Saturday 17th July 2021
Squad with many question marks
Does FC Bayern really have to be afraid?
By Tobias Nordmann
The FC Bayern squad has lost a lot of quality this summer. With David Alaba and Jérôme Boateng, the two seeded central defenders are gone, with Javi Martinez a legend. The list of newcomers, on the other hand, is surprisingly short. And it will stay that way. A problem?
Hansi Flick would definitely not have liked that. The cracking rejection of sports director Hasan Salihamidžić to further activities on the transfer market would certainly have been very reluctant to the former Bayern coach. Hansi Flick was not a coach who asked for newcomers, Hansi Flick once said about Hansi Flick, but he had wished for one or the other new man on several occasions. Well, Hansi Flick is gone. He left FC Bayern because he didn’t like Salihamidžić’s omnipotence. So it was told in the media haze of the record champions. And even if Hansi Flick never said it that way, this reading should be very close to the truth. Really very close.
Now Julian Nagelsmann has to deal with Salihamidžić’s crashing rejection of further activities on the transfer market. And for all that is known, the young coach is very sensible with the decision. Means: He has accepted that there will be no other newcomers besides Dayot Upamecano, Omar Richards and Sven Ulreich. Now it would be very presumptuous to stand up and complain loudly in your first few days. But well, Hansi Flick hadn’t taken too much time to point out major deficits (of course, his view of things) in FC Bayern’s squad planning. And he would do it again now. But Hansi Flick is no longer there.
So many exits
And with him also two of his most important sporting confidants: One, David Alaba, has migrated to Real Madrid after bitter to badly failed negotiations with the record champions and is allowed to try his hand at the successor of the defensive legend Sergio Ramos, who in turn, also after a lot bitter to nasty failed negotiations, switched to Paris St. Germain and a monster team gathered around there. The other, Jérôme Boateng, is still looking for a new club. AS Roma is said to have shown interest at the moment. The Tottenham Hotspur are also in the distribution list. A world champion without a club who has two strong years behind him, someone (a top address) will be found. Or just Hertha BSC.
Javi Martinez has also left. The Basque is an absolute legend in Munich. He was the absolute key player in the first triple in the club’s history. In the second, on the other hand, there was only one man who had kept the pressure on the regular forces high during training. His way of playing had driven the body well beyond its healthy level of resilience. Martinez was a man who hobbled towards his end at the top level. Now he’s having a little more time in Qatar. And also his account. In Qatar you shouldn’t earn too badly as a footballer. And to make the list complete: Alexander Nübel was loaned out. He would like to play. As a goalkeeper that is not possible in Munich. Because of Manuel Neuer. You know that.
Well, Nübel is gone, Ulreich is back. It’s very good for the mood. Nübel liked to let his dissatisfaction be communicated, Ulreich, on the other hand, was always the most loyal number two imaginable. No problem for Nagelsmann. It looks different in defense. The regular cast is gone (see above). With Upamecano only one replacement has been signed. However, the new coach knows him from their time together at RB Leipzig. The Frenchman is a cop, a man who is good as a defense chief. But still young, 22 years old, sometimes a bit impetuous and still completely inexperienced in title battles. He lost one final in the DFB Cup. Niklas Süle is more experienced. He’s already 25 years old and is now playing his fifth season in Munich. He is on probation and his contract expires in 2022. So far, he has not achieved what he was brought in from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2017. Süle should have been the boss for a long time. Injuries prevented that. And possibly a not always professional attitude towards profitability. In the autumn of last season, the “Süle case” became uncomfortably large. Also in the national team.
So many injured
Süle has to fix it now. For themselves. And for the club. Because the selection of central defenders is not large. And it just doesn’t get any bigger. There’s Lucas Hernández, of course. But the Frenchman is injured. Once again. His downtime is said to be a few weeks. The 25-year-old missed all of the preparation. These are not good prerequisites for a quick return as a regular employee. Salihamidžić does not see this as an argument for activities on the transfer market. The same (i.e. injured) applies to Alphonso Davies. The Canadian also suffered a more serious injury with the national team. He is absent for several weeks. Salihamidžić does not see this as an argument for activities on the transfer market. Davies’ role on the left is likely to take on newcomer Richards. He comes from the second English division.
It can all go smoothly. Richards wows the coach and the bosses. Süle already worked well with Nagelsmann in Hoffenheim. But there are a lot of question marks. They are also behind Benjamin Pavard. Will he get back in shape after a weak second half? The only substitute is Bouna Sarr, for whom Flick had absolutely no use. Sarr actually wanted to leave the club. Now the situation may have changed.
The defense is not the only construction site. It could also crunch in midfield in the future. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka should be in the center. The two national players play too strongly together, as Nagelsmann would be well advised, as other options are to be seriously considered. Although checking is actually always good. But who should fix it? The hopes are once again on Corentin Tolisso. But the Frenchman is haunted by an unbearable bad luck. Again and again he catches something that puts him out of service for weeks or months. He is also still on the sales list. And then there is Marc Roca, who was once a hyped talent, Spanish U21 international and captain at Espanyol Barcelona, but the 24-year-old was not able to help FC Bayern significantly in his first season (the last one). The same applies here: Everything can go smoothly. But it doesn’t have to.
So many question marks
Should Nagelsmann, contrary to all expectations, still give the demanding flick, then definitely not in his front row. Why? Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski, that’s wonderful. At least from the lineup. The new coach will especially be able to build Gnabry and Sané after their weak performances at the EM. Getting them in shape will be the new coach’s offensive royal task. Another thing: a better distribution of the goals would be fine. Will Lewandowski score another 41 goals? Rather not. Of course, everything can be trusted in the Pole. And what about Müller? Does it work as well in the plans and in the system of the new trainer as it did under Flick? Or it works like it once did with Niko Kovac, i.e. more in the emergency nail operation (currently this is unimaginable!).
Bitter is something completely different for Nagelsmann and the whole club. The cherished wish to include more talents in the professional team has at least been dampened by the surprising relegation of the reserve from the 3rd division to the regional division. Probably more. But we can’t think of an increase in dampening right now. A good job for the next generation, but it seems to be in dire need. Because Salihamidžić has drawn an extremely gloomy scenario for his club this week. The fight with blunt weapons in the duel for the great talents and great players causes the sports director enormous worries. “The situation is not easy when you see how some clubs are investing. There is nothing that can be done about some financial strength at the moment.”
So much competition
While they are acting rather defensively in Munich due to the sales losses during the corona pandemic, the international competition is pursuing an aggressive course. At the very front, for example, is Paris St. Germain. The sheik club is expanding its star ensemble with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé (if he stays) to include Ramos (see above), Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum and the Italian EM hero Gianluigi Donnarumma. In England, Manchester United is investing 85 million euros in Dortmund’s top talent Jadon Sancho, while Chelsea FC are keen to work with Erling Haaland. That should be worth 175 million euros to them, allegedly. 175 million that BVB does not (yet) care about.
Meanwhile, Bayern do not see any less strength for the duel with the mighty competition. “I’m not afraid,” said the new Bayern boss Oliver Kahn. Winning the pot with the handle “can of course absolutely” be achieved with the current squad. In the subtext it resonated: The championship anyway. But well, after nine titles in a row you don’t talk about that anymore. By the way, Nagelsmann does not see a problem with the squad size (or squad size, whatever you want). That was “completely sufficient”, as he explained at his introduction, 14 to 15 players would complete 90 percent of the playing time anyway. These are sentences that Hansi Flick would never have said.