ESPN FC assesses the greatest rivalries in football, focusing on the teams who, together, challenged at the very peak of the sport over a period of years. In the Bundesliga's formative years, Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach were the undisputed kings.
The Bayern machine vs. the Gladbach foals
These two teams did not just divide Bundesliga titles between them like no other teams in history -- they divided German society like no other teams in history. At a time of deep change in the country, both Bayern and Gladbach were seen as symbols for opposing political viewpoints. That was how profound the rivalry got, provoking more discussion than any duel since.
Bayern supposedly represented the conservative south, emphasised by the manner in which they supposedly ground out wins through grit more than great football. Gladbach supposedly represented the youthful and modern north, as reflected by their free-flowing style. Bayern's Franz Beckenbauer and Gladbach's Gunter Netzer were said to personify the teams.
While Gladbach developed a complimentary nickname during this time -- "the foals," based on the quickness of their play -- their rivals became associated with a more unfortunate term: "Bayern-Dusel," or "Undeserved Bayern luck." Bayern came to really resent the tag, as Paul Breitner made clear to ESPN. "We never talked about Dusel," he said. "It was strength, it was power."
The reality was of course more complex, and the two brilliant teams actually shared a number of key qualities. Both were built around once-in-a-generation young groups of players and were led by the key stars Beckenbauer and Netzer; both scored bucketloads of goals and both were winners. In that regard, they drove each other on.
"We looked at them and we said we have to be better than Borussia Monchengladbach," Breitner told ESPN. "That meant we have to become champions of the Bundesliga. We have to win the Champions League or the German cup. Our goal was not to play better, more beautifully or more spectacularly -- our goal was to win more titles!"
The history reflects this dynamic game of constant one-upmanship. Although both sides were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in 1964-65, it was Bayern who won the title first, in 1968-69. Gladbach immediately responded by becoming the first side to win two consecutive German titles, in 1969-70 and 1970-71, before Bayern followed that by becoming the first to win three in a row in the three seasons that followed. Gladbach again responded with their own three in a row between 1974 and '77, but by that point Bayern were winning three successive European Cups.
In between all of that, there were almost more goals than you can count.
The defining moment
In the last match before the winter break of the 1973-74 season, Bayern and Gladbach were neck and neck on 21 points as they met at the Olympic Stadium. Gladbach were hoping for a third ever Bundesliga title; Bayern were seeking their third in succession. A brilliant contest reflected that history and foreshadowed what was to come, while fully displaying the kind of fantastic football that put these teams where they were. Bayern struck the first goal, with Franz Roth -- a specialist in delivering at key moments -- scoring after just four minutes. Gladbach responded with two strikes in quick succession, before Bayern hit three in a row, with one, inevitably, coming from legendary striker Gerd Muller. That set up a 4-3 win, and so much more: Bayern would go on to clinch the title by two points and also became the first German team to win the European Cup.
Head-to-head over period
Seven Bayern wins, six draws, five Gladbach wins.
Bayern: Nine (three European Cups, four leagues, two DFB-Pokal wins)
Gladbach: Five (one UEFA Cup, five leagues, one DFB-Pokal)
Who had the upper hand? Bayern.
Ultimately, the drive Breitner referenced proved crucial. Bayern did win more titles, especially in Europe. Even the likes of Netzer began to realise that, for all the thrill of Gladbach's approach, there was more sophistication and calculation to Bayern.