The standard at Bayern Munich
Looking at the last few years, the Bavarians have been a dominant force domestically. They’ve won the past six Bundesliga titles and claimed the double by winning the DFB Pokal in half of those seasons. During one of those particular campaigns, the club achieved a treble, winning the league, cup, and UEFA Champions League.
In Europe, Bayern Munich were consistently one of the best. Since 2011, the club reached two finals and qualified for the semifinals every season after that, with the exception of one season where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
An underwhelming season for the Bavarians
However, this season threatens to fall below the established standards the team has set for itself. Thus far, they have already faced what is for them an early elimination from the UCL after succumbing to Liverpool in the Round of 16.
Domestically, they run the risk of missing out on a seventh consecutive league title. Having trailed Borussia Dortmund for a large portion of the season, the Bavarians have caught up. Yet, when presented the chance to seal the title in the penultimate fixture away to RB Leipzig, they couldn’t. Now they head into the final matchday needing a point to win the Bundesliga. This is the first time the top flight league title in Germany will be decided on the last day of the season since 2009.
Transitioning from the old guard
Additionally, the club has faced the challenge of replacing some of its leaders. Bastian Schweinsteiger was sold to Manchester United in the summer of 2015. The midfielder spent 13 years at Bayern Munich. Former captain for club and country, German right back Philipp Lahm retired in 2017. He was at the club his entire career spanning 22 years, aside from a two-season loan at Stuttgart. This season, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will be departing as well.
Franck Ribery playing for Bayern Munich
The Frenchman spent 12 years in Munich while his fellow winger was there for 10.
Looking at the squad heading into next season, the longest serving players are Thomas Müller, David Alaba, and Manuel Neuer. These players arguably lack one of two qualities: the leadership or level of stature at the club the aforementioned played have or the consistent performances expected from such leaders.
Neuer is the closest to replacing the leadership qualities of the old guard, but he hasn’t been the world-class keeper challenging for, if not occupying, the title of the planet’s best goalkeeper.
Müller likewise has been struggling to hit the performance levels he has in seasons gone past.
Alaba just doesn’t have the aura of a Ribery or a Robben, let alone Schweinsteiger and Lahm.
A changing transfer policy?
Coupled with these changes is the apparent adaptation in Bayern Munich’s transfer policy to the modern football market. Transfer fees have been rising with the development of the game and that has been evident for a long time now. Until recently, a $100 million signing was unimaginable. Today football has already seen its records shattered upwards of $200 million.
Before 2012, Bayern Munich spent up to about $35 million on transfers. Afterwards, transfers have surpassed that figure eight times. One of their most recent signings, Lucas Hernández, cost about $93 million.
Lucas Hernández playing for France
Prior to his signing, their record stood around $48 million. This jump may represent a major shift in the club’s willingness to invest in top quality talent.
The Bavarians have a transfer policy where they tend to purchase most of their players from other teams in the Bundesliga. In doing so they achieve two goals: strengthening themselves and weakening their opposition. This transfer policy has seen them raid competing clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Schalke in the past, and ultimately weaken their title-challenging prospects.
Bayern Munich striker, Robert Lewandowski, who was signed from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer
These signings are often cheaper than others they have made abroad. Looking at their most expensive signings, their top four were from other European leagues.
Perhaps the club is no longer content with their domestic dominance and lack of European success since 2013. Indications point to Bayern Munich being more open to investing more money on signings and becoming more ambitious in their transfer targets. No longer do they seem concerned with other Bundesliga teams as they now seem to be focused on which players are best suited to bringing them future success.
However that being said, Bayern Munich continue to be linked with some of the Bundesliga’s best players. Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz, and Julian Brandt are some of the league’s brightest talent said to be on the club’s radar.
This summer will prove to be a huge indicator over whether or not the club truly has undergone a change in transfer policy.
A squad in need of a revamp
The current squad is strong, but there is a need for a revamp. With the rumors the potential departure of Jérome Boateng, adding another center back was vital. They’ve already done that through the signing of World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard.
