Friday, May 18, 2012

Grant Wahl: Bayern Munich: A Model Franchise

The annual Super Bowl of world soccer is finally here. Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea (2:45 p.m. ET, FOX) may lack the sexiness of recent European finals -- neither team finished at the top of its own domestic league, after all -- but I still think this should be a highly entertaining contest. Why? For starters, Bayern will have plenty of incentive to attack on its home field, attempting to become the first team to win the European Cup at home since Inter in 1965. What's more, both teams will have a nearly full quiver of creative players. Of the seven players suspended on both teams for the final, all but one (Chelsea's Ramires) are defensive-minded. As long as Chelsea doesn't completely park the bus as it did against Barcelona (and I think Bayern will prevent that from happening with an early goal), this final will be a fun watch for the neutral. If you want to hear more about the final itself, you can check out's preview podcast, but for now I wanted to provide a bit more information on one of the finalists. Part of my goal in becoming a full-time soccer writer in 2010 was to learn more about the world's top clubs and present that to the U.S. audience. On my way to Madrid a while back for a story on José Mourinho I stopped for a few days in Munich. I ended up writing about Bayern's star midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger, but I also got an audience at Bayern's international media day with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. A former star forward for Bayern and the German national team (he was twice named European player of the year), Rummenigge, 56, is now the chairman of Bayern Munich and the powerful European Club Association. What makes Bayern Munich special? Here are some of the things I found interesting from our 90-minute round-table conversation (in which Rummenigge spoke fluent English):

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