Is Bayern Munich remodeling a move in right direction?
German juggernauts Bayern Munich (5/1 with Coral to win the Champions League) have undergone a host of changes since Pep Guardiola took over at the Allianz Arena in 2013, with none more noteworthy than the loss of two high-profile homegrown heroes over the past two summers. With his predecessor Jupp Heynckes in charge, these outgoings would have been almost unthinkable.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, a local Bavarian boy partly reared by Bayern, has now followed fellow Germany international midfielder Toni Kroos in departing the Bundesliga giants for a new challenge abroad, leaving the club with a dwindling number of symbolic stars from that famous 2012/13 treble-winning term.
There is often a natural changing of the guard as a coach continues to put their own stamp on a side, so no panic buttons should be pushed, though reports of Die Mannschaft men Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller’s dissatisfaction should be concerning to the club hierarchy.
Gotze’s agent recently told press: “I would have liked a bit more support now and again and this is what I have grown to expect from Bayern.” Quite the damning statement of a side renowned for making superstars out of promising young Germans.
Added to that mix is Muller’s reported training ground disagreement with Guardiola and subsequent links to Old Trafford, so it looks as though there has been a shift of power in Munich, where players once key to Bayern’s philosophy do not have the same unshakable status.
Under Guardiola, the Allianz Arena outfit can still play the powerful, pacy, counter-attacking football they have always been famed for, but possession play – a hallmark of the Spaniard’s style – is also in their tactical make-up. This has meant Iberian imports, such as Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso and Juan Bernat, have come to take on increasingly important roles after signing for Bayern (heavy odds-on favourites at 1/10 to retain the Bundesliga).
In the not too distant future, Munich must replace the wing wizardry of first pick wide pair Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who are no spring chickens at 32 and 31 respectively. Playmaker Gotze and the menacing Muller can of course operate on the flanks, as does new signing Douglas Costa, yet these younger men are vastly different from their older peers in style.
For Costa, Bayern’s biggest buy of the summer so far, there is much to prove and he may carry the uncomfortable burden, much like Thiago, of being Guardiola’s star signing, an emblem of a new era and one to unsettle the established order.
Brazil-capped Costa’s capture also continues to see the Allianz Arena giants’ transfer policy edge away from being known Bundesliga plunderers, with Bayern opting for the Samba star previously of Shakhtar Donetsk over proven domestic performers like Kevin De Bruyne and Karim Bellarabi.
A loss of identity is the current charge being levelled at Bundesliga champions Munich then, with tenacious midfield icon Schweinsteiger’s exit to join Manchester United just the latest alteration to jar fans.
While the transfer, much like Kroos’, may make much business sense as the ageing midfielder looked unlikely to renew his contract, it will undoubtedly dent the dressing room morale. Such influential, loyal figures are tough to replace, just ask Man Utd themselves, and it indicates the start of the unknown for the Allianz Arena outfit.
As a global brand, seeing one big-name slip through their net is not going to trouble Bayern but, as the Bavarians are infamous for buying up the Bundesliga’s best talents and boasting an impressive contingent of Germany internationals, fans can be forgiven for thinking their team may become unrecognisable.
While having Munich eye talents from abroad could be healthy for German football overall, instead of hoovering up domestic stars, the historic club must make sure they are building for a sustainable future, embracing change but also retaining their roots.
Should they lose or trade one of Muller or Gotze, the pressure on Guardiola will surely heighten. There have long been doubts over whether the Spanish tactician will stick around, with this season perhaps his last shot at delivering the Champions League to the Munich men.
Should the coach leave, with skipper Philipp Lahm also ageing, Bayern must be careful, lest they invest too heavily in players and a philosophy dependent on one man alone, and so far from their own characteristics.