Benjamin Pavard (holding French emblem) lining up for France
The Frenchman has shown his ability to play at the center of the defense, as well as at right back and even defensive midfield. At 23 years old, he also provides younger legs than Boateng and Mats Hummels who are both 30. Likewise, he represents an upgrade on the departing 33-year-old Rafinha and great cover whenever Joshua Kimmich isn’t available at right back.
The aforementioned signing of Hernández was also a much-needed one. He adds competition to David Alaba at left back and quality cover whenever the Austrian isn’t available.
Moving to other areas of the pitch that need to be addressed, new wingers are essential. Ribery and Robben are leaving the club, but the club have been crying out for replacements for a few seasons now. At 36 and 35 years old respectively, their time at the club had been running out.
The Bavarians have been linked to many names including Callum Hudson-Odoi, Federico Chiesa, Nicolas Pépé, Florian Thauvin, Leroy Sane, Wilfried Zaha, and Hakim Ziyech. Each of these players would represent great options out wide. Most of them are young or haven’t quite established themselves enough to demand a spot in the starting eleven, allowing for rotations with Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry. Coman has had his injury concerns, so having players ready to step in will be critical for the demanding seasons ahead.
Lastly, another striker would be huge for Bayern Munich. Robert Lewandowski is their undisputed number nine, but alternatives are needed for injuries, suspensions, and to rest the Polish goalscorer.
Timo Werner playing for RB Leipzig
Bundesliga stars Luka Jovic and Timo Werner have been heavily linked and would be more than welcome options. Both forwards would also be potential candidates to succeed Lewandowski in the starting lineup.
Stay with Kovač, a traditional replacement, or a change in direction?
Before more signings can be made, however, the club needs to sort out whether to not Niko Kovač is going to remain at the helm. The Croatian was met with much criticism throughout the season and will face more should Bayern Munich fail to win both the league and the cup.
Niko Kovač during his time in charge of FC Salzburg
If he were to be sacked, the question becomes who succeeds him?
The Bavarians have a history of preferring Germans or former players for their managers. That is the exact reason why Kovač came in. Bayern Munich have strayed from that model in the past with four different managers not falling into either of those categories since the early 90s. Giovanni Trapattoni was in charge during two spells before the 2000s and it took about ten years for the next unconventional manager to come in, Louis van Gaal.
Five years later the next example came in through Pep Guardiola. Clearly his appointment showed that the club was after the best available managers. Likewise, the following appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, a more successful manager in Europe, continued this new trend.
However, the Italian’s second season began in a fashion that convinced the higher-ups at Bayern Munich to let him go. From there, they returned to their old way, bringing back Jupp Heynckes. Only willing to see out the season, the executives at Bayern Munich agreed to bring someone in who was either German and/or a former player.
Step in Niko Kovač and the present situation at the club.
If the Croatian does indeed depart the Bavarians the immediate question is who comes in? Do they follow the same traditional path they have often gone with or seek a proven successful manager regardless of their nationality or previous experiences?
Jose Mourinho during his time second stint in charge of Chelsea
Bayern Munich has been linked with Jose Mourinho and that would certainly represent the club moving into a different path away from their customary way of doing things.
Unpredictable, but certain change ahead
A new look Bayern Munich is in store for next season and the seasons ahead. How different remains to be seen. What is sure, is that these decisions will be vital to whether or not they continue their domestic dominance and regularly challenge for the UEFA Champions League once again.
References for time spent at Bayern Munich and transfers:
Photo credits in order of appearance:
By André Zehetbauer from Schwerin, Deutschland – Hertha-Bayern 2-1, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10387608
By Антон Зайцев – soccer.ru, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70484449
By Football.ua, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38482355
By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70930857
By Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77680732
By Werner100359 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15688231
By Aleksandr Osipov from Ukraine – José Mourinho / Жозе Моуринью, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45105917