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As the most successful club in German soccer history, there is a great deal of excitement over FC Bayern’s participation in the 2019 International Champions Cup.
The Bundesliga giants are no strangers to the tournament, having featured in each of the last three editions.
Last year, they faced off in blockbuster clashes with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester City – now they’re back and hungry for more, rightly billed as one of the favourites for the 2019 title.
Die Roten have ruled German soccer over the last decade, winners of the Bundesliga every year since 2013 (when they completed a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League treble under revered former boss Jupp Heynckes).
Now under the leadership of Niko Kovač, who spent two years at the club as a player between 2001 and 2003, Bayern have found a worthy challenger to their German crown in Borussia Dortmund.
But make no mistake: Bayern are regarded as the biggest club in Germany, a behemoth driven by an undying winning mentality.
When it comes to trophy cabinets in Germany, nobody comes close to Bayern. With 28 league titles and 18 national cups, they are head and shoulders above the rest.
They are Germany’s most successful club in Europe, too, having won the European Cup/UEFA Champions League on five occasions, including three in a row between 1974 and 1976 during the ‘Golden Era’ when a side containing Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier became the uncontested kings of the continent.
Bayern are synonymous with legends of German football. As well as the aforementioned trio, Philipp Lahm, Lothar Matthäus, Oliver Kahn and Paul Breitner have all enjoyed success in Bavaria.
So, too, have Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeneß, who serve as Chairman and President respectively.
A spectacular feat of 21st-century architecture and construction, the Allianz Arena is Bayern’s fortress.
Opened in 2005, it replaced the old Olympiastadion, and has been lauded for the way in which it produces great atmospheres for Bayern’s home games (the Olympiastadion, with its athletics track, meant fans were further away from the pitch).
Its current capacity of 75,000 makes it Germany’s second-biggest stadium and it is distinct for its colour-changing exterior, alternating between red, blue and white.
The Allianz Arena hosted several matches at the 2006 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2012 UEFA Champions League final.
Coach – Niko Kovač
An intelligent midfielder in his playing days, Kovač hung up his boots and went straight into coaching, heading up the Red Bull Salzburg academy between 2009 and 2011.
He was then appointed head coach of Croatia’s Under-21 side in 2012 before taking over the seniors a year later, leading them to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Leaving the national team post in 2015, he returned to Germany as Eintracht Frankfurt boss in March 2016 and gradually established himself as a rising managerial star, leading them to successive DFB-Pokal finals (losing to Borussia Dortmund in 2016 before beating Bayern in 2017).
His triumph in the latter clearly left a lasting impression as Kovač was appointed Bayern coach ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, becoming the fourth former player – after Søren Lerby, Beckenbauer and Jürgen Klinsmann – to take charge of Bayern.
Joshua Kimmich – Signed from RB Leipzig in 2015, Kimmich has developed into an exceptional player, considered by many as the world’s finest right-back.
A hugely creative player, the 24-year-old is a regular in Germany's starting XI under Joachim Löw, and is one of Bayern’s most versatile stars, having played centre-back, central midfield and on the wing during his time at the club.
Kimmich’s performances in Europe earned him a spot in the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season for the 2017/18 campaign.
Thiago Alcântara – One of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, Thiago’s progress has often been curtailed by injuries but he has recently managed to steer clear of fitness issues.
A product of FC Barcelona’s fabled La Masia youth academy, the playmaker won two LaLiga titles and the UEFA Champions League before joining Bayern in 2013.
Since then, he has added five Bundesliga crowns to his trophy cabinet and was named in the league’s team of the season for the 2016/17 campaign.
Robert Lewandowski – One of the deadliest marksmen of the modern era, the prolific Pole has consistently produced stunning numbers since arriving at Bayern in 2014.
A three-time Bundesliga Golden Boot winner, Lewandowski is the quickest player in history to reach a century of German top-flight goals and the all-time leading foreign scorer in the division.
Quick, powerful and armed with a dead-eye shot, Lewandowski is the complete striker and has been pivotal to Bayern’s success in recent years.
Ones to watch
Alphonso Davies – The prodigiously talented Canadian teenager shot to prominence with Vancouver Whitecaps before joining Bayern in January for a then-record transfer fee for a Major League Soccer player.
Davies linked up with his new employers in January and is tipped for huge things. Still raw and learning his trade, the International Champions Cup will provide the perfect test of the 18-year-old winger’s abilities ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
Serge Gnabry – Gnabry’s rise since leaving Arsenal has been impressive. Departing the Gunners in 2016, the stocky winger impressed at Werder Bremen before being snapped up by Bayern in 2017.
Sent out to Hoffenheim for regular first-team action at the start of the 2017/18 season, he again offered evidence that his star was on the rise, scoring ten goals in 22 league appearances to help Die Kraichgauer to third place.
Since rejoining Bayern he has duly continued on an upward trajectory, nailing down his spot under Kovač and alleviating any concerns the Bavarians will have trouble finding a long-term successor to one of Arjen Robben or Franck Ribéry.