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Coentrao Move Disintegrates, Rafinha Emerges as Possible Addition

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Despite goal.com’s month-long promise that a deal was always "just around the corner," it now appears that there is very little chance of Fabio Coentrao coming to Bayern. Today’s news is that Coentrao considers Real Madrid "the best club in the world," and if he doesn’t get an offer to move to the Bernabeu, he will stay at Benfica. Bayern and Benfica were supposedly haggling over the transfer price for the past 3 weeks, with Benfica refusing to budge from their demand of 30 million Euro for the defender. If this were the only issue, the clubs might have reached an agreement in the 20-25 million range and completed the sale. That would still be too much, in my opinion, but that doesn’t really matter now because I don’t see any way Bayern can buy him after his most recent comments. We’re trying to build a new defense under a new coaching staff, and the last thing anyone needs is trying to convince a guy who doesn’t even want to be here.

So, with the Coentrao move failing to take shape and van der Wiel apparently headed to England, Bayern remains in desperate need of defenders. Enter Rafinha, the Brazilian fullback who played with Genoa this past season. Rafinha played with Schalke for five years, helping them finish in the top 3 on 3 separate occasions and finish with the fewest goals allowed twice. His one year in Genoa has been apparently seen as something of a let-down, although it’s not without at least one pretty nice highlight:

I don’t think this would be a poor move, but I guess there are three things that worry me about it:

(1) Either Rafinha or Lahm would have to move to LB. Both currently play on the right side, and we presumably aren’t brining in Rafinha as a back-up, so one of them (likely Lahm) has to move to the left. That’s not a big problem, as Lahm has played on that side before and done well. He and Ribery actually play well together, so maybe those two will link up down the left flank to great effect. It’s definitely worth moving players around within the formation if the new guy is so good that we need to get him on the field right away. Maybe I’m just not 100% convinced that Rafinha qualifies.

(2) He certainly didn’t set the world on fire with Genoa. I don’t get a chance to watch a whole lot of Serie A, so I can’t claim to be an expert on the team or the league. But I do know what Rafinha played in front of Eduardo, who starts for Portugal’s World Cup/National side, and shared a back line with Domenico Criscito, the talented LB who starts on Italy’s World Cup/National side, and yet the defense still wasn’t that good. They allowed 52 goals in 41 games this season (Serie A plus Coppa Italia), about average for the league, and gave up 3 or more goals 7 times. Also, Rafinha spent some of the season playing in a midfield position rather than on the back line.

Now, it’s unclear that any of this should count as a black mark against Raf. The club’s defense could have been mediocre for any number of reasons, and perhaps he was asked to move up to play midfield due to someone else’s injury or whatever. But at the very least, it doesn’t actively inspire confidence that he’s what’s needed to fix our defense. I guess I have to trust our talent scouts, who know a hell of a lot more than I do, but it’s something of a concern.

(3) Most importantly, he still doesn’t solve our need for a new CB. Although it’s great to have guys in the back corners who can shut down the opponent’s wings and also provide some aggressive moves going forward, our biggest problem last year was opposing strikers tearing right through the center of our defense. This was a problem on breakaways and 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 plays, it was a problem on set pieces, and it was basically a problem all the damn time.

In short, picking up Rafinha could be a good move IF it’s combined with another move to bolster the CB spot. Maybe the idea is that substituting Raf for Coentrao would save up enough money to make a move for a great CB (Hummels, Boateng or Howedes). In that situation, we definitely come out on top, and would be one of the teams to beat in all of Europe next year. But if we pick up Rafinha and then call it a day, our defense is still going to be a big liability once August rolls around. Thanks for reading.