With so many changes at Bayern this offseason and a new coach coming in, I had a bit of a play around with how I would remodel the squad.
In this article I will purely focus on the players and in the next post I will look at tactics.
The current situation
Players who have already left (6): Starke (end of career, again), Götze (Augsburg), Dorsch (Heidenheim), Benko (Linz), Costa (was on loan and Juve will keep him), Wriedt (back to U23)
Players who I would move on (7): Bernat, Boateng, Rafinha, Vidal, Rudy, Thiago, Lewandowski
It looks like a bigger change than it actually is. While I have highlighted 13 players to leave the club, it would be better to look at it in a different way:
- 1x player who came out of retirement to help out and will go back into retirement – Starke
- 1x player who was already out on loan with the goal of him staying there – Costa
- 4x youth players – 3 already confirmed to leave the club – Götze, Benko and Dorsch – 1 who has not shown the promise to succeed at the highest level: Wriedt. Although he reminds me a little of Wagner and could take a similar path to him. In a similar way I hope Götze takes the path of Hummels and comes back to us because I rate him quite highly.
- 3x backups who want more playing time but wouldn’t get it at Bayern if I would be in charge and should be upgraded – Rafinha, Bernat, Rudy
That’s 9 periphery players, whose departure wouldn’t have an impact on the starting line up. Of course that leaves 4 players who are starter material:
- Boateng: has openly said that he is looking for a new challenge, Bayern have put him in the shop window. He is getting slower and more injury prone than he already was. With his wish to leave and his successor already in place in Süle, it makes sense to cash in now. That money is worth more than the production I expect him to make in 2018 and could be reinvested into another young defender or two.
- Vidal: a player who I have never been a big fan of because he just can’t control himself and sometimes causes more problems for his own team than anything else. There have been a lot of rumours linking him to other clubs – especially in the Premier League and Italy for a couple of seasons now – and Bayern have never made any clear statement that they want to keep him. Similar to Boateng he is also injury prone and part of the ageing segment of the team, which is why I would cash in on him too. Similar as with Boateng, I believe that better, younger players are in place to replace him in Tolisso and the newly signed Goretzka.
- Thiago: at the beginning I used to think he was amazing, and he always flashes brilliance every once in a while, but never consistently or in the big games. Those two points combined with his ability to get injured all the time, make him a prime transfer candidate for me, especially because he himself opened the door to that option. As with the previous two there is already someone in place to take on his role: James (and yes I very much hope it is all hot air around the fact the he might want a switch back to Real). I believe that James is the better Thiago, not only because he played a lot better this season, but because he has a higher work rate and shows up in the big games. Cashing in on Thiago just seems logical with reported interest from Madrid, Barca and Man City – Man United have also been mentioned.
- Lewandowski: perhaps the most divisive one of the 4 players, because opinions vary from some believing that he is the best striker in the world while others see him as egotistical, more interested in his own brand than the team and a player who regularly doesn’t score when it matters most in the latter stages of the Champions League or World Cup. The latter of which he managed to blame entirely on his team. Lewi has made it very clear through his agent that he wants to leave, putting Bayern in a very difficult situation, because even if they were to let him go they would lose face after the comments made regarding the Aubameyang and Dembele moves. I think there is a way to handle this where everyone walks away happy, but I will discuss that later. The point for now is that I think Lewandowski needs to go. In the long term his wish to leave will cause more damage to the team than his goals can cover up.
As you can see, to go along with the 9 periphery players, 3 of the 4 starting players to sell already have more than adequate replacements in place. The key will be to find a striker / strikers to suit the system that the new coach wants to play.
Here are some other numbers for those of you who think selling 4 starter level players is crazy:
- Boateng: games missed this season: 22/53
- Vidal: games missed this season: 18/53
- Thiago: games missed this season: 21/53
So while they are good to very good players when they play, they cannot consistently stay on the pitch. In my opinion this is just one more reason to move them on. It is both an economical decision as well as a team decision, because Bayern should look to build a team for the new coach to shape. Moving on people who are happy to move on and who are “the past” of the club more than they are “the future” just makes sense at this point.
