The January transfer deadline is only two days away, and it will mark FC Bayern’s last chance to strengthen the club for the spring/summer campaign for silverware. Climb aboard for a discussion of the available transfer targets, both this week and in the summer, followed by some scattered irrelevancies and programming notes.
For most of early January, it seemed as though the Bayern brain trust (Uli, Christian Nerlinger, KHR) were solidly in the “maybe” camp on bringing in new transfers. Uli repeatedly stated that the club was strong as it was, but would never flat-out refuse to ackwowledge the possibility of bringing in help. Then, with last week’s “Signing a new striker!” scam, it appeared FC Bayern was done in the transfer market. Whoever was on our roster would be the guys we’d go to war with for the rest of the 2011-2012 season. But then, in the aftermath of the fan anger at the striker-signing joke, a rumor leaked that Bayern might be considering raiding Real Madrid for CB Pepe. This indicated that we might be back into the “maybe” column (or it was possibly just a chance to assuage supporter anger by making it seem like the club was considering something).
The following are players that Bayern is rumored to have been looking at, either during this transfer period, or for the summer. So for each, consider that the player in question as a possible Bayern target in the future, even if not in the next 2 days.
The Belgian defender has several valuable attributes - he’s tall, he’s good with the ball in the air, and he has a smooth running stroke for a big guy. He has pretty good technique and is as likely to draw a foul as get called for one. I look at him as basically a van Buyten type, but with better pace and lateral quickness and not quite as much muscle. He’s also young (only 24, despite being the Ajax captain).
Take a look at some highlights (might want to hit “mute” unless you’re a Linkin Park fan):
The only drawbacks I could see about JV are: first, would he be good enough to replace Badstuber - and if not, would be be happy as a back-up? And second, how much would he cost, knowing that Arsenal, Spurs, and maybe even Manchester United are also looking at him?
Ajaz management has indicated that they are open to the possibility of selling Vertonghen. His contract expires next year, and they’d rather cash in now than let him walk for nothing in a year. Two weeks ago, the word was that he might be had for € 12-15 million in the summer, but the price would probably higher to get him tomorrow, with Ajax preferring to keep him for the next 6 months, and also with so many top-level teams expressing an interest.
My take: I think there’s an excellent chance we might get Vertonghen … this summer. Which really stinks, because we could use him now.
A 20-year old Albanian currently playing with Basel, we’ll get a good look at Shaqiri in the next few weeks no matter what - if we don’t buy him, we face him the the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Shaqiri plays mostly on the wing, where his speed and shiftiness have proven valuable for both Basel and the Swiss national team. In fact, he led his entire group in Euro Qualifiers with 4 goals.
As far as talent, Shaqiri is in the upper-crust; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him recognized as one of the best wingers in the world over the next few years. And given his age and the fact that Basel is the only club he’s ever played for, he would (maybe) be OK with serving as a back-up to Ribery and Robben for the next year or two, especially considering how often they get hurt and suspended.
Aside from the fact that he’s cup-tied and couldn’t help us in the Champions League, Shaqiri (from what I’ve seen) is a Ribery or Robben-type winger. He’s quick, he has good dribbling moves, and he can cut in from the side to unleash a shot. Which is great, and it’s worked well for us in the past, but I do wonder what it would be like to bring in a traditional winger who can hug the sideline and send in a deadly cross from time-to-time. I understand endlessly floating crosses into the box doesn’t make for exciting football … at the same time, doing a bit of that might mix it up and keep opposing defenses off guard. All of our wings are either players who play with speed and sharp dribbling (Ribery, Robben, Pranjic, if ever gets back into the line-up) or central middies and strikers who are being moved to the side due to injury (Müller, Kroos). I do sometimes wonder what it would be like if we had an Ashley Young or Stewart Downing type who could drop in a perfect cross from the side. It might open things up for Gomez a bit more, and also worry the defense, because you have to mark the guy even when he’s burrowed into the corner.
Anyway, this is getting rather far afield from Shaqiri. I think he’s a great player and I’d be excited if we got him. Even though he can’t play in the CL, he’d be useful in the other two competitions, and maybe allow Robben to rest in domestic play and stay fresh for UEFA play.
Since this rumor was first floated, several people have written in to say it will never happen. I tend to agree, but enough sources mentioned it that I figured it’s worth addressing.
