There have been enough articles lauding German football, and there is plenty to praise, at least in comparison to other leagues. In Germany you can find cheap ticket prices if you buy them early enough or know the right people, and you can stand in a terrace once you do. You can wave flags and smoke in the stands if you’re so inclined.
What’s before your eyes (if you’re not staring at a flag or a fence the entire match) is generally entertaining and provides plenty of ammunition to make fun of at least one team, which is the essence of sports anyways.
So, who’s the dead weight?
TSV 1860 Munich
Despite the generally stable financial nature of German teams, there are exceptions. Look no further than Munich’s other, older team who wears light blue and is playing out their 10th season on the trot in the 2. Bundesliga, 1860.
Here’s a club that has made almost nothing but terrible, irresponsible decisions for decades upon decades and has ruined everything nice it has ever had. Somehow they managed to throw away a sweetheart deal which had them owning half of the Allianz Arena, a deal they forfeited for €11 million in liquid funds not a year after the stadium opened. Why? They would not have gotten their license to play the 2006-2007 season without the cash. They actually were nearly relegated to the Bayernliga that season, then the third tier.
Maybe the best way to look at them is to analyze what their best of times looked like: Karl-Heinz Wildmoser practically eating cigarettes from the Olympiastadion VIP seats as Sechsig played in the Champions League qualifying round against Leeds United as they tried to overturn a (2-1) deficit, but gave up a hilarious goal that sealed their fate.
Wildmoser and his son left the club when it was discovered they were bribing officials around the construction of the Allianz Arena.
The club nearly became insolvent again in 2011 but were loaned money, again, by Bayern before selling 60% of their operating corporation to a Jordanian investor.
Schalke and Leverkusen‘s annual embarrassing Champions League Round of 16 performance
Somehow it’s possible for league-minded German football fans to dread a team making it out of their Champions League group. It isn’t supposed to be, but that’s what’s been happening the past few seasons.
Michal Kadlec and Manuel Friedrich perfectly embodied Barcelona’s (10-2) aggregate victory in 2011’s Round of 16 when they fought over Messi’s shirt at halftime of the first leg in Leverkusen. A season later, Bayer were only in the Europa League but in 2014, they lost their Round of 16 tie in the first leg with a (4-0) loss in Paris.
Schalke haven’t fared any better, missing the competition entirely in 2011-2012 and then getting bounced in the first knockout phase in 2013 by Galatasaray. 2014 would be much worse, with Schalke getting demolished by Real Madrid, (9-2) on aggregate.
Red Bull Leipzig, Hoffenheim, and sort of Wolfsburg and Leverkusen
If for no other reason than ownership structures being a point of pride for German football fans, Hoffenheim being owned by a deranged software magnate and Leipzig being owned by an energy drink company means that attribute needs to be constantly qualified in the face of the two aforementioned clubs.
Let it be clear, though: Basically nobody likes Leipzig or Hoffenheim and everyone has sort of agreed to just kind of ignore them when not in protest. Lovers of the German game still give Leverkusen and Wolfsburg fans abuse for being “plastic” even though both clubs aren’t exactly new and have been prominent forces in the Bundesliga for pretty long periods of time, with Wolfsburg coming later to the party.
Leverkusen and Wolfsburg don’t quite provide the obvious contradiction that the other two do and the criticism of them likely skews more towards being low-hanging fruit in beer-fueled conversations and debates. Both clubs have some tradition, unlike Hoffenheim and the current version of Leipzig.