Players already out (6)
Gotze: free to Augsburg
Gotze went to Augsburg for an undisclosed fee after the season with 1 year left on his contract. Could be that they have some kind of deal where Bayern has a buy back clause and Gotze is mainly there to develop. I seriously hope so because he is a great player.
Dorsch: free to Heidenheim
Never been a big fan of Dorsch because I do not believe that he has the football intelligence to make it at Bayern or any other Bundesliga team, I think that his ceiling is 2. Bundesliga.
Benko: free to Linz
Has shown flashes of interesting play in preseason for Bayern, but not enough or special enough to be a Bayern regular. Maybe he will develop into a Bundesliga player but I do not see Bayern material.
Wriedt: back to FCB II
Maximum at his current capacity would be ST3 where you have an old or a young guy. Wagner fills that role currently, so that there is just no space for him and I don’t think he is that exciting. Not listed in the FCB squad anymore.
Costa: €40mil Juventus
After his loan year the move has been made permanent.
Players to Sell (7)
Could be sold to a number of interested teams, the two Manchester clubs or Paris are places I could see him moving to, unfortunately I don’t think that Bayern will get the return they might be looking for at around €70mil.
Rafinha (€5-7mil) and Bernat (€15-23mil)
It has been said that both wanted more playing time, Rafinha has been especially vocal about that. I think that both are not up to the standard of Bayern anymore. Rafinha also made a massive error in the Champions League and for someone who should be the backup and come in at a high level if something happens to the starter that’s not good enough – even if he signed another 1 yr contract. Bernat should get the chance to move to a team where he can be a starter. The price for both depends on what league they are sold into. Rafinha could go to the Premier League, for Bernat the same goes but he could also go to a La Liga side.
I am not a great fan of Rudy, because he does not have the personality or confidence of a Bayern player. Rudy could go to Schalke who have been stocking up on midfield talent after Goretzka and Mayer have left this summer. Schalke also have Geis coming back from a loan spell and have signed Mascarell and Serdar but as a german national team player Rudy could bring a calming established presence.
Still seen as one of the best midfielders in the world and as mentioned, Barca, Real Madrid and Manchester City are all reportedly interested. Barca and City make sense, Barca have lost Iniesta and could bring back someone who went through their youth system. At City he would be going back to the trainer who most pushed his development.
As I mentioned before, Vidal has been linked with a lot of Italian and British teams. It could be the time to move him on, to make the midfield younger and more dynamic while also less likely to get a red card. If the right buyer is found he could go for as high as €60mil.
His transfer fee could have been way higher with a different showing at the world cup, but he didn’t deliver again. Reportedly Real, his dream destination, had lost interest and the only interested parties remain PSG, ManU and Chelsea, none of which he sees himself at. However, maybe he will change his mind, or maybe the sale of Ronaldo will put him back in talks with Real. My opinion: I don’t care where he goes I just don’t want to see him at Bayern next season. That perfect alibi for selling him that I was talking about is also pretty simple: without losing face it would be very simple to say that Kovac doesn’t want him or that he doesn’t fit into the tactics. Not even far from the truth because I can’t see him working his ass off which he will need to do under the new coach.
Transfers out total: 13 players; €320-395mil
Note 1: I also see Martinez as a peripheral player who could be on the move soon, but at the same time he could play a good role as a back up CB. Not a traditional CB, but with a slightly different system as I will describe in more detail in my next blog posts. The problem is that he is not dynamic enough to play in midfield anymore, but his experience in reading the play in front of him could be very valuable in defence.
Note 2: I have mentioned that there is talk of James going back to Real. While I would love to see him at Bayern next season, this move could happen and have following implications: Müller moves back into a more central role => increased need for another winger.
Players already in (3)
Goretzka: (free transfer)
Gotetzka is a great player who could go on to play a massive part for both club and country. He has a great personality and work ethic and I think he will take a great step under Kovac. There are three needs for the Bayern midfield as it develops: younger, dynamic and cut down the amount of players. I believe that we will have 2 CM positions next season, and with Martinez moving backwards into a backup CB role and with Vidal, Rudy and Thiago leaving it leaves a perfect 4(-5) players for the middle in Goretzka, Tolisso, James, (Müller) and…
Sanches: (loan return)
…who rounds out the midfield competition. By not overfilling this group you also leave some space to give youth players a shot in less important games. As mentioned before the group fills all the criteria: young, dynamic and incredibly talented. If Sanches can have fun again while playing and develop into the player he has the potential to be, I think he would be in a great place to develop into an outstanding midfielder in a group of players who all compliment each other.
