Holger Badstuber’s comeback after his ankle fracture hasn’t exactly gone well. For the first test after almost four months away from the action, he was visibly lacking freshness and mental agility – not surprising, after the long breaks he’s had to endure in the recent past. His body can’t be at the level of a regular Bundesliga player. His mistake in build-up play against Milan, which caused the 1-0, can be forgiven; he wasn’t the only player who made mistakes during the pre-season. But the pressure on Badstuber is much higher.
A big part of this is the pressure that the centre back puts on himself, as evidenced by interviews and comments from his immediate surroundings. Of course the fans’ hopes of Badstuber becoming a regular part of the team again are high. His build-up play is equal to that of Boateng and Hummels – and that’s saying something, looking at the quality of the two World Champions. Additionally, Badstuber represents the tradition of Bayern’s own youth players in the squad that the record Bundesliga champion has been lacking in recent years.
Precarious situation after test game
After only 31 minutes in the game against Milan, it was all over again. It was the only test game that Badstuber played in a pre-season filled with plenty of test games. The hope that he might be ready to play again, and able to complete the pre-season preparation, was not fulfilled. At the moment, Badstuber looks further away from the team than back when training started. The most worrying thing about it all is that Badstuber wasn’t part of the squad for the meaningless Supercup nor the first real game of the season in the DFB Cup against Jena.
The official explanation of “training deficits” sounds fairly nebulous, and it seems like the club can’t – and won’t – communicate the real reason. The social networks don’t offer much, either, as all that is visible there is Badstuber sharing impressions from training every couple of days.
Getting into shape! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/bQ8OrnC8hW
— Holger Badstuber (@Badstuber) 17. August 2016
The question of how far away Badstuber is from the team can’t be answered reliably. There are too many variables, especially with new structures in place. How early does Ancelotti want to bring his players back to the regular training and playing routine? The best we could do would be to draw parallels to his previous stations as a coach.
Ancelotti certainly didn’t go full risk against Jena, with Thiago and Alonso available to play if they had absolutely had to. On the other hand, during the Supercup against Borussia Dortmund, Ancelotti fielded several international players who had only been back in training for a couple of days, for the entire duration of the game. The Italian coach risked more than Pep Guardiola did in the previous Supercup clashes. All of these, of course, are only indicators in the causa Badstuber.
Badstuber was present for sponsoring events, like the traditional handing-over of cars via a sponsor, so there doesn’t seem to have been a complete relapse. According to Torben Hoffmann, he won’t be an option for the game against Werder Bremen. On the contrary – he could need even more time than the international break following that first game.
The next competitive game is in Gelsenkirchen on 9 September, which would mean a break of at least three weeks in total.
Good things come to those who wait
For now, all that’s left to do is to continue waiting for Holger Badstuber. The club can afford to do that, based on the various options in central defence. Martínez looked very good during pre-season, Hummels is slowly on his way back to his old strength, and Jérôme Boateng could be back in the team after the international break. In addition, there are temporary solutions like Alaba and Kimmich, with the former playing as centre back against Jena once more.
So we will need to stay patient. Another set-back due to premature playing time or incorrect load control won’t help anyone in the current situation, least of all the player himself.
And yet, a bit more clarity would be desirable.