For many Dortmund fans, it was quite the shock to see their captain decide to return to his hometown. This move happened both due to family and trophy reasons, according to the center-back himself.
A perfect match
For the record champions too this transfer made sense, with Boateng’s injury struggles in mind. Without him, there wasn’t anyone in the squad who could build the game from the back. Guardiola’s final season saw lots of Kimmich and Alaba as the central defense pairing.
By signing Mats Hummels, this problem was solved. While it took him a bit of time to get settled, he turned into a more important asset as the season progressed.
When the unfortunate event of a Boateng injury actually took place, he became the team’s defensive life insurance. Hummels won almost every tackle relying on his eyes and brain. His anticipation skills elevate him to the highest defensive levels, despite his significant lack of pace.
Aerial duels are another strength of the 28-year-old. In offense, his presence troubled opponents (and his finishing troubled himself), whereas in defense he headed away every cross entering his area.
That being said, Bayern signed him mainly for his pace-setting and passing abilities. As the season went on, the number of classic Hummels dribbles – diagonally and vertically – increased. There aren’t many center-backs who feel so comfortable with the ball at their feet.
His low vertical passes, cutting through opposing lines like a laser, brought many smiles to Bavarian faces. Hummels didn’t surprise anyone because he’s been consistent for years now.
However, how quickly he arrived in and contributed to the Bayern game is remarkable. There can be no doubt that he was one of the best and most important players of the campaign.
His passes and forward runs added quality to the Bayern possession game. Hummels managed to compensate for the lack of positional play, regularly spotting teammates that even the TV audience didn’t see.
He brought a calm presence to the defense, important and rightly-timed passes to the midfield and a necessary stability to the entire team.
The German international filled a squad hole that had prevented Bayern from boasting a top-class defense. In Boateng, Martinez and Hummels, Bayern now have three central defenders that are all world-class in their own way. Niklas Süle, offering lots of potential quality, is about to join this group.
Last season’s Champions League final included two teams, Real Madrid and Juventus, who boast world-class qualities in defense.
Tackle of the season and the Madrid battle
If you’re looking to reduce Hummels’ season to a few clips, the first moment that comes to mind is his slide tackle against Frankfurt.
Hrgota suddenly appeared in front of Manuel Neuer. As the striker ran towards the Bayern goal, he gained quite some gap to the defenders.
He went past the keeper with ease when, all of a sudden, Mats Hummels showed up right behind him and gently separated him from the ball.
It was a tribute to all slide tackles that have ever been tried, a picture-perfect challenge, an absolute world-class moment that can’t be praised enough. Anyone who’s ever played a match of football in defense can imagine how good this must’ve felt to Hummels – a feeling as great as scoring a goal.
There’s another thing that should not go unmentioned: Hummels sustained an injury prior to the clashes against Real Madrid. He didn’t manage to feature in the first leg, Bayern lost.
In the second leg, he was part of the starting lineup, despite not being back to 100 percent. Still, the 28-year-old played a brilliant match and won many key tackles. He and Boateng both were on their last legs throughout the game. It wasn’t just enough to advance to the semifinals but the individual performance remained outstanding.
A bit of romanticism in the boring business
Hummels wasn’t only a great signing because of his performances but also because of his personality. He immediately accepted responsibility, gave orders on the pitch and faced many interviews. Self-criticism is as much of a strength of his as the realistic judgement of wins and losses.
The defender re-integrated himself like he’d never left. Back in 2007, he played his first Bundesliga minutes when Bayern met Mainz. Shortly after that, he was first loaned away to Dortmund and then sold for relatively little money.
In Dortmund, he turned into one of the world’s best defenders. Hummels returned to Munich as a world champion. It’s a story that doesn’t cause romantic feelings in every Bayern heart but it surely does for those who witnessed his youth development.
In a football world that’s dominated by money, coldness and pressure to succeed, such stories are a nice change. Of course this transfer wasn’t all romantic, either. That being said, bringing back a player who then delivers such remarkable performances in his first year is a positive thing.
Mats Hummels is both the newcomer and the comeback kid of the season and he would’ve been even with more players eligible for that award. The Miasanrot crew bow to such a great new start in Munich.