Gnabry: (loan return)
The wing competition is getting bigger, but with everyone pretty injury prone it is good to stock up. We all know that Robbery are old and will be playing a reduced role while pushing the younger players. Coman, Müller and Gnabry will probably be playing for starting spots but especially the first and last have regularly been bitten by the injury bug. If Bayern are to play a high intensity game, which I anticipate will include a lot of wing play it makes sense to have the appropriate depth here, I would even get one more first team level player and then you have a couple of guys from the youth teams who could start to see minimal playing time (Batista-Meier and Evina). That would give you real depth way into the latter parts of the season so that you can play full throttle every game down the wings.
Players to buy ([5-]8)
Defence ([2-]4) (€135-165mil)
On defence I think that we should get a LB to push Alaba, who I feel sometimes takes his starting job for granted. The ideal player for this job, in my opinion, is:
- Philip Max (24) – FC Augsburg – €20-30mil – dynamic, great at assists and on the cusp of being a Germany player, I think that he could take the next step at Bayern. Max was a revelation last season with his assists total only second to Müller. When you consider the side Max played in at Augsburg that is a great acheivement. I think that he could be great as a backup to Alaba, who – as I mentioned – needs a bit of a fire lit under his ass so that he gets back to his best performances.
The other position(s) I feel that we need to find more depth in is CB. I anticipate – and would like to see – us playing with a back 3. If Boateng is sold, that leaves us with 3x starter level players (Hummels, Süle and Martinez) and 2x youth backups (Mai, Awoudja). This is clearly not enough, especially because I see Martinez as a backup at this stage of his career, and he could actually also be sold. Luckily for us there are a lot of top class young CBs in European football at the moment, I have listed some of my favourite:
- Raphael Varane (25) – Real Madrid – €60-70mil – One of the most athletic and gifted CBs in football, recently crowned World Cup winner and generally someone I have admired for a while. I could see him playing as the middle CB or right CB in a three back team. However, the only way I see this happening is if he is part of a James return to Madrid. Otherwise I do not see Real letting this young star go.
- Matthijs de Ligt (18) – Ajax Amsterdam – €40-45mil – as much as Varane is athletically outstanding, de Ligt is tactically. For his age he is at another level at reading the play in front of him and then making plays on the attacker. His other great attribute is that once the defence wins the ball he can flip play with incisive passes or runs of his own. For a back three he would be the ideal candidate to learn behind Hummels on the left and then be part of the future with Mai and Awoudja. Securing his services seems like a no-brainer.
- Milan Skriniar (23) – Inter Milan – €45-50mil – fast, tough and keeps his eyes on the ball when he tackles. Strong at set pieces and plays as if he has been a pro for 10 years. He is a prototypical defender. I think he will develop into one of the best defenders in the world, the question is whether he has the skill going forward. As someone who has played DM, the answer is also yes. As to whether Inter would let him leave… that is a lot harder and I am not so sure.
- Thilo Kehrer (21) – FC Schalke 04 – €20-30mil – fast, determined and versatile (can play any position in defence to a good level). Has the right attitude for a Bayern player and is one of the biggest defensive talents in German football. I could see him as a great pick for the middle CB position because athletically he can cover a lot of ground very fast and he is a strong tackler too. There has even been light chatter about him leaving this summer because his contract runs out 2019 and the talks have not yet gone so well. With the signing of Salif Sane Schalke seem poised for a switch. As i have mentioned previously, I believe that Rudy could be an interesting piece to go the other way in a player + cash deal. But the question remains whether he is a better wing back.
- Benjamin Pavard (22) – VfB Stuttgart – €30-40mil – is he worth that much? I don’t think so… for now. He is hyped because he played a solid World Cup so I don’t know whether buying him now is a good idea. He is dynamic going forward and a solid defender, but I have not seen if he is any good at starting play from slightly more inside. That is why I see him as a decent middle CB and backup RB. Kehrer and he are quite similar, but Pavard as much as I knock his performance at the moment he may actually have a higher ceiling.
