For a while it looked like we might get a different winner of the German Bundesliga, with Lucian Favre’s vibrant Borussia Dortmund side regularly exchanging the top spot with Bayern Munich. In the end, the Bavarians’ experience would shine through as they claimed the championship in the final fixture of the season. Down at the other end of the table, it was despair for Nurnberg, Hannover, and Stuttgart, who all suffered relegation, with Die Roten losing the relegation play-off against Union Berlin, who secured promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time.
Three of the top four teams in Germany had a coaching change in the summer of 2018, with Favre coming in at Dortmund, Niko Kovac leaving Eintracht Frankfurt for Bayern, and Ralph Rangnick taking charge at RB Leipzig. Bayern did not excite in the transfer market, with only Alphonso Davies brought in for a fee, although Leon Goretzka did arrive for free from Schalke. Dortmund signed the likes of Abdou Diallo, Thomas Delaney, Axel Witsel, and Paco Alcacer, on loan from Barcelona. Any spending was offset by the money received for Christian Pulisic, who would join Chelsea the following summer. Down the table, Leverkusen and Gladbach spent a large chunk of their budgets on Paulinho and Alassane Plea respectively. Fortuna Dusseldorf and Nurnberg joined the league from the 2. Bundesliga.
In 2018-19 the German fans were treated to a title race, as Dortmund took advantage of Kovac’s slow start at Bayern to set the early pace, scoring bags of goals in the process.
Dortmund won 12 out of their opening 15 games in a run which saw then defeat RB Leipzig 4-0, Nurnberg 7-0, and Leverkusen 4-2. But it was their 3-2 victory over Bayern in November which made everyone consider them true challengers again. BVB would gain the upper hand in this fixture as a Marco Reus double and a winner from Paco Alcacer sealed the victory at the Westfalenstadion.
Crucially for Dortmund, Reus enjoyed one of his best spells of fitness and form with the club, and his talents were complemented by goal-machine Alcacer as well as the emerging Jadon Sancho, who put himself on the map with a series of glittering performances.
Bayern initially struggled to adapt to the teachings of Kovac before going on a blistering run in 2019. The Bavarians dropped points in six matches in the first half of the season, but managed to keep within touching distance of Dortmund largely due to the vital goals of Robert Lewandowski.
As Bayern were flying, Dortmund started to toil. In the April 2019 edition of Der Klassiker, Bayern earned revenge for their previous defeat to BVB in style, as they blew away Favre’s men with a 5-0 romping victory, with Mats Hummels, Serge Gnabry, and Javi Martinez getting among the goals alongside, again, Lewandowski.
It was our best game of the season, our signal of intent to Dortmund, the Bundesliga and ourselves. From that moment it was clear: the title's only coming back to us, to Bayern Munich!Niko Kovac
The momentum was with the champions heading into the final day, and with their fate in their own hands, they secured the title. It was in fitting fashion, too, as both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who had previously announced their departures in the summer, got goals in a 5-1 win over Frankfurt.
Just below Bayern and Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Leverkusen put in solid seasons to earn the last two Champions League positions.
Frankfurt impressed as they reached the Europa League semi-final, with Luka Jovic’s Bundesliga goals earning him a move to Real Madrid.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Style, but also substance from Favre. Dortmund may have lost their way at times, but were easily the best team to watch in the Bundesliga.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI - 22 GOALS
TEAM OF THE SEASON
TRAPP; KIMMICH, DA COSTA, HALSTENBERG; SANCHO, HAVERTZ, REUS, KOSTIC; BRANDT, LEWANDOWSKI, JOVIC.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
FRANCK RIBERY leaves the Bundesliga in style as he picks up the ball on the left wing and takes on the Frankfurt defence with an incisive dribble before cheekily flicking over the oncoming keeper.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Mainz to Dortmund
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben both scoring signature goals to win the title for Bayern before moving on to pastures new.