Squad considerations at FC Bayern: What about the 2021 expirees?
Leroy Sané and Kai Havertz are two of the names that keep coming up around FC Bayern when it comes to possible summer transfers. However, CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has made it clear meanwhile that transfers are put on hold for the time being. Instead, he said, the first priority should be to extend the contracts of the club’s key players.
Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng, Sven Ulreich, Javi Martínez, Thomas Müller, David Alaba, Thiago Alcántara, Ron-Thorben Hoffmann – this is the list of the players whose contracts are due to expire in 2021, i.e. in the summer of next year. We analyse which of these players FC Bayern could part with, and who should definitely continue to be part of the squad.
Sven Ulreich’s time at FC Bayern seems to come to an end. Although there have not been any final statements made in this regard yet, it is hard to imagine that the 31-year-old will have the desire to compete with newcomer Alexander Nübel for the role of second goalkeeper behind Manuel Neuer. Only if the negotiations with Neuer should unexpectedly fail, it could be a serious possibility that he stays.
Ron-Thorben Hoffmann, however, could very well stay with FC Bayern. He could become the number one goalkeeper of the Bayern reserves if Christian Früchtl is sent out on loan. Miasanrot has learned from a source familiar with the issue that the decision to loan out Früchtl has already been taken some time ago with FC Augsburg suggested as a possible destination. If there is no better alternative for Hoffmann than the 3. Liga, which seems likely at present, he will probably stay.
Without a doubt, the most important case is that of Neuer himself. In recent months, the Germany and Bayern number one has proven that he is still able to perform at world-class level. But he was not happy with the signing of Nübel. Perhaps to soothe him, Oliver Kahn in a conversation with SportBild recently clarified the pecking order once again: “In Alexander Nübel, we have a highly talented goalkeeper who has the opportunity to develop and learn behind Manuel Neuer.”
With this kind of appreciation and a corresponding contract offer, Neuerer’s extension should be closed in the coming weeks. Reports suggesting that the 34-year-old might join Chelsea at the end of the season are likely part of the typical poker game of contract negotiations.
My assessment: Sven Ulreich will leave the club, Manuel Neuer will extend his contract long-term, and Ron-Thorben Hoffmann will become the reserves’ number one goalkeeper.
There is no question that Jérôme Boateng and Javi Martínez have been long-standing members in excellent standing at Bayern. But it is also beyond question that their performance has declined in recent years. A change of club by Boateng has already been mooted numerous times in the past. Despite his bounce in performance under Hansi Flick, it seems likely that he will soon part ways with Bayern. His departure in the summer would be the last chance for the club to generate a transfer fee, and Boateng will most likely not get the amount of game time he desires in the face of such competition as Niklas Süle, Lucas Hernández, Benjamin Pavard, and David Alaba. It is not inconceivable that he will stay, but a switch might just be the best solution for everyone.
Generally speaking, the situation is similar with Javi Martínez. Flick usually draws on other kinds of players in midfield, and in defense the competition is tough. The Basque will never again become a regular first team starter. But if he were to accept a role as a squad player, he could still be a worthwhile addition to the squad. Martínez can usually be relied on when he is urgently needed. He showed this last season, for example, when he was one of the best Bayern players against Liverpool. As a character, he also seems important for the mood of the squad.
My assessment: Boateng will soon leave Bayern. Even though that is not at all certain, I find it hard to imagine him being happy as a third or fourth choice central defender. With Martínez, it depends on what he himself wants. If a place as a regular starter is something he craves, I say with a heavy heart that he should leave the club and make room for others. If he agrees to a role as a supplementary player, he would continue to be a valuable part of the team. In my opinion, Martínez will probably stay at Bayern and might even extend his contract by a year or two unesss he prefers to return to Spain to finish his career there.
“Don’t hold back those who are set to make a journey”, Lothar Matthäus wrote about David Alaba in his regular column for Sky. Sport1 also suggested that Alaba is contemplating a change to another league. In contrast to Manuel Neuer’s, David Alaba’s intentions appear to be more real. Throughout his career he has repeatedly stated that he could imagine playing abroad. Spain has always been rumoured as the most likely destination.
Rumours that Alaba could be part of a swap deal with Leroy Sané, however, Rummenigge unequivocally cut short: “I would like to make it quite clear that this is not an option for FC Bayern at all, we are not at the bazaar.” He added that talks are currently being held with all those whose contracts expire in 2021.