Pepe is a tough, strong defender who has experience against he best forwards in the world. He’s also something of a jerk, known for hard fouls and cheap shots. First, on his ability: I think he’d be an immediate upgrade at CB, and could pair with either Badstuber or Boateng to give us a huge advantage defensively. As to his behavior … on the one hand, I’m inclined to say “we don’t need that at Bayern.” Not only from a pride standpoint, but even due to his likelihood to amass cards and give away penalties. But then, you have to consider the fact that kicking, elbowing, stomping, etc. are probably far more pervasive than anyone would like to admit. It will always get replayed a thousand times when it’s in a huge match (like Real-Barca in a cup competition, where everything is followed by a dozen cameras). But even in slightly less important fixtures, the stakes are high these days. Any match in one of the big four European leagues has a lot on the line. When you consider titles, CL and Europa League spots, possible relegation, bonuses for making each round of a cup competition - it’s not a big exaggeration to say most matches played these days are million-dollar affairs. With that kind of money on the line, guys will do whatever they can to get an advantage. While the stamp on Messi was disgusting, and certainly went too far, some degree of post-whistle bumping and elbowing will always be a part of the game these days, unfortunately.
So, again I’ve taken the opportunity to wander off on a tangent. As far as Pepe - I’d prefer Vertonghen, due to his age, his presumably lower price of acquisition, and the fact that the officials would be looking to stick it to Pepe from the first moment of his arrival. But we could definitely need a new defender, and if Pepe came tomorrow, I wouldn’t complain.
After the Neuer move, I figured there was no was Höwedes could be sold to Bayern as well. But, surprisingly, a few whispers over the course of January make it seem like this could be an outside possibility.
In my estimation, he’s ahead of anyone else on our list (even Pepe) in ability. His technique is excellent, he can shut down fast dribblers in one-on-one situations, and he can play CB from the left side or the right. Höwedes has another advantage as well: unlike the other three, he’s not cup-tied, meaning he could step in and give us something in all competitions right away.
Schalke would obviously prefer to keep their captain, and selling him to Bayern would be doubly bad. But, their club is carrying a debt of over € 100 million. If we made them a huge offer - meaning an astronomical figure, € 25 million or more - you have to think they’d at least think twice.
Now, Bayern doesn’t usually splash that kind of cash. But we’re sitting on a good amount of money, and we have a chance to win trophies this year - including the biggest trophy of them all, on our home field. If ever there was a time to make a crazy-big move, this was it.
Anyway, it’s unlikely, but I’m still holding out hope. And if this Tuesday’s deadline passes without a major move from Bayern, I’ll confess to being a bit disappointed. Either way, though - first place in the Bundesliga, still alive in both cup competitions - you have to admit things are looking better than last season.
MOVE REVIEW SECTION
** Spoiler Alert**
If you don’t live in North America, you probably haven’t seen the endless commercials for The Grey, a new movie starring Liam Neeson. They’ve been advertising it endlessly during NFL and NHL games. So, if you haven’t heard of it, or if you’re going to see it later and don't want to ruin it, feel free to ignore this part. Actually, the rest of the post is pretty irrelevant, so just stop reading now.
Alright, are you ready?
They don’t even SHOW him hitting the fucking wolves with the broken glass! They don’t even show it! I mean, it was a complete fake job. People were sitting in the theater, looking at each other, like “what the hell???” I’m considering a class-action suit against the film studio, alleging false advertising and fraudulent business practices. If you want in, e-mail me.
Hey guys, I’m going to stay out of the comment section for the next few weeks. My presence in answering criticism doesn’t seem to calm anyone down, and in fact may be making things worse. So I’ll try to keep writing new posts often (before and after every match, obviously, as well as some mid-week stuff), but I’m going to stay above the comment line. If you guys want to turn that section into a sewer of anger and profanity, be my guest.
If you want Luke back so bad, e-mail him and see what he’s doing. Honestly, he probably got tired of the aggravation. Can’t say I’d blame him.
I’ll still be responding to emails at email@example.com and maintaining the twitter feed at http://twitter.com/bayern_offside, if you have questions, story ideas, or anything else to share. Back tomorrow or Tuesday with some photo breakdown from the win over VfL. Thanks for reading.