- Andreas Christensen (22) – FC Chelsea – €40mil – good all round defensive player with great awareness and coverage skills. He is dangerous from set pieces and can flip the pitch with his interceptions. He is not a regular starter at Chelsea with Rüdiger, Azpilicueta and Cahill in front of him and depending on what the new coach thinks of him he might be interested in leaving. Another guy for middle or right CB.
I believe that we could end up signing anywhere from 1 CB to 3, depending on whether Martinez stays. The no.1 priority for me would be de Ligt, because I literally cannot think of anyone his age – or even 5 years older – with his skill set. Similarly to Boateng and Hummels he is a great defender and equally strong at passing out from the back.
Out of those above I believe Varane, although he is great now, would not be the best choice long term because such a large part of his game is athleticism, which declines with age. That’s why I would not invest in Kehrer either (unless they intend for him to be a wing back). I have seen too little in terms of tactical ability and good tackling from him – that is not high speed sliding – and I am not sure whether he can develop that, there are others much further along. Kehrer’s big advantage is his versatility, but there is someone else who also has that AND a higher ceiling: Pavard. For that reason Pavard would be my second choice for a player to sign. I also think that the signs of a deal look good, however, maybe it won’t be done until next year with a pre agreement in place. Another player for the French contingent.
With Mai and Awoudja already in place at Bayern to step up into the first team that would give us 6/7 defenders (depending on when Pavard joins): Hummels, Süle and de Ligt as starters, with Martinez, (Pavard,) Mai and Awoudja as backups. Because three of those players are under 20 and others injury prone, also because Pavard might not join until next season and by that time others may leave, I would take one extra defender into this group.
I am not going to beat around the bush much here, I have been a great admirer of Skriniar for a long time and think that with his outstanding defending he could be the perfect middle CB. Extremely reliable and could be a great addition, the main question would be the transfer cost and whether Inter are even willing to part with him. If not, Christensen is not exactly a bad backup plan.
Midfield (1) (€50-90mil)
At central midfield I think Bayern are pretty set, which just leaves the wings. At the moment they have Ribery / Gnabry on the left and Robben / Müller on the right as well as Coman who has and can play both sides. If Bayern plan to play more high speed ball Müller may move back into a more central role where he actually excels.
This could open the door to buying another winger. Due to the flexibility of Coman you have the option of choosing either someone for the left or right wing, personally I have a shortlist of 4 players for this one transfer:
- Timo Werner (22) – RB Leipzig – €60-70mil – one of the biggest talents in German football, with great speed and drive for goal I think he could be a great addition to out winging corps on the left hand side. I think he is better as a winger than a striker because it allows him to use his pace more.
- Leroy Sane (22) – Manchester City – €75-90mil – talking of massive talents, this guy was voted young player of the year in the Premier League ahead of Harry Kane. Normally I would not see any possibility for this to happen but City just signed Mahrez, which could open the door for someone to leave with the right offer (Thiago+cash?). He has lightning pace and can play both wings. At Schalke he played more on the right and now at City he plays more on the left. This could be a true marquee signing.
- Anthony Martial (22) – Manchester United – €50-70mil – we like french wingers at Bayern, especially if they have class and dynamic playing style of Martial. A player who is rumoured to be unhappy at United and looking for a way out. If all that is true perhaps he would be a great addition and a bit of a no brainer, but as much as I like him I don’t know if he would be my favourite option.
- Gelson Martins (23) – Sporting Lisbon – €25-30mil – he reminds me so much of Coman and could be a great compliment on the right wing. One of the fastest players I have seen and is currently trying to force his way out of Sporting Lisbon due to fan altercations which resulted in around 50 masked “fans” running onto the training ground, even into the locker and beating players at the end of last season. This could make him go for way under value, a great business deal. It would also be great because he would have a fellow Portuguese talent at Bayern in Sanches, something that might help both settle in. In addition to this Martins was a RB before he moved forward on the wing, making him a possible backup to Kimmich too.
While it may seem crazy to some extent to bring in another winger, I think it makes complete sense in a transition phase to a time without Robbery. Once those guys move on and our young wingers have established themselves we will be able to bring up the young talent in the Bayern youth teams that I have mentioned before (Batister-Meier and Evina). The question is who to sign?
