The 2012-2013 season was a momentous one for Bayern Munich as the club went on to win the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, and Champions League. Today at Bavarian Football Works, we begin our review of the players on the season. We'll start with the goalkeepers and defenders. We'd also like everyone to take the time to rank the players on a "1-10" scale, and the results will be tabulated at the end.
Manuel Neuer (Scott)
Bayern's overall quality meant that Neuer's goalkeeping wasn't tested as often as other of the world's best, but when it was, he rose to the occasion basically every time. Of note, he had an excellent Champions League Final, a match that I am not entirely convinced Bayern would have won with Thomas Kraft or Michael Rensing in goal. Neuer was a crucial part of the record-setting Bayern defense that only allowed 18 goals the entire Bundesliga season and contributed to the largest positive goal difference in league history as well. What I'll remember most about Neuer's 2012-2013 season is how many times I wrote "NEUER" just like that, in all-caps, after an amazing save in my game notes or on Twitter. Well there's that, and the dozen or so times he displayed what I liked to call "goalkeeping adventurism," which was one of the few things this year to make successfully Bayern fans nervous. Luckily he never made a massive mistake in a big match, in fact quite the opposite, the bigger matches are when he shined the brightest. Best in the world? Sounds a little odd off the tongue but then I can't think of one better, either.
Tom Starke (Davis)
He only started four games - three in the Bundesliga, one in the DFB Pokal - but all of the games he started, he had a clean sheet. Those games weren't against the best competition, as he only had to deal with 1. FC Nürnberg, TSG Hoffenheim, and 1. FC Kaiserslautern, but he did make SC Freiburg put up a huge goose egg with two saves. FC Bayern were able to control at least 60 percent of the possession in all of his games, so he did a lot of standing around, but his job was not to be good enough as a starter, especially since he's on the wrong side of thirty. With Manuel Neuer as the starter, all he had to do was to give him a rest every know and then, and that's exactly what he did.
Philipp Lahm (Davis)
So good, yet so underrated as the worlds best fullback. Anybody could go on and on about his contributions offensively, what he means defensively, and so forth. Heck, the fact that he doubled his career high in assists in all competitions is astounding (he had 16 goal assists. Wow!). Check this out, though: He recorded two yellow cards ALL YEAR, both in the Champions League; he was in constant yellow card danger in Europe's premier competition, and did not allow himself to get suspended. That's a mark of a smart defender that can solidify a line without getting cautioned. Of all his attributes, the fact that he can play both wings is buried in the tool box that can barely stay closed. Samrin, you picked a fantastic player as your favorite, and he is still young enough to dominate the wings for at least three more years.
Rafinha has not played many matches and his biggest contribution to the season was perhaps a challenge on Kevin Großkreutz (which I admittedly had to smile about!) against Borussia Dortmund in an ill-tempered 1-1 draw in the league. He has been an excellent team player; he has performed whenever he has been called on and not complained about the lack of playing time even once. His joys after the victory in Wembley were unconfined. Indeed, he is truly part of the team. Rumors have linked Rafinha with a return to Schalke. He would definitely enjoy more playing time at Schalke; he has won everything he can with Bayern, and now, perhaps it is his time for him to enjoy himself on the pitch.
David Alaba (Ryan)
One year ago, an honest debate could have been had as to who the best left back in the Bundesliga was, let alone who the best left back in Europe was. The impressive 19 year old Austrian had been given his first real true test as he earned 47 appearances for the Bayern Munich team that competed and lost out for three trophies. In the intervening year, David Alaba heard Neil Armstrong's speech about men talking small steps and mankind taking leaps, said "screw that" and took one giant leap for himself.
To say that David Alaba has transformed into the best left back in the Bundesliga is unfair, because he has become arguably the best left back in the world in this time. His read of the game, on the ball skill, positional discipline, and offensive prowess have all charged forward, and when we stop to think that he is only 20 years old, we as FC Bayern supporters should be cackling with glee. In 21 appearances this season, he has contributed 5 goals and 5 assists across all competitions; numbers that would be more consistent with an attacking player than a left back.
