FC Bayern Rondo – Süle, Eberl and what else happened this week
For FC Bayern, the current phase of the season should be taken as a chance at conscious deceleration. For many months now, the club has been rushing through an extremely tight schedule. There has not been a real summer preparation since 2019. That is why coach Julian Nagelsmann is probably very happy right now to have most of the squad available for almost 14 uninterrupted days at a stretch.
The news that are currently being discussed in the media should not bother him too much either. For the most part. Because one piece of news during the week had the potential to ruffle Nagelsmann’s feathers a little: Niklas Süle will leave the club in the summer. Free of charge.
This is interesting because Uli Hoeneß and Herbert Hainer said only recently that the story had not yet been decided. But then various media reported that Süle had already made up his mind long ago. And finally Oliver Kahn called a press conference to officially inform the media on the issue.
This in itself was somehow remarkable because Hasan Salihamidzic is actually responsible for squad planning. Süle will be the third top-class central defender to leave the Rekordmeister on a free transfer within a year. It is no big secret that Bayern do not want to be a seller’s club but are also not very good at selling their players for expensive fees. While clubs like Borussia Dortmund and other international rivals regularly generate high sums for players who sometimes do not even have the CV of a Süle, Bayern already have a hard time selling the Thiagos and Kroos’ of this world for a market appropriate fee.
This is also because in many cases the players either have only a short contract period left or none at all. Each case has to be assessed individually and there are certainly better reasons for some sales below value than others. But the overall picture is unusual: In the last two to three years, four seasoned professionals – Thiago, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and now Niklas Süle – some of them even regular first team starters – have left the club on a free transfer or for a relatively small amount of money. Untypical for FC Bayern.
So is the new sporting management under Salihamidzic having a hard time extending players’ contracts? It is not quite that simple either. The list of key players who recently renewed their contracts with the serial champions is long. With Kingsley Coman, another important player was threatening to leave, but he was finally persuaded to stay.
Miasanrot can confirm media reports that identified Julian Nagelsmann as a key player in this development. The 34-year-old is said to have had a great influence on Coman’s change of heart. With Süle, too, the coach tried everything in his power to persuade him to stay. Alas, his efforts were to no avail. According to information from the tz, the offer to increase the central defender’s annual salary to around €10 million was not enough.
Bayern are therefore going the same way with him as they did with David Alaba. And as with Alaba, both times it was legitimate. Süle found his consistency too late under Nagelsmann. Although he is aware of Nagelsmann’s trust, the arguments for promoting him to the upper strata of the salary hierarchy are just too thin on the ground from FC Bayern’s point of view.
For the Munich team, however, the coming months will be important. Many argue that the club is well positioned in central defence. Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernández, Benjamin Pavard, Tanguy Nianzou – from seasoned professionals to huge talents, everything is there. But Süle has qualities, especially in build-up play, that Bayern will probably miss a lot.
With Alaba and Boateng, the German industry leaders have already lost two very good build-up players. Even if they were no longer as defensively stable as in their best days, their passes were often still razor-sharp. At the moment, Bayern not only concede fewer goals on average than last year, they also score more often. So where exactly is the problem?
In the later rounds of the Champions League at the latest, it could become apparent that these players do not quite have the quality in build-up play of a Niklas Süle. Süle was certainly still far from being world class due to his injuries and inconsistency. But when it comes to passing and short dribbles through the opponent’s first pressing line, he ranks a good deal above his internal competition.
Lucas Hernández may be the best centre-back at FC Bayern overall. He is incredibly strong in direct duels, fast, dynamic and increasingly dares to venture forward and defend from the front. But he does not tend to become a second Boateng or Alaba when it comes to building up from the back. His decision-making is rather mixed here, he often lets go of the ball too late. Dayot Upamecano brings everything with him in terms of his talents, but fails time and again because of himself. And Tanguy Nianzou? Injuries have set him back time and again, and he does not seem to play a noteworthy role in Nagelsmann’s plans even when he is fit. He still has a long way to go.
The big question will be how quickly these three players can be trusted to develop to adequately meet Bayern’s needs. At least in the medium term, the Munich team could have used someone like Süle. Either way, there were times when Bayern were in a much better position centrally. The ball losses in the first and second third, which are frequent by the team’s standards, are also a result of the fact that, on the whole, the team is still a long way from “world class” in this area.
In the summer, the defensive centre – and thus also the defensive midfield – should be given special care in respect of possible actions on the transfer market. It could be a festering wound that is not getting the attention it deserves at the moment.
But it is also clear that a lot will depend on when the current players in these positions grow into their roles and how much room they still have for improvement. At least Upamecano, Nianzou and Marcel Sabitzer can still be expected to have lots of room for development.
Little was expected of Hertha, on the other hand – and they confirmed all expectations. All in all, the Berlin side can still live well with the 1-4 defeat to FC Bayern. The Bayern team dominated their opponents at will for almost 90 minutes.