My assessment: Of all the players whose contracts expire in 2021, Alaba is the one whose change would be both the most painful and most likely. Nevertheless, I believe that Bayern still have a realistic chance to hold on to the Austrian. As with Toni Kroos all those years ago, it will depend on the financial lengths the club is prepared to go to. But unlike Kroos back then, Alaba has already played an immense part in the club’s success in his years at the club.
It is often argued that Alphonso Davies would be able to compensate for the hole a change of Alaba would leave behind. However, it is often forgotten that the 27-year-old has undergone a striking development of his personality in recent months. Under Flick, Alaba became a leader. He aptly conducted and energetically organised his defense around him and was also an important support for young Davies.
Alaba was one of the winners of the change of coach who slightly went under the radar. It would amount to gross negligence if Bayern were to let go of their dynamic, strong, robust, strategically astute, and versatile defender without a fight. The extension of Alaba’s contact must be a high priority for them no matter what. Especially from a sporting perspective, but also because he simply is part of the furniture at Bayern and now at the best age to make another step forward at his club. Alaba should be part of the backbone of the team that is expected to win another Champions League title for the club in the coming years. And if he is so important to the club, everything possible should be done to stop his mental – and perhaps soon real – journey in its tracks. Alaba is nowhere near as easy to replace as many seem to think.
As regards Thomas Müller, the perception that he is a part of the very fabric of FC Bayern seems to be even more fundamental than for Alaba. Which might seem strange, if only because their careers have taken almost synchronous paths: Constantly upwards in the beginning, followed by a small dip in later years, and finally back to top performances again recently.
In the case of Müller, there is every indication that his contract will be extended. There are no concrete rumors about him considering a change. Apparently it is only a question of the financial details and the duration. On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, BILD confirmed that in fact his extension is imminent.
My assessment: If Müller had continued to play at the level of performance that he showed until the summer of 2019, thoughts on the part of Bayern about letting him go would have been legitimate. But in the end, they did everything right by continuing to trust the eternal Müller. He paid it back with strong performances. Second only to Robert Lewandowski, he has been the team’s most important and consistent attacker. His runs, his assists, his unpredictability are back. One is even inclined to forgive him for kicking a corner straight over the byline. “Müller always plays.” And given his current form, one might only hope that this will be for a few more years at FC Bayern. He has surely earned his contract extension, the conclusion of which is only a matter of time.
Thiago or nothing.
Actually, that says it all. His undisputable class on the ball is the side of him that has been extolled often enough. But also the fact that he is by far the most defensively stable midfielder in FC Bayern behind Martínez is something that everyone should be aware of by now – even the Kicker. But Thiago is much more than just a skillful footballer. On the pitch, he embodies the mentality of a winner, and off the pitch the modesty and realism of a footballer who wants to be seen as such, and not as a superstar.
In other words, during a game more often than not everything revolves around Thiago and his skills on the ball. But outside the pitch, things around him are much more quiet. The Spaniard has settled in perfectly in Munich, has come to appreciate the club, the city, and the Bundesliga. He rarely makes a statement and only when he feels it to be appropriate, but otherwise holds back as a public persona. Thiago has become a role model. Despite all the rumours that have been circulating in recent months, an extension of his contract is likely. Because the 28-year-old is irreplaceable in more ways than one.
My assessment: Thiago will turn 29 on April 11. A letter from FC Bayern containing a new blank contract for him to fill in his own conditions would be an appropriate birthday present. But seriously: Securing the extension of the Spaniard should be an absolute no-brainer. He is the most pivotal player in Bayern’s game. Only if the club fails to recognize his value do I see the possibility of a switch. But they should do everything in their power to prevent that.
Actually, of all the people mentioned, the decision about the coach should be at the top of Bayern’s priorities. Because as a coach his ideas should play a decisive part in the planning of the squad. The simple reason why Flick appears in this article only now is that it has been very quiet around him recently. Bayern will wait and see how the coronavirus situation will develop in the coming weeks.
Anything but a clear tendency to extend the employment of Hansi Flick would, however, be hard to understand. In sporting terms, Flick has put the team back on track and the mood among the players has been as positive under him as it has been in a long time. There are almost no arguments not to extend Flick’s contract beyond the end of this season and give him the chance to grow with his responsibilities. In any case, the path he has taken with the team is the right one. We will see if and when he will get the opportunity to continue on it.