Looking ahead at next season, it's hard to imagine that David Alaba could get any better. But seriously, he is 20 years old with mad skills, and he is only going to become a beast on the field.
Diego Contento (Scott)
With a healthy and in-form David Alaba, it was foolish to think Contento would get much of a shot at his preferred position of left back. He only made 8 appearances last season but performed adequately in all of them, proving he can be a capable stand-in should Alaba succumb to injury in the future. It feels like he's been around forever, but it's important to keep in mind that the Italian just turned 23 years old. The left back position won't always be so deep, especially if Alaba ever moves up to the midfield again. The outside back positions are very thin in terms of world-class players in Europe. If I had any influence in Contento's continued preparations I would strongly advise he focuses on being a great defender because if it's not here under Guardiola, he will get a chance with a big club eventually.
Holger Badstuber (Phillip)
While David Alaba was beginning the season recovering from an injury, Holger Badstuber started at left back for the first nine games of the season. Badstuber then returned to the center to partner Dante once Alaba returned to fitness. Then, disaster struck. Badstuber tore his ACL against Borussia Dortmund on December 1st. Bayern would go onto have a memorable season with Badstuber on the sidelines. Then, news that he re-ruptured his ACL came completely out of the blue. Holger is now likely out until January, and the club is worse off for it. It's going to take a lot of work for Holger to get back on the field. Here's hoping that he can return and be as good as he was before the injury.
When Dante was signed for a meager fee of 5 millions euros from Borussia Mönchengladbach, everyone including the Bayern fans presumed he would be a backup to Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber. Instead, an injury to David Alaba forced Badstuber to move to left back, allowing Dante to start in the heart of defense. He did not put a foot wrong in any of the starting matches and as a result, Jupp Heynckes continued to give him a starting berth. Alaba's return to the team was marked by a long term injury to Badstuber, allowing Dante to cement his spot. Dante was not only impressive defensively; he was also, like Bads and Boa, often the first line of attack, playing a wonderful long pass to Mario Mandzukic up front or a nice diagonal pass to Bastian Schweinsteiger or Philipp Lahm. Dante has been the heart and soul of Bayern's defense; he has performed consistently regardless of whether he has been partnered with the inconsistent Boa, the old guard Daniel Van Buyten or even Javier Martinez. Pep Guardiola, some say, will install Martinez at the back. However, Pep should not forget Dante's ability to play out from the back and his overall defending. Despite the fact that Dante's biggest defensive lapse came in the Champions League final, he was awesome in the rest of the rounds including against Barcelona. He should remain the first name on Bayern's team sheet as far as the heart of defense is concerned.
Jerome Boateng (Phillip)
The emergence of Jerome Boateng from backup centerback to starter of a treble winning side was a fantastic story this season. Boateng seized the opportunity presented in front of him after Badstuber's injury and rose to the challenge. While he did struggle with consistency throughout the season, he was great far more often than he was not. He deserves his due praise being part of the best defense that the Bundesliga has ever seen. Boateng will be a starter at the beginning of the season, and it will be tough for a returning-from-injury Badstuber to replace him.
Daniel Van Buyten (Ryan)
The 35-year old Belgian international was an afterthought at the beginning of this season. Fourth on the centerback depth chart, sitting behind amazing young talents like Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng, and the solid, newly arrived Brazilian, Dante. His contributions were expected to be minor: cup appearances, relief spells during times of fixture congestion: and really what else should have been expected from him?
It was clearly not what we got, which was a dominant display for the entire second half of the season as injuries to Boateng and Badstuber handed Daniel Van Buyten the starting job alongside the revelatory Dante. The position astute Van Buyten took this torch and ran with it seeing Bayern only lose a single match over 5 months, that saw him start 15 matches and play 90 minutes in each one. Daniel Van Buyten was an amazing key to sustaining this team this season and deserves the extra year that Bayern has extended to him.
With the injury that has seen Holger Badstuber's return approximation stretch out to a further 10 months, Daniel Van Buyten is going to be a key cog in maintaining Bayern's defensive solidity in the coming year. I for one, believe he is up to the challenge.