Süddeutsche Zeitung headlined that Bayern’s win was “casual”. A description that is at least debatable. As weak as Hertha were this weekend, Bayern’s performance was also more than decent. Anyone who dominates their opponent with such concentration over the full distance cannot have won casually.
The effort that Nagelsmann’s team put in from the start was enormous. There was a clear idea behind their approach: tie Hertha up in their own penalty area right from the start and rattle them so that they would roll over right away. This plan almost succeeded with an early goal from Tolisso, but it was rightly disallowed.
Nagelsmann switched to a three-man backline to facilitate this approach, which differed from the usually makeshift three-man backline seen previously. Previously, it was usually the case that Bayern operated with one deep and one high full-back, which meant that the left-back, for example, operated very high and the right-back more as a right centre-back. As a result, Leroy Sané was able to tuck in on the left and on the right the winger acted like a wing-back – just not in a defensive manner, where a four-man back line was then established.
Against Hertha, Nagelsmann almost completely dispensed with wing protection. Three centre-backs and six offensively-minded players was apparently the instruction. The nominal wing-backs were Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry. The rest of the defence consisted of three skilled centre-backs and Joshua Kimmich, who covered a lot of space sitting in front of the back line. Corentin Tolisso was also often to be found roaming up front. And so a kind of 3-1-5-1, sometimes even 3-1-6, was created.
Bayern played forward with speed and always counter-pressed well. Hertha were crushed by this offensive power. And Nagelsmann was right with his match plan. But the victory was certainly not casual.
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s official statement that max Eberl was stepping down as Gladbach’s sporting director effective immediately came on Friday 2 pm. Meanwhile, RP Online reported: “He is said to want to join another club and to have already informed Gladbach’s bosses of his decision a few weeks ago.”
Ultimately, other media reports that he wanted to take a break from football for health reasons were ultimately confirmed. But what about the time after? Salihamidzic’s contract with FC Bayern München expires in the summer of 2023. If Eberl takes a sabbatical and takes a step back from football as he intends to do, he could be available as his successor should he recover his appetite for football again.
In the Bundesliga, there are currently quite a few clubs that are not fully satisfied with their respective counterparts on Eberl’s position. VfL Wolfsburg and Leipzig are probably the most prominent examples. Eberl will probably have no problems finding a new job due to his predominantly positive work at Gladbach.
Even though Bayern were very interested in signing Eberl before Salihamidzic was signed, an interest now would be tantamount to an almost frantic about turn. Salihamidzic, despite all his successes, has received and continues to receive a lot of criticism from outside the club for his track record at the record champions so far. The club, on the other hand, has always been at pains to praise him almost effusively, both in public and in background discussions.
Around the dispute with Hansi Flick, there were for the first time also noticeable internal differences. According to sources close to the club, however, these were not enough to cause deeper rifts. How the story continued is well known. Salihamidzic got his way, Flick had to go. The backing for the sporting director was too substantial.
There are always critical outside voices that allegede that it is above all the team around Salihamidzic led by Marco Neppe that makes him look better. FC Bayern has always denied such claims. Thus, the recent rumours that Salihamidzic would extend his contract in the second half of this year came hardly as a surprise.
A different decision would be something of a novelty for FC Bayern, if only because then its dealings with Salihamidzic would represent a low point in how to deal with one’s employees. Regardless of any substance this argument may hold, this would contradict everything the club has said and done in recent months and years. The efforts to present Salihamidzic as a uniquely qualified sporting director, sometimes perhaps even to comical effect, would thus be thwarted. Even if someone external were to be hired to support him. However, that is also unlikely. After all, Neppe already takes over many areas of responsibility that a classic sporting director would otherwise have.
On the other hand, Max Eberl did not exactly recommend himself for a job at FC Bayern in the last two or three years. His bold decision to replace Dieter Hecking with a more progressive coaching team around Marco Rose seemed to work out at first, but ultimately led to major problems. During the protracted changing saga of Rose to Dortmund, things seemed to fall apart in Gladbach.
This season, the Foals are getting their dues under the management of Adi Hütter. It looks as if Gladbach will have to fear for their chances of staying clear of the relegation zone. All this certainly does not detract from Eberl’s outstanding work of previous years. What Eberl has made of the former near-relegation team can hardly be overestimated. And yet his end at the club is something that will be remembered with mixed feelings.
At FC Bayern, experience shows that one is quickly sceptical when such developments occur. Especially since the Bayern team has been extraordinarily successful under Salihamidzic’s responsibility in recent years. It would be moot to discuss his exact contribution. The success is there. Even if Bayern were to decide against all odds to let Salihamidzic’s contract expire, Eberl would not necessarily be the favoured candidate.
All in all, it seems absurd at this point in time that Bayern would even consider such an explosive move. Especially since Eberl made his decision to leave Gladbach long ago. Only recently, Oliver Kahn prophecised “a long future” to lie ahead for his sporting director Salihamidzic at FC Bayern. It would perhaps be the most brazen ambush since the “Red Wedding” in Game of Thrones, should the last few years turn out to be a big red lie.