in 2006-07, Bayern paid 25 million euros ($35 million at the time) for Franck Ribery. It was a club record at the time, but that’s now standard operating procedure in Munich.
On Tuesday, Hummels and Sanches became the ninth and 10th different players that Bayern has paid at least 25 million Euros for since buying Ribery -- with eight of those 10 arriving in Munich after Dortmund won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. (Manuel Neuer arrived in the summer of 2011 for 30 million euros.)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus are the only players on Dortmund's roster that cost the club over 15 million euros. Dortmund paid 17 million euros for Reus, and the Armenian star set BVB's transfer record of 27.5 million euros ($36.5 million) in July 2013.
This does not include Robert Lewandowski, who arrived on a free transfer from Dortmund in 2014.
2013: Götze al Bayern (€37m)
2014: Lewandowski al Bayern (Libre €0)
2016: Hummels al Bayern (€38m)
Total €75m pic.twitter.com/0DubwzlmDs— Borussia Latino (@BorussiaLatino) May 10, 2016
Bayern has put its expensive stars to good use, responding to Dortmund's record season in 2011-12, of 81 points, by obliterating almost all of the record book in Germany, including points (91), raising the win record from 25 to 29 in Germany's 34-game season, and shattering the 40-year-old goal differential record, raising it from +64 to +80.
Currently on 85 points with a game remaining, Bayern had 79 points last year, 90 in 2014 and 91 points in 2013, and again, the Bundesliga (adjusted) points record was 79 points from 1964 until 2011.
With BVB close to signing one of Europe's top teenagers this summer, Ousmane Dembele of Rennes in Ligue 1, those who follow Dortmund are left to wonder aloud just how far Bayern is willing (and able) to go in order to preserve its primacy.
Waiting for Bayern to announce they bought the entire city of Rennes because Dembélé had the cheek to want to play for BVB over them.— Luca Gierl (@LucaGierl) May 10, 2016
The latest to leave. Hummels began his career at Bayern as a 6-year-old, but he left for Dortmund at the age of 19 after playing just one Bundesliga game for Germany's biggest club. He now returns as one of the faces of Germany's World Cup winners after claiming two Bundesliga titles and a German Cup at Dortmund, and losing to Bayern in a Champions League final. One of the world's best distributors out of the back, Hummels cited his desire to win a European title as a reason for leaving.
The news that Hummels may leave for Bayern has been rumored for some time, and BVB even announced Bayern's interest weeks ago. (Dortmund is publicly traded, and is required to reveal events that may affect share price, and Hummels qualified.)
Hummels is well aware of how painful his exit is to Dortmund's faithful, as he witnessed first hand how Mario Goetze, who joined BVB at the age of 8, was harshly treated after leaving for Bayern at the age of 21 three years ago (and to a much lesser extent, Robert Lewandowski, who left Dortmund after four seasons on a free transfer in 2014).
Hummels' statement on Facebook will do little to change the fact Tuesday was a dark day in Dortmund. Selected quotes:
"I'm sure as you can imagine the last few weeks have been very nerve-wracking for me, because I have made one of the most difficult decisions in my life so far. In the end, I am beginning to realize, again, a new challenge is upon me in my hometown where my family and many friends live."
"It is clear to me that it will be difficult for some people to understand my decision. But after eight-and-a-half really great years in Dortmund, it was time for me to try something new again."
"With a heavy heart I now leave the club and the team with whom I have grown together, and have been able to celebrate great success with."
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the relegation battle in the Premier League received more coverage last weekend than Bayern Munich winning a record fourth consecutive Bundesliga title, as Tuesday’s events were a symbolic blow anyone hoping for more, or perhaps any, competition in Europe’s top leagues.
Juventus has won five Italian titles in a row, Paris Saint-Germain has won four French titles in a row, and Bayern celebrated its fourth straight German title by buying itself some early Christmas presents.
Sadly, the crowns in all three of these countries appear to be taking up permanent residences for the foreseeable future.