Bayer Leverkusen are the 13th club to win the Bundesliga. - © DFL
Bayer Leverkusen are the 13th club to win the Bundesliga. - © DFL

How did teams fare the season after they won the Bundesliga for the first time?


With Xabi Alonso stating he’s staying in charge and Bayer Leverkusen now confirmed as champions of Germany for the first time ever, we take a look back at how clubs have fared in the past after lifting a maiden Bundesliga title.

Leverkusen have become the 13th club to get their hands on the Meisterschale in the Bundesliga era going back to 1963. Clubs like Bayern Munich have obviously gone on to enjoy amazing success domestically since their first triumph in the 1960s, but it hasn’t always worked out well for teams once they’ve claimed silverware. One champion was even relegated the following year! runs you through what happened to teams after being crowned champions…

Cologne (1963/64)

Cologne were the first champions of the newly created Bundesliga and won it in comprehensive style. They were top of the table in 1963/64 on all 30 matchdays except the fourth as they finished six points clear of Meiderich (now Duisburg) and Eintracht Frankfurt (back when only two points were awarded for a win) with a team boasting club legends Wolfgang Weber, Wolfgang Overath, Christian Müller, Hans Schäfer and a young Toni Schumacher in goal under coach Georg Knöpfle.

The Billy Goats went into the following season as favourites to retain their crown but got off to a bad start. They quickly recovered and would sit top for a few weeks, but ultimately finished three points behind champions Werder Bremen in second place. The champions also enjoyed an eventful European Cup campaign, reaching the quarter-finals against Liverpool. After two goalless draws, the deciding third game also ended 2-2. It meant the winner would be determined by a coin toss. Belgian referee Robert Schaut actually used a piece of wood, which landed vertically at the first throw. The second attempt determined that the English side would advance at the expense of Cologne. It wouldn’t be until 1977/78 that the Billy Goats won their second and last Bundesliga title.

Watch: Inaugural winners Cologne among the most memorable Bundesliga champions

Werder Bremen (1964/65)

Werder were the first surprise champions of the professional era in Germany, lifting the title in the Bundesliga’s second edition after they’d finished down in 10th the previous campaign. They even lost their opening fixture, but soon established themselves at the top end. And once they overtook Cologne on Matchday 17, there was no catching them. After Die Grünweißen beat Borussia Dortmund 3-0 on the penultimate weekend and the stadium announcer confirmed that Cologne had failed to win against Nuremberg, Bremen were confirmed as champions of Germany for the first time ever, in the year the city marked its 1,000th anniversary.

Title-winning coach Willi Multhaup left to take over Dortmund and was replaced by Günter Brocker as the champions ended the following year in fourth place, behind newcomers Bayern and five points shy of champions 1860 Munich. By no means a bad campaign, but Werder never got above second place in the early weeks of their title defence. They only drew three games, but it was their 10 defeats that ultimately cost them. Some 20 years later, in 1987/88, Bremen finally lifted the Meisterschale a second time. A third followed in 1992/93 before their most recent success in 2003/04’s double-winning campaign.

Werder Bremen fans marked 50 years since the club's first title back in 2015. - imago sportfotodienst

1860 Munich (1965/66)

Before Bayern swept to dominance, it was city rivals 1860 who first brought the Bundesliga title to Munich in 1965/66. The Lions took the lead off the newly promoted Reds from Matchday 8 and led the way until Dortmund overtook them following Matchday 23. They even dropped to third behind the two teams we now regard as Germany’s big two, before a 2-0 win in Dortmund – who had just won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Glasgow – took 1860 back top on the penultimate weekend. Max Merkel’s team then held on with a draw on the final day for the club’s one and only league crown.

Their title defence started badly. Rudolf Brunnenmeier had to spend two weeks in prison ahead of the season and fellow striker Timo Konietzka was later also suspended for six months after attacking a referee. The pair had accounted for 41 of the team’s 80 goals the previous year. The Lions were second from bottom after 11 games before a recovery saw them climb the table. A few weeks after a 3-2 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the European Cup and with the team in eighth place, Merkel was dismissed in December after the players voted against him. Things steadied under Hans-Wolfgang Weber before a big upturn under Gunther Baumann from February as the defending champions eventually finished second, just two points behind Eintracht Braunschweig. Three years later, 1860 were relegated.