I like aspects of all of the above and it is perhaps the hardest choice, but in the end a process of elimination and consideration of our opponents. I mentioned that Martins is very similar to Coman and that could be his downfall when you are putting together an attack with lots of tricks. Werner is a great player, but has not shown that he can be strong against deep-sitting teams. He has straight-line counter-attacking speed and the question is how relevant that is to Bayern’s play, especially with Gnabry in the squad who has similar aspects to his game.
So you are left with Sane and Martial, in which case I would always go with the player who brings us closer to FC Bayern Deutschland. He is the next player from the generation Kimmich, Süle, Goretzka, Gnabry and has many advantages on top. He is great in close quarters 1 vs 1, granted so is Martial but Sane can play both wings. I was pretty gutted when we didn’t sign him and he went to City, but this could be a great move with Thiago going the other way to dampen the blow to the wallet. If it doesn’t happen Martial would be a very very good second option.
I have never made it a secret this season that I want Lewi to leave. His attitude and the way he carries himself on the pitch does not fit in at Bayern and will stick out like a sore thumb under Kovac. So without talking about him much further, here are two possible replacements and a youth player for the generation after them:
- Romelu Lukaku (25) – Manchester Untited – €100-110mil – one of the best strikers of the World Cup, had a decent season with United too, and yet they still seem to be looking for a better striker to replace him, so I have a great idea: let’s swap. Lukaku is younger, hungrier while just as technically gifted as Lewi. Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t have that last bit of belief in himself and gives up a little too easily so his mentality is something he can work on, but what he can do on the ball coupled with his speed and bullishness is a really exciting combo. I already liked him at Chelsea and Everton, but I believe he could take the next step at Bayern.
- Andrea Belotti (24) – FC Turin – €60-70mil – what Lukaku lacks in attitude, Belotti has in buckets. Captain of his side for the last year and a half he is the worker up front that we need. I would compare him in every way to Madzukic (maybe even with some elements of Olic), who by the way scored 12 goals in 33 games the season before he switched to Bayern, Belotti basically had the same with 13 in 35 last year. He is hard working, not just for himself but for the team, making runs back deep into midfield to win balls – the epitome of a Kovac player. He can hold up the ball, playing with his back to the defence, score with both feet and his head and flashed greatness 2 seasons ago when he had 36 goal participations (28 goals) in 38 games for Turin who are a pretty average side. I have admired him for a while and would love to see him at Bayern.
- Jann-Fiete Arp (18) – Hamburg SV – €5-10mil – at a time where there are very few true strikers that play for the German youth teams, Arp is the most exciting. No matter who ends up Bayern’s no.1 striker next season he is going to have an amazing striker to learn behind, and as a third guy in the fold you have someone who has the true Bayern mentality with Wagner – also great for Arp to learn. On top of that Miro Klose is a youth trainer and used to be one of Germany’s best strikers, who would probably be happy to give him some pointers. Even if he goes out on loan the longterm goal should be for him to spearhead the next generation Bayern side and as I said last year when I did a similar article: Arp will end up at Bayern.
So Arp is a lock for me as a youth and developmental option for the future. If you have read the above then it is probably quite obvious who I would go with for ST1. For those who are not sure, it would be Belotti. But hang on a minute, let’s dream big for a moment. In the season where Bayern won the Champions League they had Mandzukic, Gomez and Pizarro in the squad. Wagner is the Pizarro of this squad and while Arp gets loaned out to develop, why not sign both Belotti AND Lukaku to create an even more competitive atmosphere? Is it too much of a good thing, who knows, but if you look at the figures it sounds at least financially possible to me.
Transfers in total: 11 players; €350-445mil
Yes, I am essentially talking about exchanging a whole squad worth of players, but we are talking about a team that is in transition and will try to compete for all trophies with high intensity football in a new system. I want to have a young and hungry squad with options to play in different ways against different teams and be able to compensate for injuries – or young players going through a bad phase – with equal quality. Is that too much to ask? And all of it managed with a transfer plus of €45mil or minus €100mil, if you look at best and worst case scenarios from above.
I will leave you to think about the longest post I have ever written and will do a summary post of the old and updated squad, before I look at tactics.