How Bayer Leverkusen built the team that took down Bayern

On May 27, 2023, as a stunning German Bundesliga title race played out with Borussia Dortmund handing first place to Bayern Munich in the final minutes of the final game, Xabi Alonso's first Bayer Leverkusen team quietly no-showed at Bochum. Amine Adli suffered a red card in the eighth minute; Bochum star Takuma Asano had a goal and an assist; and the home team rolled to a 3-0 win.

It was undoubtedly a delightful match for Bochum fans, but it had no impact on Leverkusen's spot in the table. They finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League, a solid consolation prize after a dreadful start to the season.

A match like this can easily disappear into the ether, but right now, Bochum's win remains the answer to a trivia question of sorts: Forty-three matches and nearly 11 months later, it is the last time Bayer Leverkusen lost a match -- that's the longest stretch of unbeaten play to start a season across Europe's Big Five leagues in at least 60 years.

Leverkusen clinched their first Bundesliga title on Sunday with a 5-0 romp over four-time champions Werder Bremen, and it's the first of a few prizes still left on the table. They are 90 minutes from the Europa League semifinal -- their odds of winning the tournament are nearly 50-50, per ESPN BET -- heavy favorites against second-division Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal final, and on pace for the highest points total in Bundesliga history.

The league title sealed a historic season for the factory club, one that erased the "Neverkusen" label forever, ended an 11-year title streak for Bayern Munich and gave us a new first-time champion in one of Europe's Big Five leagues -- they are the first first-timer since 500-1 outsiders Leicester City won the Premier League in 2015-16, in fact. But this wasn't just a streak-busting situation. Despite recent struggles, Bayern are still on pace for more points (74) than they had last year when they won the title (71). They just got swamped by something absolutely historic.

This Bayer Leverkusen team has a chance to go down as one of the best Germany has ever produced. How was this incredible squad built, and what might come next for this workers club-turned-Bundesliga champ?

Put another way: Now that they've made history, can they go and repeat it next season?