In a sense Bayern Munich completed their most significant transfer dealings before the transfer window even opened. Since the end of last season the club has tied its most important players to improved long-term contracts. Bastian Schweinsteiger recently joined Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery, Thomas Mueller and Holger Badstuber in pledging his future to the Bavarian giants. The focus had been very much on consolidating the talent already on the roster rather than adding more but it is fair to assess that the Bayern squad needs to be tweaked in certain areas.
The autumn campaign will finish with Bayern a long way off the pace in the Bundesliga; an injury crisis a mile long, Louis van Gaal’s constant rotation and under-performance in defensive areas have left FCB foundering somewhat domestically. The Rekordmeister can finish the autumn campaign no higher than fifth.
Van Gaal’s faith in certain elements within his squad has been misplaced. Despite his ‘who needs Neuer, we’ve got Kraft’ brand of intransigence, the Dutch coach must surely be aware of the occasional unreliability of his Bayern contingent. Sporting director Christian Nerlinger has admitted that adequate January targets are tough to come by but has acknowledged the need for some freshening up ahead of the spring.
With Bayern announcing 2009-10 profits of €2.9 million there is certainly money to spend at the Allianz Arena but Van Gaal needs to be wholly convinced before lavishing sums on incoming players.
Only one true candidate for the job here. Manuel Neuer, the Schalke goalkeeper, has been heavily linked with Bayern of late and the German international came through a recent 2-0 win against FCB with his reputation enhanced. A January move is extremely unlikely as Felix Magath would be loth to sell a key player to his detested former employers with the Champions League to consider but a summer transfer seems almost inevitable.
Hans Joerg Butt has lasted longer at Bayern than many observers expected and he will bow out at the end of the season with the diginity he merits after a fine career. Cedric Carasso of Bordeaux, Bologna’s Emiliano Viviano and Lazio’s Nestor Muslera have also been fancifully linked to the Allianz Arena. It would make no sense for Bayern to move for any of those on a short time basis, their lack of availability aside, with Neuer set to arrive in summer.
Where to start?
The Bayern backline has come in for an amount of justifiable stick over the autumn; injuries and lack of form have led Van Gaal to field a myriad of defenders to similar and dismal avail. Bayern’s inability to shut out opponents has cost them precious points in the Bundesliga as well as a 100 per cent record in Europe. The non-specialist Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has somehow become the Champions League finalists’ most accomplished centre-back this season, confirming the need for revisions to be made in this area. Also, Nerlinger has spoken about the possibility of signing a full-back should the right one become available.
To that end, there is no shortage of defenders being linked with Bayern this winter. In the right back slot, Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea) and Glen Johnson (Liverpool) have been touted. Leighton Baines (Everton), Benoit Tremoulinas (Bordeaux), Domenico Criscito (Genoa) and Taye Taiwo (Marseille) have all been regarded as potential Bayern left-backs by the press while centre-backs John Heitinga (Everton), Adil Rami (Lille) Alvaro Dominguez (Atletico Madrid), Miranda and Jon Gudni Fjoluson have seen their names linked with Bayern.
In reality, Sao Paulo’s Miranda would be the most likely candidate. The Brazilian’s agent has confirmed contact with Bayern and he is out of contract in the middle part of 2011. Sao Paulo might be keen to garner a small fee in January rather than lose one of their best backs for nothing. That said, the player is a close friend of Lazio’s Hernanes and may fancy a move to Rome in summer.
Fjoluson, meanwhile, has been on trial at Bayern from his Icelandic club Fram and the 21-year-old is seen as one of Europe’s brighest defensive prospects.
Edson Braafheid is free to find new employers in January while Martin Demichelis has not taken well to his demotion from first-team duties. Despite being highly regard by Van Gaal, Diego Contento may be permitted to move on loan in January for a short spell of first-team football elsewhere.
Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have all struggled for fitness and it has led Bayern to be experimental, to an extend, with the players at their disposal in midfield. Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger have jostled with each other for the holding and playmaking roles respectively while Tymoshchuk, Andreas Ottl and Hamit Altintop have filled in well in the absence of Van Bommel. Business could be done by Bayern in this area if the deal is right over the winter. Their captain Van Bommel is out of contract next summer and has attracted attention from Wolfsburg, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City while Ottl and Hamit could be sold to Roma and Fenerbahce respectively in order ro recoup some transfer value before their contracts run out.
Bayer Leverkusen’s versatile Chilean Arturo Vidal would make a fine signing for Bayern but Jupp Heynckes’ side are unlikely to play ball. Interest in Basel’s Xherdan Shaqiri has been admitted while tentative contact has also been made with Lyon’s Michel Bastos. The out-of-favour Spurs midfielder Niko Kranjcar might fancy hooking up with his compatriots Ivica Olic and Danijel Pranjic while Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia was linked last summer. Bayern are known admirers of the Palermo pair Josip Ilicic and Javier Pastore but those two are going nowhere in winter.
Bayern may also seek to recruit the basis of the next generation; teenagers Mateo Kovacic of Dinamo Zagreb or Ylli Sallahi of SV Kapfenberg could well come on board.
Injuries sustained by Miro Klose and Ivica Olic have served to show the dearth of striking reserves in the Bayern ranks this season and propelled the previously misfiring Mario Gomez into the central striking reckoning. There are certain players that appeal to Bayern which would help increase their front-running options; Franz Beckenbauer is an admirer of Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner and has spoken of the Dane’s suitability for Bayern while the Cluj president Iuliu Muresan has revealed that the Germans would be prepared to sanction a deal for 6’8 striker Lacina Traore.
Moves for more expensive targets like Twente’s Bryan Ruiz and Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko are unlikely to materialise until at least the summer. However Bayern may opt to gamble again on some younger talent. Troyes’Thomas Izerghouf and Dino Spehar of NK Osijek are on the radar of FC Hollywood.
IN (3): Miranda (Sao Paulo), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), Mateo Kovacic (Dinamo Zagreb)
OUT (4): Edson Braafheid, Martin Demichelis, Andreas Ottl, Hamit Altintop
LOAN IN (1): Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal)
LOAN OUT (0): –
Lahm Breno/ Miranda Badstuber Contento
Mueller/Robben Kroos/ Kranjcar Ribery