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Will more Bayern success make the Bundesliga a bore?

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Phil Minshull | 17:31 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

German football is rarely in the doldrums but it is definitely on a high at the moment.

The national team won many admirers in finishing third at the World Cup, while Bayern Munich became the first German club to reach the Champions League final in eight years, the feats of the domestic league and cup winners helping the country leapfrog Italy into third place in the Uefa league coefficient rankings.

German officials also proudly claim that the Bundesliga is the world's number one football league on the basis of an average attendance of 41,802 fans per game last season.

Among all sports, only cricket's Indian Premier League and the American football's NFL top that figure on a weekly basis - and neither competition has as many teams or matches across the course of a season.

Louis van Gaal and Christian NerlingerBayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal (left) will hope to win the German double again

All in all, it is looking good for German football ahead of the new Bundesliga season, which many believe could be a vintage one - and there could not be a better curtain raiser than Friday's opener between Bayern and their predecessors as German champions, Wolfsburg.

The only note of discord to be heard is the faint chant of "boring, boring Bayern". Certainly not because of the way that Louis van Gaal has instructed his men to play, as anybody who saw them over the second half of last season can testify.

No, the fear is that Bayern - with World Cup heroes Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger to call upon - may turn out to be so good this season that they romp away with the league and secure their 23rd title with weeks to spare.

Schalke 04 ran Bayern respectably close last year, finishing five points adrift after an excellent second half of the season, while winter champions Bayer Leverkusen once again faltered with their first title in sight, drifting to fourth after a record 24 unbeaten games at the start of the season.

In a bid to add a bit more firepower, with goals sometimes at a premium last year, Schalke coach Felix Magath has made two of the most eye-catching transfers of the summer.

He has acquired the 33-year-old Spanish icon Raul from Real Madrid and added the out-of-favour German international defender Christoph Metzelder from the same club.

Raul made himself instantly popular in the Ruhr when he banged in two goals on his debut in a pre-season friendly earlier this month, against none other than Bayern, who were without their World Cup stars.

However, the biggest spenders so far in the generally frugal Bundesliga - Hamburg and Stuttgart are the only other sides to spend more than 10m euros this summer - have been Wolfsburg. They have splashed out 23.4m euros, more than half of which went on the hugely promising Danish defender Simon Kjaer from Palermo.

German international Arne Friedrich has been signed from relegated Hertha Berlin to stiffen a defence that conceded 58 goals, by far the worst in the top half of the table.

Steve McClarenSteve McClaren's Wolfsburg are predicted to be one of Bayern's main challengers

"I see a lot of potential at this club, we have a really good team," said Friedrich, who played in all seven of Germany's games in South Africa. "I'm 31 now and I want to be challenging for the title."

However, arguably the biggest signing by Wolfsburg has not been a player but a coach. Former England boss Steve McClaren found redemption in a foreign land last season by leading Twente Enschede to their first ever Dutch title. Now Wolves fans, whose club is completely owned by the Volkswagen car company, hope he can put a bit of gas in the tank and steer their team back towards the top of the table.

Pre-season predictions have focused on Schalke and Wolfsburg offering the greatest challenge to Bayern but it would also be unwise to dismiss the possibility that the ever-consistent Werder Bremen could also be a danger after finishing in the top three for the last four years.

However, the weeks of speculation that finally culminated in Mesut Ozil's transfer to Real Madrid on Tuesday will certainly have been a distraction ahead of the opening weekend.

At the other end of the Bundesliga, the two promoted teams - Kaiserslautern (three-time champions in the 1990s) and FC St Pauli - may struggle to retain their place in the top flight, while 1 FC Nurnberg, who just hung on to their place in the division following a play-off, and Hannover could also be facing difficult seasons.

Comments on this blog in the space below. Other questions on European football to: europeanfootball@hotmail.co.uk. I don't need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from.

Here are a couple of Bundesliga-related questions.

Q) Please could you shed some light on the somewhat strange transfer dealings conducted by Palermo? I was shocked and appalled to see Simon Kjaer leave for Wolfsburg.
Alec Kyrle-Pope, London

A) Kjaer moved to Wolfsburg for 12m euros. This was, in fact, his buy-out clause and so Palermo were powerless to stop him going. His agent has also suggested that he will be getting more money at Wolfsburg and had not really settled in Sicily.

Q) What has happened to Timo Hildebrand? He used to be one of the Bundesliga's best keepers when he was at Stuttgart but was not even in Germany's World Cup squad.
Shayak Banerjee, Austin, Texas, USA

A) It seems as though he has just not fulfilled his early promise and improved as expected. Stints with Valencia and 1899 Hoffenheim in the last three years have only been moderately successful - he has had some minor injury problems and also disagreements with coaches at both clubs. Hildebrand talks quite openly (in German) about his departure from Hoffenheim on his web site.

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