Great Bets

Helping You Find Your Next Bet

From Neverkusen to Shock Champions – Bayer Leverkusen’s First Ever Bundesliga Title

Last month, Bayer Leverkusen were crowned the champions of Germany after they beat Werder Bremen 5-0 on home soil. This brought a first-ever Bundesliga title to the club, who for so long had been the nearly team of German football.

Their quest for major honours had been a case of so near, yet so far, and repeated near misses in the late 1990s and into the 21st century earned them the somewhat cruel nickname of “Neverkusen”. However, upsetting huge odds, 2023/24 has very much been a season to remember and they have not so much shrugged off the Neverkusen moniker, as well and truly made a joke of it.

They wrapped up the league title with five games of the season to go and could yet set a new league high-points total. They might also make it through the whole season unbeaten and are eyeing up a treble, with a place in the German cup final already assured and the Europa League title well within their grasp as well.

In a sport not short of remarkable tales and unfathomable successes, Leverkusen’s potentially “invincible” season might just be the most amazing of them all. They weren’t 5,000/1 to win the German title, as of course Leicester were to win the Premier League in 2015/16, but their overall accomplishments could prove to be far more incredible.

Let’s take a closer look at Leverkusen’s title success and the records they have set, as well as what else they might achieve. As said, this is their first Bundesliga crown, whilst in winning it they have stopped the Bayern juggernaut for the first time since 2011/12, denying the Bavarian giants a 12th title in succession.

50/1 Shots Turn Table on Kane and Co

Harry Kane Celebrating
Harry Kane was signed by Bayern Munich for around £100m (Credit: vverve / bigstock)

Before the season began, Bayern Munich, who had signed Harry Kane for around £100m from Tottenham, were priced at odds of just 3/10 for the title. Dortmund (5/1) and RB Leipzig (12/1) were seen as the only vaguely possible alternative winners, with Leverkusen, who had finished sixth in 2022/23, chalked up at a massive 50/1.

When Kane hit the ground running like Usain Bolt, Bayern’s odds must only have shortened, despite the strong start made by Leverkusen. The former Spurs star scored on his Bundesliga debut, added two in the next match and after five league clashes already had seven goals (and three assists!). We could talk about Kane’s feats for this whole article but given he broke several Bundesliga records and had scored 22 league goals in his first 17 matches, it is safe to say that he must have felt he would end his long wait for silverware.

Kane may yet win the Champions League with Bayern but domestically it has been Leverkusen’s year, despite his incredible form. At the time of writing, Kane has 32 league strikes, whilst Leverkusen’s top men, Victor Boniface and Florian Wirtz both have just 11 each. That very much exemplifies what Leverkusen are about though, as theirs is very much a team effort, with incredible boss Xabi Alonso sculpting the whole into far more than its constituent parts.

Points Record and Unbeaten Season Look Probable

As said, there are five games to go and thus far Alonso’s troops have won 25 and drawn four of their 29 league outings. They are undefeated and have a great chance of matching, or surpassing, Munich’s record of 91 points in a season. With the title in the bag, their focus may drop, but don’t bank on it, especially with Alonso turning down overtures from two huge former clubs, Liverpool and Bayern themselves.

Kane’s troops have scored more goals than the champions but Leverkusen have thus far (from those 29 games) conceded just 19 goals. That is 14 fewer than anyone else in Germany and almost half the tally of Bayern. Alonso’s side play exciting football but they are just so hard to break down, generally operating in a 3-4-2-1 formation that allows for a high press and a very fluid transition from defence to attack.

They are incredibly organised and very, very hardworking, with Alonso’s men also possessing a great record from set pieces. They also control possession, boasting an average of almost 63% of the ball, the highest in the Bundesliga. In addition, their will to win has been superb, with several late goals during the season preserving that unbeaten record, or turning one point into three.

Where Did the Neverkusen Tag Come From?

Arturo Vidal
Arturo Vidal (Credit: man_kelly / bigstock)

At some time around the turn of the new millennium people started using the disparaging “Neverkusen”, suggesting that the team from Leverkusen would never win anything. It is true that for a sizeable club, founded way back in 1904, the Black and Reds had rather underachieved.

But it was the manner of their “failures”, and the fact there were so many in a short period of time, that really got people talking. Had just a few results gone differently 20-odd years ago we might have been talking about that Leverkusen side as being one of the greats.

In 2001/02 they went very close to winning the treble but fell short in the league, the German Cup and the Champions League. In the end they came second in all three, losing the CL final 2-1 to Real Madrid, going down to Schalke in the DFB-Pokal, and being pipped by Dortmund in the Bundesliga. They were a point behind the champions but boasted a goal difference that was superior by 10, and many felt they were the best side in Germany that year.

Leverkusen were second in the league on a further four occasions between 1997 and 2011, and thrice this century have lost the domestic cup finals. All these near misses only heaped further pressure on the side this year but Alonso’s cheaply assembled unit just kept on winning.

Leverkusen’s Season so Far

As said, the 2023/24 Bundesliga champions are undefeated in 29 league games to date but here is a summary of their other highlights and records they might claim.

  • Need 13 points from last five games to set a new Bundlesiga record
  • Have been top of the table for all but three weeks of the season
  • Have taken four points from six against Munich
  • In the German Cup final against Kaiserslautern
  • Have won eight out of nine games in the Europa League and are tournament favourites
  • Currently on fourth-longest unbeaten run in Bundesliga history
  • Unbeaten in 43 games this season in all competitions, five shy of Benfica’s all-time European record