Munich - With Bundesliga records tumbling at every turn and FC Bayern Munich's thirst for glory seemingly unquenchable this season, the murmurs about whether the present crop of players are the club's best ever are growing steadily louder.
At first glance, the claim is easy to justify in the wake of Jupp Heynckes' troops' sprint to the fastest championship win in Bundesliga history, as well as their rampant demolition of FC Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg. bundesliga.com delves beneath the hype, though, to separate fact from fiction.
Comparisons with the all-conquering side of the early to mid-1970s, widely accepted as the Bavarians' finest vintage yet, have been rife. In order to put the respective teams' achievements into context, it may help to set aside everything you know about the current FC Bayern ensemble for the moment and imagine the Bundesliga finding its feet as a toddler in the 1960s.
The first seven seasons of the newly-founded national top flight each produced a different champion and, as a new decade dawned, Borussia Mönchengladbach were the team to beat. Bayern were among their most respected rivals, but still a long way from the fearsome outfit they would shortly become. As a team including the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, Sepp Maier, Gerd Müller, Paul Breitner and, a few years later, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge matured, they would go on to define the club's future status as the undisputed number one heavyweight of the German game.
Müller in particular was unstoppable, netting 365 Bundesliga goals in 427 appearances. He helped fire the Bavarians to three consecutive league titles (1972-74), which preceded three successive triumphs in the European Cup (1974-76), today's UEFA Champions League equivalent. A FIFA Club World Cup trophy and the DFB Cup were also added to an increasingly bulging trophy cabinet during that era.
Beckenbauer famously commented that "without Gerd Müller and his goals, we'd all still be in our little wooden hut on Säbener Straße." Bayern were anything but a one-man band, however. The gleaming 80,000 square metre training complex that now stands in the hut's stead is just one of the more visible symbols of that generation's remarkable legacy.
Their success brought the club a degree of wealth, prestige, international recognition and respect scarcely imaginable as the Bundesliga's inaugural season kicked off in 1963 - minus the presence of FC Bayern, incidentally. That 1970s generation instilled the winning mentality subsequent squads have aspired to, more often than not with success, and which is once again a trademark of the class of 2012/13. Beckenbauer, Hoeneß, Rummenigge and Müller all remain active at the club in various capacities, helping keep that historic culture alive.
While Bastian Schweinsteiger and Co. have swept all before them this term, let us not forget that Borussia Dortmund were undisputed top dogs in each of the two previous seasons. This Bayern team have some way to go yet to define an entire era in the manner of their illustrious predecessors. Ominously for the rest of the Bundesliga, though, they look to have a real appetite for the challenge.