1860 were arguably the bigger club in Munich when they won the title in 1966 and were welcomed to the town hall by mayor Hans-Jochen Vogel. - imago sportfotodienst via

Eintracht Braunschweig (1966/67)

Braunschweig are probably the team you’d miss when listing Bundesliga champions. Newspaper Bild described them before the season as “a typical housewife team, dutiful and solid”. Almost all their players held second jobs and they trained just four times a week as Eintracht claimed one of the most surprising triumphs in German football history. Helmuth Johannsen’s side were around the top end from the start and held first place uninterrupted from Matchday 17. Scoring goals wasn’t their strength, with third-place Dortmund netting 21 more than their 49, but the Lions were formidable in defence, keeping clean sheets in over half their 34 games and conceding only 27 times – a season record that would stand for almost two decades in the Bundesliga – as they held off defending champions 1860 and European Cup Winners’ Cup holders BVB.

Although Braunschweig reached the last eight of the European Cup, where they were beaten in a deciding game by Juventus, their title defence never really got going as they returned to the mid-table mediocrity that had defined their first years in the Bundesliga. Johannsen’s side finished ninth out of 18th with a record of 15 wins, five draws and 14 defeats, scoring 37 goals and conceding 39. The Lions’ top-flight stay lasted until 1973.

Eintracht Braunschweig became Bundesliga champions for the only time in 1967. - imago images/Rust

Nuremberg (1967/68)

Up until the 1980s, Nuremberg held the title of Rekordmeister as Germany’s most successful club. They won their ninth championship and only Bundesliga crown in 1968 when Merkel – in his first full season in charge after leaving 1860 – guided the Bavarians to glory. Der Club led the table from Matchday 3 till the end, finishing three points clear of Bremen in second place having only used 15 players all campaign.

However, Nuremberg have become the ultimate boom-or-bust side. The following year they became the only reigning Bundesliga champions to date to be relegated. One of the ironies of that disaster was that they finished only nine points behind second-placed Alemannia Aachen, but the fact is the champions had also sat bottom of the table for most of the second half of the season. The 1968 Meisterschale was their last major honour until lifting the DFB Cup in 2007. They were relegated the year after that too – a record ninth time they’ve gone down from the Bundesliga.

Max Merkel (back row, 3rd r.) became the first coach to win the Bundesliga twice and first with two teams after guiding Nuremberg to glory in 1968. - HORSTMUELLER GmbH

Bayern Munich (1968/69)

Bayern had been champions once before back in 1932 before winning the Bundesliga for the first time in their fourth season in 1968/69. Led by 30-goal top scorer Gerd Müller and under new coach Branko Zebec, the Munich team topped the table from the first week till the last, finishing eight points above Aachen. They also won the DFB Cup to claim the first double in Germany since Schalke in 1937.

Bayern’s 32 Bundesliga titles now is, of course, the record by a big margin, but they failed to defend their title the following year, despite Müller’s 38 goals. A team that also included Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier led for a few weeks early in the season but were unable to keep pace with Borussia Mönchengladbach and eventually finished four points behind in second place. The now six-time European champions were also knocked out in the first round of the European Cup by Saint-Etienne and Zebec was replaced by Udo Lattek in March with their title defence pretty much over.

Bayern won a league and cup double in 1969. - imago images/Otto Krschak

Borussia Mönchengladbach (1969/70)

The Bundesliga’s seventh season brought a seventh different champion as Gladbach usurped Bayern, beginning a decade where they and the Bavarians would emerge as German football’s biggest rivals. Hennes Weisweiler had brought Borussia up to the Bundesliga the same year as Bayern in 1965 and developed a team that magazine kicker had down as one of the favourites for 1969/70. The Foals, as they became known, were famed for their swift attacking play with the likes of captain Günter Netzer, Herbert Laumen and Horst Köppel, but also boasted a solid foundation with goalkeeper Wolfgang Kleff and defender Berti Vogts, conceding only 29 goals. October 1969 was the first time ever the club had topped the Bundesliga. On 30 April 1970, Borussia were confirmed as champions for the first time with a game to spare and ultimately a four-point cushion over defending champions Bayern.

