After Saturday’s battering of St. Pauli, Bayern fans can rest assured that Champions League play is in the cards for next year. As we discussed, there’s still a chance that we could finish second in the Bundesliga, and thereby avoid the final qualifying stage, but that’s pretty doubtful. We would have to beat VfB Stuffgart (which will probably happen) and Leverkusen would have to lose outright to SC Freiburg (much less likely - Freiburg knows they’re going to finish mid-table and have little to play for). But, at the very least, this will assure a spirited finish from our side. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see another performance like this past weekend’s.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill keeps churning, and today it churns out something bitter: speculation that Manuel Neuer may end up with Manchester United. The venerable goal.com leads off the speculation (of course), saying that Bayern and Schalke have failed to reach an agreement on price. Now, if it were just goal.com, I’d be inclined to ignore it, but several other outlets have issued reports today as well (all of them appear to be working from the same Bild story, though): SkySports, the UK’s Daily Mail, and Eurosport.com all indicate that a Neuer-to-Bayern deal is no longer a sure thing, with Manchester United usually listed as the interloper.
Our seminal Neuer post looked at the numbers closely and decided that he would be a great pick-up. Now, the question is … how good? 20 million Euro worth of good? Yeah, probably. 25 million? That’s a huge chunk of money, but given our need to cut down on goals against, I’d say yes. The Daily Mail says that Schalke wants 35 million pounds, which is over 40 million Euro. That’s a ridiculous valuation that Bayern would rightfully refuse to pay, but of course this is how negotiations work - each side starts with a low-ball or insanely high figure and they slowly meet in the middle.
Let’s put those numbers aside for a second and start with some foundational facts:
- Schalke will almost certainly sell Neuer. They’re deeply in debt and need the money. Because he wouldn’t sign a new contract, he can leave after next season on a free transfer. Would they give up the chance to cash in on an 8-figure pay day just to have one more year of Neuer? Doubtful.
- Because of his proven skill and relative youth, only a few teams would be able to considering signing Neuer. Even by a modest valuation, Schalke can command a lot of money for him, and he wouldn’t want to go to a middling club anyway. So the suitors are limited to the truly rich contenders in European football.
- Most of these big, wealthy clubs are already set at keeper. Of the 9 or 10 big boys of Europe, the only ones who would consider bringing in a new GK at a big price tag are Bayern, Manchester United, and maybe Arsenal. But Arsenal doesn’t usually break the bank to make big-ticket purchases like this. So it’s probably down to us, Man U, and maybe some nouveau riche club that wants to make a splash (isn’t Blackburn now owned by some guy with more money than good sense?).
So, Schalke’s motivation is clear: they want to lock Bayern and Man U into a bidding war, with each club willing to pay progressively more to get Neuer. Conversely, Bayern and Man U each want to keep the bidding down. In order to do that, on or both of us need to identify other GK targets - either to pick up in case a Neuer deal doesn’t work out, or to pretend we’re interested in until Schalke brings the price down.
Enter David de Gea and Heinz Müller. de Gea is the current starter for Atletico Madrid, and the goal.com article has Sir Alex interested in him. Heinz Müller is the current Maiz ‘keeper, and the Daily Mail lists him as our alternate. Expect to hear these two names a lot over the next few weeks, although most of that will probably subterfuge and misdirection. Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping our eye on the ball: Neuer is definitely leaving Schalke, he’s probably coming to Bayern, and the price is going to be huge. The only question is how huge, and is there a number that Manchester United would pay but Bayern would not? IE, if Schalke is willing to sell for 20 million Euro, Bayern will scoop him up. If Schalke says “no deal for less than 40 million Euro” (and actually sticks to it), they wouldn’t find a deal at all. Is there a price point somewhere around 34 million Euro where Manchester United would sign on the dotted line and KRH would not? No one knows, but the question will sell a lot of newspapers over the next month.
Some Monday odds and ends:
- VfB Stuttgart’s Cacau underwent season-ending surgery, so he’ll miss the match vs. us this weekend.
- The Coentrao-to-Bayern story is back on. I’m going to try to ignore this until either we sign him or don’t. Goal.com, who announced the move as a done deal two months ago, are now saying that we’re “closing in.”
- Finally, during Saturday’s game, there was a play in which St. Pauli’s RW had the ball near the touch-line, made a move upfield to get past Contento, and Contento was forced to grab him and sort of pull him down. The English-speaking announcer (I had the ESPN 3 feed) referred to this as an “agricultural foul.” Does anyone know what this means? Is that a reference to the fact that Contento pulled him down into the grass, with “agricultural” referring to the plant-life onto which they fell? Or was Contento reminiscent of a tractor or some other farm implement in the way in which he plowed under his opponent? Or if there some other explanation for this term? If you’ve ever heard this term before and can explain it, please do so in the comments, or you can e-mail us as firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.