For the last few matches before the winter break Wagner, was no option for Julian Nagelsmann anymore. There were reports regarding an injury but nothing particularly serious. To avoid stressing the muscle even more, with the consequences of jeopardizing the transfer, he was benched.
Now the deal is sealed. The transfer-fee will be around 12 to 15 million Euros. His contract runs until 2020.
"When I got the offer, I didn’t have to think about it for long."
— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) December 22, 2017
Becoming a top-striker late
For years, there was no possibility, Wagner was a type of player to return and play for FC Bayern again. In 2008 he played 44 games for the Bayern reserves and only scored twice. In terms of starts for the first team, he has eight starts with one goal scored in his vita.
Wagner really started his professional career in Duisburg (39 games, 1 goals). Via Werder Bremen (36 games, 5 goals) and Kaiserslautern (11 games, 0 goals) he tried to establish himself in the Bundesliga during his stay at Hertha BSC. After 75 games with only 8 goals scored his career seemed to be in danger.
With a fresh start in Darmstadt he finally managed to turn it around. Wagner became the star and voice of his new club. He even scored 15 goals in 34 games, after all.
His development attracted more and more interest from other Bundesliga clubs, which lead to his transfer to Hoffenheim. There, under Julian Nagelsmann he should become one of the best strikers in Germany. Nagelsmann knew, how to integrate Wagner into a squad where he could perform to the fullest. In 50 games he scored 18 times, but that is by far not the only thing that made him so special, even for Jogi Löw.
Hitzfeld would call him „Wandspieler“
At the first look, Wagner seems to be the classic number 9. He is big, physical with no special technical traits but good positioning and a certain calm in front of the goal.
This perception however, needs to be revalued after the tutelage of Julian Nagelsmann, who managed to develop every single one of his players. A team at Hoffenheim, which was mostly respected for their play against the ball, is now among the elite in possession football and has a plan to play out from the back without hoofing it simply up front.
Wagner certainly has improved in some areas. With his back to the goal, he is incredibly hard to defend. He secures balls and is able to spread them if his teammates are well positioned.
Former Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld called players like this „Wandspieler“, which literally means “wall player” (the ball simply bounces back perfectly). In Hoffenheim he learned all the basic traits of a modern striker, which made him a serious alternative for Joachim Löw and his country. His stats in terms of assists for Hoffenheim (8), Darmstadt (4) and Duisburg (11) display another quality he brings to the table. He is not as stiff and technically limited as it is often described in the media.
Limit your expectations!
His traits are something that FC Bayern are currently missing. However, we all should be cautious. Comparing him to Lewandowski is not fair because, he simply is not as good as the polish star-striker.
Is he able to be a good replacement? Definitely! Is he a better option at number 9 in a Champions League semi-final than Thomas Müller? Most likely yes! Does he have the potential to completely replace Robert Lewandowski? You should not count on that!
It would be insane to demand a striker with this kind of quality. Having two of the top ten strikers in your squad at the same time maybe happens every ten years, under special circumstances. Two of the very few examples were FC Bayern (Gomez and Mandzukic) or lately Real Madrid (Benzeman and Morata).
Wagner simply is not on the same level. Anyway, FC Bayern finally has found a proper back-up for Lewandowski. A striker, with special traits, who even plays for the German national team.
However, one question remains to be answered. From inside the club, there were rumours that Jupp Heynckes did not really want Wagner. Everything points towards a typical Uli transfer, who likes his German internationals. Plus, he has good connections to Hoffenheim, especially their chairman Dietmar Hopp.
For about 12 to 15 million Euros, Wagner is, despite some doubts, a good fit for FC Bayern. Whether his performances were only due to the incredible coaching of Nagelsmann remains to be seen. Even as the “number two” at striker, he has the chance to get some minutes and commend himself for the world cup this summer. It is a big chance for him, to top off his career in the end. And who knows? This may turn out beneficial for FC Bayern as well.