Konrad Laimer to FC Bayern – does the transfer come a year too late?

Georg Separator June 13, 2023

Laimer as a classic Red Bull player

The 26-year-old Konrad Laimer was born and raised in Salzburg and joined RB Salzburg’s youth team at an early age. After a stint with RB’s farm team in Liefering, he moved to the German branch of the sprawling football empire in 2017 at the age of 20.

In his six years there, he played 190 games for Leipzig. It could have been more games had he not missed so often through injury. In the last three years alone, a slew of injuries saw him miss 68 games. A bone oedema and a torn syndesmosis ligament kept him out of action for a particularly long time.

At Leipzig, Laimer was mainly deployed in central and defensive midfield, although he also played 24 times at right-back. His style of play is a reflection of his Red Bull training. Not without reason did former coach Nagelsmann praise him as a “monster ball-conquering machine”. Laimer wins many duels, fouls when necessary, usually with purpose. With the ball, he is no Toni Kroos. An average of 44 passes per game, of which around 80% reach their target, speak more for his usefulness in fast transition games than for controlled possession phases. He does well in covering wide spaces towards the opponent’s goal, where he also looks for and finds finishes, as seen recently with his goal in the Allianz Arena.

Financially a sound transfer for FC Bayern

According to “Transfermarkt”, Laimer’s market value currently sits at €28 million. Players of Laimer’s calibre do not often move clubs free of charge. From a purely financial point of view, this alone makes him almost a must-transfer. With €28 million in the virtual books – FC Bayern cannot put him on the actual balance sheet with this value as a player on a free – Laimer is a good deal for FC Bayern, despite signing fees and salary, even before his first game.

“FBRef” estimates his salary in Leipzig at €2.5 million per year. At FC Bayern, he should quadruple his salary to around €10 million per year. This would put him in 13th place in the club internal salary ranking, on a par with Dayot Upamecano.

For a club with an annual personnel budget north of €300 million, this should be a manageable amount.

If you compare Laimer with Marcel Sabitzer, who could leave the club in return and bring in a transfer fee, as well as saving €12.5 million in salary, the economic view becomes even more positive.

Where will Laimer play?

Like every player, Laimer has it in his own hands where and how often he will be used. If he manages to impress his coach in training and in games, he will play. On the one hand. But since in football there is only room for eleven players in the starting eleven at any one time, his playing time in practice depends just as much on the competition in the squad and the tactical plans of the coach.

Competition in midfield

As of now, Kimmich, Goretzka, Sabitzer, Gravenberch and Laimer make up Bayern’s midfield for the coming season. With some qualifications, Musiala could also be included, as he can also be lined up as a number eight. Raphaël Guerreiro is also set to join FC Bayern. Tuchel preferred to deploy the left-back in midfield during their time together at Dortmund. Hovering over everything is the designated signature transfer of Declan Rice or another strong defensive midfielder for the six position.

There is a clear threat of an overload in midfield. Especially in view of the pending transfers and rumours of departures, for Bayern to avoid this is by no means a certainty.

Will Tuchel play with two or three central midfielders?

The groundhog says hello every year. Will FC Bayern stay true to the double six or introduce a V midfield? That it might be a good idea to field a deep anchor in the six position to back up and stabilise Kimmich seems to have dawned on the bosses in Munich by now. But will Tuchel put Kimmich next to him as a second six/eight or will he deploy two eights in front of this anchor six?

Laimer’s situation is still completely open

So Laimer’s chances under Tuchel still depend on many factors. In the worst case scenario for him, the squad will be so abundantly supplied in midfield that he will have to line up in second or third place in his position. If this happens, he will settle in 18th-22nd place in the playing time rankings and leave the club again after one or two years. The then possible transfer fee would at least compensate FC Bayern for the sporting disappointment.

If things go normally, he will find himself in a good number 13-17 position in terms of playing time: he doesn’t make it into the first team, but regularly rotates into the starting eleven and collects further playing time as a substitute.

In the best case scenario for him, Bayern don’t manage or want to sign another (better) defensive midfielder besides him and Laimer becomes the first choice in the role of anchor six. Even if he didn’t play that in Leipzig, he has the potential to develop into a “Casemiro light”. The Brazilian also initially made a name for himself at Real as a ball-conquering machine and was ridiculed for a long time because he seemed so much less elegant in the shadows of Kroos and Modric. His contribution to the five Champions League titles with the royal outfit from Madrid should now be beyond question.

More defensive and midfield pressing and less attacking and gegen-pressing would be a feasible transformation for Laimer. Instead of vertical box-to-box runs, he would need to cover more horizontal spaces. In the passing game, he would need support from better ball handlers than him, e. g. Kimmich and Musiala or Gravenberch.

This last one, however, is the most unlikely scenario. After the rumoured plans and efforts for Rice, it would be surprising if no other big name in midfield were to join FC Bayern. Especially since even without star newcomer, Laimer would only be the outside choice for the role.

Laimer’s versatility could be an ace up his sleeve. He has already played as a right-back. That will hedge FC Bayern’s risk and give them further opportunities to use him if Pavard or Mazraoui leave the club. Apart from his lack of heading strength, Laimer’s profile would also allow him to play in central defence or in the half-right position in a back three.

Conclusion: the change comes late, perhaps too late

FC Bayern are strengthening their team inexpensively with at least one solid player in his prime, who can be deployed in several positions and could be a positive surprise. So much for the good news.

The bad news is that the Laimer transfer was planned and executed by ex-coach Nagelsmann and ex-sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić. Planned before Tuchel took over, whose football relies less on Red Bull dynamics. Before Guerreiro arrived, who would better suit Tuchel’s style. Before the need for an anchor six was recognised.

Perhaps Laimer’s transfer comes a year too late. In the last season, Laimer would have had a great chance to establish himself as a backup for Joshua Kimmich instead of Sabitzer. Next season it will be much more difficult for him.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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