Six teams had tried and failed to retain the Bundesliga title, but Gladbach were finally the first to achieve the feat as they defended their crown in 1970/71. They and Bayern had swapped places at the top several times during the campaign and were in fact level on points going into the final day, with the Munich side ahead by one goal. But the 1968/69 champions then lost 2-0 at Duisburg, while Gladbach managed a 4-1 win in Frankfurt to snatch the Meisterschale. They would win it three more times in the '70s, claiming a hat-trick after Bayern did the same between 1972 and 1975.

Watch: Gladbach's title defence included one of the Bundesliga's most famous incidents

Hamburg (1978/79)

After that spell of dominance by Bayern and Gladbach, and following Cologne’s domestic double in 1978, HSV finally got their hands on the Meisterschale for the first time in the Bundesliga era and fourth time overall. A team led by Zebec was built on goalkeeper Rudi Kargus, defenders Manfred Kaltz and Peter Nogly, midfielders Caspar Memering, Jimmy Hartwig and Felix Magath, as well as forwards Kevin Keegan and Horst Hrubesch. They were confirmed as champions with a game to spare and would finish a point above Stuttgart, having overtaken previous pacesetters Kaiserslautern on Matchday 27.

They came agonisingly close to retaining their title the year after, switching places with Bayern at the top throughout the season and being level on points and goal difference with two games to go. However, defeat to promoted Leverkusen on the penultimate weekend proved costly as the Bavarians finished two points ahead. HSV would also finish as runners-up in the European Cup against Nottingham Forest, including a memorable comeback against Real Madrid, in Keegan’s last season. However, it heralded the golden era at the Volksparkstadion in which they won the Bundesliga three times and finished runners-up on another three occasions over a six-year spell that also saw them contest the 1982 UEFA Cup final and then lift the European Cup in 1983 under Ernst Happel. The 1987 DFB Cup would be their last major honour to date.

Branko Zebec became the second coach to lead two clubs to Bundesliga glory with Hamburg in 1979. - imago sportfotodienst via

VfB Stuttgart (1983/84)

Stuttgart had been up and around the business end of the Bundesliga since their top-flight return in 1977, even finishing second in 1978/79. They finally got their third championship and first of the Bundesliga era in 1983/84 in what remains the tightest finish to a title race in history. For most of the season VfB had jostled for top spot with Bayern and led going into the final day, when they hosted a Hamburg sitting two points behind them. HSV won 1-0, meaning that both teams AND Gladbach all ended on 48 points. However, Stuttgart finished first thanks to their seven-goal superior goal difference over HSV. Bayern in fourth got 47 points, Bremen in fifth finished on 45.

There were discussions in the summer for coach Helmut Benthaus to take over from Jupp Derwall as Germany boss following a disappointing Euro 1984 campaign, but Stuttgart refused to release him. A certain Franz Beckenbauer then got the job. And despite retaining much of the same squad, including Förster brothers Bernd and Karlheinz, Karl Allgöwer and Ásgeir Sigurvinsson, as well as signing a teenager called Jürgen Klinsmann from city rivals Stuttgarter Kickers, VfB never got going in their title defence and ended up finishing 10th in 1984/85. Their first-ever European Cup campaign also ended in the first round at the hands of Levski Sofia on away goals. They’d win a second Bundesliga title in 1992 and a third in 2007.

VfB Stuttgart were champions in 1984 for the first time in over 30 years. - Pressefoto Rudel/Herbert Rudel via

Kaiserslautern (1990/91)

Kaiserslautern enjoyed a spell of top-four finishes around the end of the 1970s to the start of the '80s, but had mostly been also-rans for much of the Bundesliga. That was until 1990/91 when they followed a 12th-place finish – but also a DFB Cup triumph – under Karl-Heinz Feldkamp with their first league title since the '50s. A team spearheaded by Stefan Kuntz and Bruno Labbadia, featuring Thomas Dooley in defence, led the table from Bayern from Matchday 22 and secured the Meisterschale with a 6-2 win in Cologne on the final day, finishing three points clear.

Kuntz became the only Kaiserslautern player ever to be named Germany’s Footballer of the Year as a result, but his 11 goals the following season were only enough to help the Red Devils to fifth place in their title defence, eight points off champions Stuttgart. It still secured UEFA Cup qualification, though, having also reached the second round of the European Cup before elimination on away goals against Barcelona. They would be relegated in 1996 but would bounce back to make history in 1997/98 as the only promoted team ever to be crowned Bundesliga champions.

Stefan Kuntz was the figurehead of Kaiserslautern's 1991 title-winning team. - imago sportfotodienst via images/Sven Simon

Borussia Dortmund (1994/95)

Dortmund had been the final champions of the pre-Bundesliga era in 1963 but wouldn’t win the title again for some 30 years until Ottmar Hitzfeld guided the likes of Stefan Reuter, Michael Zorc, Andreas Möller, Matthias Sammer and Karl-Heinz Riedle to glory in 1995. BVB led the way for the majority of the season, apart from a few weeks when overtaken by Bremen, who were in fact in first place going into the final day. However, a 3-1 defeat at defending champions Bayern – who finished sixth – allowed Dortmund to nip in and snatch the crown with a 2-0 win at home to HSV. Over half a million people took to the streets the following day in Dortmund to celebrate.

The season after became one of the first to feature a Bayern-Dortmund title fight. BVB overtook the Bavarians on Matchday 12 and confirmed the defence of their title on the penultimate day in a somewhat cruel twist of fate that saw their arch-rivals Schalke essentially gift them the Meisterschale. The Royal Blues beat Bayern that day, meaning Borussia’s point against the other Munich club, 1860, was enough for Hitzfeld’s men. They ultimately finished six points clear at the top in the first season to use three points for a win. This team would then win the Champions League in 1997.

Andreas 'Andi' Möller led Borussia Dortmund to the club's first ever Bundesliga title win in 1994/95. - imago

Wolfsburg (2008/09)

Wolfsburg were Germany’s first new champions since Gladbach in 1970 when they became the 12th and most recent Meisterschale winners until Leverkusen. Although Magath had guided Bayern to consecutive domestic doubles in 2005 and 2006, nobody envisioned him leading the Wolves to glory when he took over for 2007/08 and finished fifth. He’d built a team with a mix of youth and experience based on goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, defenders Andreas Barzagli and Marcel Schäfer, midfielders Zvjezdan Misimović and captain Josué, and the strike duo of Edin Džeko and Grafite. Wolfsburg were only ninth at the mid-point of the season but then stormed to the summit on Matchday 26. Among that remarkable run was a 5-1 thrashing of defending champions Bayern as the Wolves ultimately finished two points ahead of the Munich club thanks to a thumping by the same score of Bremen on the final day. Grafite (28) and Džeko (26) accounted for 68 percent of their 80 goals (54), while Misimović set a record for assists with 22.

Magath had confirmed even before winning the title that he would be leaving for Schalke, and Wolfsburg won their first game under successor Amin Veh the following season but would end their title defence down in eighth place. Their first campaign in the Champions League brought wins over CSKA Moscow and Besiktas, but they finished third behind Manchester United and the Russians to drop into the Europa League, where they went out in the quarter-finals against Fulham.

Felix Magath was the brains behind Wolfsburg's sole Bundesliga title triumph. - imago sportfotodienst

Bayer Leverkusen (2023/24)

The Werkself have now finally got over the line after so many near misses down the years, securing the Meisterschale on Matchday 29 - the third-earliest in history - after a remarkable season. They would still make it even better with a DFB Cup final to come and their UEFA Europa League campaign still on track as well.

Watch: Leverkusen's title-winning highlights

What then after that? Alonso has confirmed he's going nowhere and will lead Leverkusen into their title defence in 2024/25. Let's see where they end up on the scale from Bayern dominance to Nuremberg disaster...