Munich - They said it could not get any better for the Bundesliga than last season’s ground-breaking all-German UEFA Champions League final. They were wrong.

Almost seven months on from FC Bayern München’s Wembley triumph over domestic foes Borussia Dortmund, Germany’s top flight is standing prouder than ever over yet another milestone after four of its own - Bayern, BVB, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04 - all qualified for the last 16 of Europe’s elite competition for the very first time.

Clean sweep


For holders Bayern, despite losing to English Premier League outfit Manchester City FC on Matchday 6, Group D was a relative cakewalk, with Pep Guardiola’s men securing their place in the knockout rounds as early as 5 November and ultimately finishing top of the pile on 15 points (W5, L1). Arguably no surprises there, but for the Bundesliga’s three remaining delegates, the path out of the group stages was fraught with difficulties.

Going right down to the wire, Dortmund and Schalke needed to beat Olympique de Marseille and FC Basel 1893 respectively to be sure of qualification, while Leverkusen had to see off <a href=' Real Socidedad de Futbol and hope for a favour from Group A leaders Manchester United FC in their final game against FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Sure enough, all three came up trumps - even the Premier League champions kept up their end of the bargain - and just like that a new piece of European football history was written.

Homegrown emphasis


You might, then, be asking yourselves what all the fuss is all about. After all, it is not like it is the first time an English quartet - in this case the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC - will be taking their place alongside the likes of La Liga trio FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF and Atletico Madrid and French champions Paris Saint Germain in the last 16. Incidentally, it is the fifth such occasion in the Champions League era - but could they have done so without such a heavy reliance on their global imports?

A detailed look at the 25-man squads of the above-mentioned foursome suggests otherwise. Only 11 Man United players currently registered for the competition are of British origin compared to Leverkusen’s 19-strong native cohort; Man City have just five homegrown representatives on their books to Bayern’s 13; and Chelsea (four) quite frankly pale in comparison to Schalke (15). Arsenal, meanwhile, scraped through with the help of five Brits, as well as four German nationals, handsomely outdone by purveyors of grassroots talent Dortmund (16).

Fearless four


In that sense, the Bundesliga - and the German game more broadly - is light years ahead of its European rivals. Time and again, players, fans and pundits alike have questioned why Germany’s national side and its top clubs are able to perform so consistently well on the big stage. Perhaps now they have their answer.

When the draw is made for the knockout stages in Nyon on 16 December, Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Schalke will fear no one. As for the rest, anything other than a two-legged showdown with one of the Bundesliga’s valiant, homespun juggernauts would go down very nicely indeed.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge