On 7 June 1969, after beating Hannover 96 on the final day of the season, Bayern Munich celebrated winning their maiden Bundesliga title. We take a look back on how the Bavarians claimed the first of their 26 league crowns.
When the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, Bayern were not even a member of the elite division. League authorities only wanted one Munich club to be part of the newly-created top flight and it was 1860 Munich who won the 1962/63 Oberliga Süd.
Bayern had finished third behind Nürnberg and had to grit their teeth as three teams directly below them in the table – Eintracht Frankfurt, Karlsruher SC and VfB Stuttgart – were also invited to compete in the first season of Bundesliga football.
As Bayern’s website points out, however, what club president Wilhelm Neudecker felt was "an outrageous injustice" at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise: "The parlous state of the finances [...] forced the club to dispense with expensive stars and back players from their own youth team, as well as talented footballers from the Bavarian provinces."
Neudecker responded to the setback by professionalising the club further and also appointed Yugoslav coach Zlatko Cajkovski as manager, a man who had previously enjoyed considerable success with Cologne.
Bayern were forced to be patient but young goalkeeper Sepp Maier – who would go on to earn nicknamed ‘the Cat from Anzing’ due to his astonishing agility and reflexes – was maturing as a player and he would soon be joined in the first team by another future star. Sweeper Franz Beckenbauer made his debut – and scored – in a 4-0 win over St. Pauli in June 1964, but the team ultimately came up short in the promotion play-offs.
Another decisive piece of the jigsaw fell into place in July of that year, when Bayern pipped 1860 to the signing of Gerd Müller. Like Beckenbauer, the stocky striker was almost 19 and he made his Bayern debut in October, going on to score 33 goals that year as his side romped to the top of the Regionalliga Süd before sealing promotion via the play-offs.
According to the man who would become known as Der Kaiser, the extra time that Bayern spent outside the top flight would ultimately help the club to become a European powerhouse.
“We had a team with Maier, Müller, [Dieter] Brenninger and [Rudolf] Nafziger that only comes around once” said Beckenbauer, who also praised the role of the attack-minded Cajkovski: "He could develop a talent like hardly anyone else. He constructed the team."
Bayern lost their first ever Bundesliga game 1-0 against 1860 in August 1965 and their city neighbours would go on to win the league.
The tables, though, were beginning to turn. Bayern won the reverse fixture 3-0 in January 1966 and finished that season third in the standings, three points behind 1860 and only edged out by Borussia Dortmund for second on goal difference.
Bayern claimed the DFB Cup, however, beating Duisburg 4-2 in the final, and they defended that title in 1967. Cajkovski’s side also won the European Cup Winners’ Cup that year thanks to an extra-time winner against Rangers from hard-hitting midfielder Franz ‘The Bull’ Roth.
It would be another Croatian coach, however, who would lead Bayern to that elusive first Bundesliga title. A former international team-mate of Cajkovski, Branko Zebec had carved out a solid reputation as a joint manager with his hometown club Dinamo Zagreb.
In 1967 Zagreb had beaten Leeds United to win the Fairs Cup – a predecessor of the UEFA Europa League – and Zebec landed in Munich in time for the 1968/1969 campaign. In Bavaria, he brought a strict approach off the pitch and a more tactical, pragmatic one on it.
"He shaped us in a new style," Beckenbauer recalled later. "There was more professionalism, more order, more discipline."
Still relying on the core of Maier, Beckenbauer and Müller, Bayern opened the league season with five wins and 15 goals. Their first defeat came at Werder Bremen on Matchday 11 but they only lost six games all season – half the total of nearest challengers Alemannia Aachen.
The title was all but secured when Bayern drew 1-1 with Aachen on Matchday 27, eventually clinching the Meisterschale by eight points in an era when only two were awarded for a win.
Bayern used only 13 players in that title-winning season – with eight of them having played all 34 league matches. While the side was packed with talent throughout, it was obvious who the star was that year.
To this day, Müller remains the Bundesliga’s all-time record goalscorer and 30 of Der Bomber’s 365 top-flight strikes helped Zebec’s men win the league for the first time. Brenninger and Rainer Ohlhauser chipped in with a combined 19 goals but the league’s leading marksman that season had bagged almost half of Bayern’s tally of 61. "Without Gerd, Bayern would not be where they are today," Beckenbauer has often said.
Watch: Remind yourself of Müller's predatory ability in the box with this effort
A week after Bayern's final league game, a brace from Müller helped his team complete the double as they beat Schalke in the DFB Cup final.
Borussia Mönchengladbach – with future Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes in their attack – would rise to the challenge the following year to dethrone the league champions. A thrilling rivalry developed between those clubs in the 1970s but the Bavarians have rarely looked back since finally clinching that first Bundesliga crown.