The 1999-2000 Bundesliga title race went down to the wire, with Bayer Leverkusen taking command of first place with four games remaining in the season. Leverkusen needed just one point in their last game away at Unterhaching, with Bayern knowing that a win over Werder Bremen may not have been enough.
However, Unterhaching pulled off a surprise victory as Bayern won 3-1 at the Olympiastadion to return to the top of the table thanks to a better goal difference than their title rivals.
Both Schalke and Borussia Dortmund never challenged at the top of the table, with Hamburg and 1860 Munich taking the final two Champions League spots, while Kaiserslautern and Hertha Berlin qualified for the UEFA Cup.
After failing to make a big impact at Bayern Munich, Iran international Ali Daei left the club a year after his arrival. He moved to Hertha Berlin, with Roma’s Paulo Sergio and Paraguay attacker Roque Santa Cruz joining to provide extra firepower.
Bayern legend Lothar Mattheus played his last game for the club, moving to Major League Soccer to join New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Defender Patrik Andersson and midfielder Michael Weisinger were added as veterans Thomas Helmer and Mario Basler made way.
Borussia Dortmund had three different managers during the season, with Michael Skibbe lasting until February before Bernd Krauss was sacked after two months. Udo Lattek finished the campaign strongly to ensure the club’s survival, having previously managed the club from 1979 to 1981.
Once again, Leverkusen had a big turnover in their squad during the off-season. Michael Ballack and Oliver Neuville were the two marquee German signings, with Brazilian midfielder Robson Ponte moving to the Bundesliga from Guarani. Ponte was an exotic addition, with his signing prompting a techno group to release a single called ‘Robson Ponte.’
Croatian teenagers Jurica Vranjes and Marko Babic were signed from Osijek as long-term prospects for the club, where they would learn from Leverkusen’s strong Croat contingent which already included Robert Kovac, Zoran Mamic, and Boris Zivkovic.
Alex Alves was a 15 million DM signing for Hertha Berlin, who sought to progress in the Champions League. HBSC also added a number of experienced Germans, with Mark Rehmer and Sebastian Diesler coming during the summer.
Schalke took a risk signing striker Emile Mpenza from Standard Liege, spending around 17m DM in January, making him the club’s record signing. He partnered a fellow newcomer up front - Ebbe Sand, who was a 10m DM signing from Brondby.
After Bayern Munich led the league for much of the season, Bayer Leverkusen took top spot on gameday 27 and only relinquished it for one week between then and the final game of the 1999-2000 campaign. Holding such a strong position heading into the last game of the season, few people saw them conceding their lead to Bayern Munich, but that is exactly what happened as an own goal from Michael Ballack and a rare goal from midfielder Markus Oberleitner gave newly-promoted Unterhaching a shock victory.
Bayer Leverkusen ended the season with 73 points, which was then a record as the best runner-up in Bundesliga history. The failure to win the league also earned them the nickname ‘Neverkusen’, having finished just two points behind Bayern in another exciting title race in 1996-97.
While Unterhaching had a strong season after their promotion from the second tier, Ulm and Arminia Bielefeld did not fare as well. Both went immediately back down, having poor seasons that were only outdone by Duisburg’s horrendous campaign where they picked up just four wins and floundered in the relegation zone from week four onwards.
Ulm could have saved themselves on the last day of the season, facing fellow relegation candidates Eintracht Frankfurt, but needed a victory at Waldstadion to survive. A late penalty from Horst Heldt sealed their fate, giving Frankfurt a deserved 2-1 victory.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
After the disappointment of the 1999 Champions League final defeat to Manchester United, captain Effenberg led by example for the club in the Bundesliga, continuing to run the show in the middle of the park.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
For the third time in four seasons, Daum guided Bayer Leverkusen to second place in the table, coming ever closer to snatching the league title. This helped put him in the frame for the Germany job, but a cocaine scandal meant the DFB cancelled his contract before he could start.
MARTIN MAX - 19 GOALS
The Polish-born forward had been reliable but never an amazing goalscorer at Borussia Monchengladbach or Schalke, but really found his place with 1860 Munich. He finished the season with 19 goals as 1860 qualified for the Champions League.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
BUTT; HOOGMA, NOWOTNY, LINKE; BALLACK, EMERSON, EFFENBERG, HASSLER. CARDOSO; MAX, ELBER
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Standard Liege to SCHALKE
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
The Bundesliga title race went right down to the last day of the season, with Leverkusen leading by three points heading into the final round of fixtures. A win over Werder Bremen saw Bayern Munich snatch the trophy as B04 slipped up against Unterhaching.