If Bayern München wanted to hide their weaknesses, they are not doing a good job doing so.
According to reports out of Germany, Bayern are keen on Aymeric Laporte, a 19-year-old French defender playing at Athletic Bilbao. Laporte is now the fifth center-back linked to a move to south Germany, following Roma's Mehdi Benatia, SC Freiburg's Matthias Ginter, Chelsea's David Luiz, and Real Sociedad's Íñigo Martinez.
Laporte, a France U-21 player, will cost a pretty Euro. Sport Bild is reporting that a €36 million Euro transfer fee will be necessary to pry Laporte away from Athletic Bilbao, who is on the verge of a Champions League birth. While pricey, Martinez and David Luiz have similar tags attached to them – Martinez a reported €30 million and David Luiz a reported €40 million.
Circulating rumors are largely insignificant until reports are confirmed, but the trend speaks louder than the hearsay. Bayern Munich are in the market for a center-back, an indictment on the players who currently hold those posts.
Bayern are on a goal charity streak, gifting opponent break-throughs in 11 of the last twelve matches, including seven consecutive in all competitions. Such a run has not appeared since the end of 2011, when Bayern conceded goals in eight consecutive matches.
After relying on Dante and Jerome Boateng for most of the Hinrunde, Pep Guardiola has his top pair only 10 times together in the Rückrunde, five which came in the first five matches of 2014. The two recent reunions in the Champions League and the DFB-Pokal lead to better defensive showings, but they were unable plug the hole in the back.
Daniel van Buyten has slipped from an alternative into irrelevancy even after overcoming his injury trouble, an inevitable exit coming to light on the horizon. The 36-year-old's demise is largely due to Guardiola's continued trial of Javi Martinez as a center-back, an onerous transition where the Spaniard's soft style has yet to lead to too many positive inferences.
Fortunately for Guardiola, most of the concessional blows have come in irrelevant situations, but the problem rolled over into key situations against Manchester United in the Champions League Quarterfinals. Borussia Dortmund steamrolling three goals into the back of the net further ingrained the stain into Bayern's resume, making an odds-on bet for the Champions League crown a gamble not worth taking.
The possession-based play of Guardiola's set up can putty over the cracks, but that requires players like Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger to commit less of their focus forward. The first-year manager has already made the power move of taking the world's best right back, Philipp Lahm, and sticking him at the heart of midfield, but with wingers such as Ángel Di María and Gareth Bale on the docket, a permanent central move will cause problems on the flanks.
Many of the top teams in Europe are vulnerable at the back, although the notable exceptions, Atlético Madrid and Chelsea, will be the obstacle in Bayern's path towards a second consecutive Champions League crown. Continued interest in the center-back market confirms the obvious chink in the armor of the current squad: the current defensive unit may not have what it takes to get the treble hopefuls passed the finish line a second time.
The parallels of the 2011/12 Bayern team do not just extend to the opponents. It was after falling short in all three competitions that Bayern aggressively addressed the back in acquiring Dante and Martinez. Continued rumors of defender transfers means that the combination currently roaming the back in Allianz Arena could be closer to the squad of two years ago rather than the one that won the treble last year.