| Bayern Munich’s Samuel Kuffour and Thomas Linke celebrate with a glass of Bavarian beer Saturday. (AP/PTI)
Berlin: Bayern Munich stopped squabbling for a moment to celebrate another Bundesliga title at the end of a turbulent season.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory at VfL Wolfsburg, which secured the club an 18th German crown with four games left, came after heated exchanges between the club’s bosses over how to handle a bitter dispute with German soccer authorities.
Bayern are at loggerheads with the German Football League (DFL) over a controversial marketing deal and supervisory board president Franz Beckenbauer is calling for peace while chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge refuses to back down.
Rummenigge and commercial manager Uli Hoeness have accused Beckenbauer of getting involved in a matter that has nothing to do with him, but you cannot stop the Kaiser from speaking his mind.
“It would be better if we all spoke the same language,” Rummenigge said. “To hear one say white and the other say black is not good. I hope we can avoid a big fight but I believe we’ll manage.”
While the former club greats were busy arguing, the players concentrated on their job, producing a convincing display with second-half goals from strikers Elber and Claudio Pizarro.
VfB Stuttgart and defending champions Borussia Dortmund played their part, managing only draws with Hansa Rostock and TSV 1860 Munich to remain second and third, 13 and 14 points adrift.
“Winning the title so early is a reward for a sensational performance from the team,” said coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, whose team had lost their last two games.
“We hadn’t expected to be crowned here,” said Hitzfeld. “We knew we could win the game and that certainly was the plan but we didn’t think Stuttgart would fail to beat Rostock.”
The season is not over yet and Bayern will now chase a domestic double when they play Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final next month.
But it has already been one of the most eventful in Bayern’s history, with the club doing its best to live up to its FC Hollywood reputation for permanent scandals.
“It’s the best team we’ve ever had,” Rummenigge said before the start of the season, for which Bayern had reinforced themselves by purchasing German internationals Michael Ballack and Sebastian Deisler as well as Brazilian Ze Roberto — arguably the three finest midfielders in the Bundesliga.
The four-time European champions had just finished third in the league and had to qualify for the Champions League, which they did easily.
But it soon went horribly wrong, Bayern finishing last in their group in the first stage of the premier event to bow out of Europe.
Rummenigge said it was a shame and Hitzfeld felt the heat but was not sacked.
The atmosphere became tense, Bixente Lizarazu and Samuel Kuffour were handed fines for punch-ups in training but worse was still to come.
In February, Bayern admitted receiving 21.5 million Euros through a secret contract with the troubled KirchMedia group, on top of television money passed on to the clubs via the DFL under the central marketing agreement.
The row seemed settled after Bayern accepted having to pay 3.0 million Euros to the DFL, but the club was furious when the ruling body described their attitude as “morally reprehensible”. Bayern are now threatening to tear up the solidarity pact and negotiate TV deals on their own in a breakaway move.
Ballack, whose return from injury inspired Bayern to victory in Wolfsburg, was fined for criticising Hitzfeld’s tactics at the end of February.
A few days later, it was goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn’s turn to make unwanted headlines after admitting he had betrayed his pregnant wife by having an affair with a barmaid.
“People should concentrate on our sporting performances because we are a football team,” Hoeness said at the time.
Unfortunately for Hoeness, Bayern are more than that. Those who do not support them usually love to hate them and often perceive them as an arrogant bunch.
It was back to normal on Saturday with Bayern winning another trophy to add to their rich collection.
Hoeness stated again immediately afterwards that sporting success was all he cared about.
“Watch out, Real Madrid, we’re coming back,” he said, already looking forward to the next European campaign.