TEACHER’S PETS AND LATE BLOOMERS: HALF-YEAR REPORTS FOR FC BAYERN’S NEW ARRIVALS
At the World Cup break, the record champions has played 24 competitive games. Some newcomers played regularly, others not as often as hoped. We evaluate the first half-year of the newcomers and award some preliminary grades.
Every grade does not only reflect the performance on the pitch, but is a combination of performance, costs and the expectations of the player.
21 times in the starting eleven, 3rd place in terms of minutes played.
FC Bayern wanted a world star. FC Bayern got a world star. From the signing announcement to his debut, the Ballon d’Or and the drama surrounding his World Cup participation: Sadio Mané exudes big stage. That, too, counts for FC Bayern 2022.
In purely sporting terms, Mané was the eighth-best Bayern player in the Bundesliga and the fourth-best Bayern player in the Champions League in terms of Whoscored grades. Fifteen scorer points (eleven goals and four assists) mean fourth place in the Bayern squad.
The ranking fits the perception. Mané played well, but not world class. The big sporting highlights in the Bayern squad and in European football in recent months have been provided by others.
He secures the A with perhaps one of the most underestimated qualities of world-class players: consistency. For eight years, no newcomer to FC Bayern has made it into the top three in terms of playing time in his first season. (In the 2014/15 season, two newcomers achieved the feat: Juan Bernat and, of course, Robert Lewandowski).
Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller were the two irreplaceable fixtures in FC Bayern’s offensive for years. Lewandowski is gone, Müller was only on the pitch for 45% of the game due to injury. Mané was all the more important as a new anchor in attack. From the very first game, he laid the foundation for Musiala, Sané, Gnabry and Choupo-Moting to shine.
Mané embodies world class through consistency and perseverance. More Eliud Kipchoge than Usain Bolt.
Started 14 times, ranked 9th in terms of minutes played in competitive matches.
Matthijs de Ligt joins the long list of Dutch players at FC Bayern. The most expensive new signing, costing at least €67 million, came to FC Bayern from Juventus Turin.
At the beginning of the season, he was clearly behind in training. As soon as he was physically at full strength, his performance was right, before two minor injuries set him back again somewhat.
At times, he demonstrated why he had already earned an aggregate transfer fee of over €150 million at the age of 23. De Ligt dominated the aerial game, orchestrated the defence and recovered balls. However, his long balls, his advances to midfield or even his dribbles have been less effective. Upamecano and Hernández were clearly more productive for Bayern’s offensive game than de Ligt.
His performances have been rock solid. And 14 starting appearances despite an initial lack of training and injuries show how much trust Julian Nagelsmann has already placed in him.
Measured against expectations, de Ligt still has room for improvement.
11 times in the starting eleven, 12th place in terms of minutes played.
12th place in the starting statistics reflects the status that Noussair Mazraoui has by now earned for himself at FC Bayern: He is close to the ideal team. If you think back to the start of the season, this is an impressive development within just a few weeks.
The 25-year-old Moroccan came from Ajax Amsterdam on a free transfer. Perhaps most noticeable at the start of the season was the fact that he needed time to adapt. Accordingly, his competitor Benjamin Pavard played his way into the starting eleven as a right-back.
In the first twelve games, Mazraoui was on the pitch for 334 minutes (31% of playing time). In the last twelve games he played 716 minutes or 66% of the possible playing time.
Mazraoui is more than the long-sought offensive alternative at right-back at FC Bayern. He also has the classic runs to the baseline inn his locker, but his great strength is the Lahm-esque shift into the centre. When in possession of the ball, he pushes into defensive midfield and shines with his combinational play, ball control and, increasingly, gegen-pressing.
Noussair Mazraoui is the clear value-for-money winner among the newcomers.
3 times starting eleven, 19th place in terms of minutes played.
The third newcomer with an Ajax past. FC Bayern paid €18.5 million for Ryan Gravenberch, whom half of Europe had been interested in signing. More than 100 competitive games for Ajax, fourteen of them in the Champions League and ten internationals for the Oranje were an impressive résumé for a twenty-year-old.
He has not yet arrived at Bayern. Hardly any playing time, only two scorer points – both in the cup against the third division club Viktoria Köln – and the personal low point of not being nominated for the World Cup.
From a purely sporting point of view, things could hardly have gone worse. Even a few highlights in his few appearances do not change that. Gravenberch has shown glimpses of why FC Bayern wanted him so badly. He has all the qualities to become a complete midfielder. He convinces with ball retention and his vision in confusing situations. He indicates that he can become an important element in the Bavarian engine room.
But he is not yet. Joshua Kimmich and, initially, Marcel Sabitzer and later Leon Goretzka are clearly ahead of Gravenberch in the coach’s favour. All three have repaid the trust placed in them with good to outstanding performances. Gravenberch has not been able to reach those levels so far.
Gravenberch’s first months at FC Bayern have been months to forget. We give him an F, the worst mark of the newcomers. A harsh grade? Yes. But that is FC Bayern. Such a first round cannot be “sufficient” or better. If it were, he would be wrong at FCB.
The poor grade for the first half of the year does not mean a judgement as a bad buy or an assessment of Gravenberg’s potential. In the second half of the season, there are 22 to 30 more competitive games for FC Bayern. Games in which Gravenberch will have to find his feet.
Seven years ago, a 20-year-old midfielder moved to FC Bayern. That player had to line up behind Thiago, Xabi Alonso, Javi Martínez and Arturo Vidal and only made it into the starting eleven five times in the first 24 games. Later he took off. His name: Joshua Kimmich.
Twice in the starting eleven, ranked 21st by minutes of competitive play.
The young Frenchman moved from Stade Rennes to FC Bayern for 20 million euros. In Rennes, Tel, who turned 17 in May 2022, got his first taste of professional football. In ten appearances as a substitute, he played a total of 77 minutes. He failed to score a goal.
In this respect, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann surprised everyone when he predicted ten goals for Tel’s first season in the Bayern jersey. A prediction that seems to have inspired Tel. In his 347 minutes for the league leaders so far, he has already scored four times.
His goal in the 6-1 win against Werder Bremen was emblematic of his talent and his healthy dose of carefreeness and selfishness for a 17-year-old, when he scored himself despite being 4-2 up.
Mathys Tel’s record in the first half of the year is satisfactory all round. But it is still too early for exuberance or, indeed, a better grade. The sample of 347 minutes is too small for that and the transfer fee too high.