Bayern fans had to take a deep breath when the news of Holger Badstuber’s transfer to Schalke broke, even though it was hardly surprising, after the discussions that had preceded it. Badstuber had given a clear signal that he wanted to change something, and he had had several options. Information available to Miasanrot claims that the circulated interest by Pep Guardiola and Manchester City was fairly definite. In the end, however, it looks like the combination of sporting aspirations, coach Weinzierl, and a realistic chance at lots of playing time was what made Schalke the winner.
What Badstuber’s transfer means
In 2002, 13-year-old Holger Badstuber transferred from VfB Stuttgart to Munich and made his way through all youth teams, until finally debuting in the first team in August, 2009. Until 3 December, 2012, he was a fixed part of both Bayern and Germany’s national team, playing as full- or left-back. Then a cruciate ligament rupture put an abrupt end to that career. He had played almost 100 Bundesliga games up to that day – and only 18 since.
Badstuber’s history of injuries is well-documented: comeback, setback, rehab, comeback, new injury, rehab, comeback. A terrible cycle. In the past three years, the public has hardly ever spoken about the footballer Badstuber. When he did play, in those phases he was back to match fitness, he seemed to be running rough, especially in tackles. No rhythm, no trust. This season, he finally feels fit enough to play, despite continued small setbacks. Badstuber is now 27, which means he has another four, maybe five years of professional football left in him. Badstuber wants to play, and has to play – the next big goal has to be a new, appropriate contract in the summer of 2017.
There’s no lack of competition at Schalke, with Naldo, Höwedes, and Nastasic in central defense. Unlike other, weaker Bundesliga teams, or second league teams like Stuttgart, Schalke can’t issue a guaranteed spot in the starting eleven. Badstuber will have to fight his way in. At the same time, the matter of playing time must have been the focal point of his discussions with interested clubs over the last couple of days, and he hardly would have agreed to the transfer without a prospect of getting a place in the team rotation. Manager Heidel’s comment that there won’t be a guaranteed spot for him should therefore be seen as self-evident, rather than negative.
Badstuber’s strength is his fantastic build-up play with his left foot, which would be particularly helpful in a back three. Injuries couldn’t hurt this enormous quality, and Heidel stressed this point in particular ahead of the final transfer decision. This will be the quickest way for him to help Schalke.
None of this gives any clues as to how Badstuber’s career will continue after the summer. His contract in Munich will be renewed for a year (at reduced earnings), but a return is everything but definite, especially since new joiner Niklas Süle is also meant as support for central defense. Everything will depend on Badstuber’s performance at Schalke; if he plays well, there will be a number of interesting prospects. If he plays very well, FC Bayern will possibly be interested in bringing him back as a full member of the team. If he plays badly, or not at all, nobody knows what will happen.
Despite everything, the change of scene is a chance for Badstuber, most of all. Nothing less than a reboot of his professional career is at stake.
For FC Bayern
The club has always made it clear that Badstuber will have a spot in their squad. Them agreeing to Badstuber’s request for a loan, despite Jérôme Boateng’s injury, is remarkable, as it leaves only two real centre-backs for the next couple of weeks in Javi Martínez and Mats Hummels. Ancelotti has already made it clear that he sees Alaba as third option, and it is lucky that Juan Bernat has been playing well as left-back in the recent past. Kimmich could also be another last resort in the centre.
Considering Bayern’s aspirations at the end of the season, the personnel situation is quite strained for this second half of the season – even though Badstuber was only fourth of fifth choice for centre-back when everybody was available.
Badstuber in a Schalke jersey still feels weird, but it will become reality over the next couple of weeks. Whether the loan will turn into a definite goodbye is still up in the air, but the one thing we all want for Holger Badstuber is this: that in the coming months, people will talk about him as a footballer. Not as a patient.