December 1st, 2012. Hold on a second. (Carry the number. Drop the decimal place. Correct the cell error.) Yep, eighteen months.
It's now been eighteen months since Holger Badstuber played in a competitive match for Bayern Munich. It was a full sixteen months since he'd trained or kicked soccer ball in any shape or form that didn't involve closely monitoring physios or doctors. His return to the pitch this month was met with measured skepticism, worry, and a very real concern over whether he could return to being one of the best centerbacks in Germany.
There was so much doubt, combined with Bayern Munich's problems in defense late last season, that buying a new centerback was reportedly a top priority for the club. Rumors had them chasing the best talent in Europe from the likes of Mehdi Benatia in Rome to Ezequiel Garay in Lisbon. For a while, they were almost ceaseless as rumors hit the wire day-after-day.
Fast forward through a World Cup and one month of training and the tune around the team has completely changed. In a press conference today, Pep Guardiola announced that his squad was complete with the exception of adding a third goalkeeper. After two friendlies and Holger Badstuber's first performances, Pep Guardiola thinks he has the centerback depth necessary to win every trophy available to them.
Think about that. Going into the offseason, Badstuber was enough of a question mark while the presence of Javi Martinez, Dante, and Jerome Boateng was not enough to guarantee trophies. Now there's no question. After two friendlies and three weeks of training, Holger Badstuber has done enough to impress Pep Guardiola that BILD's recent report that Guardiola was overheard saying Badstuber was the best defender he's ever worked with might not be so far fetched. While that specific report is behind a paywall, the details available on other sites about the report are sketchy and circumspect enough that we should really doubt the veracity of those claims. However, despite all that, given Guardiola's public statements to that effect regarding Philipp Lahm last summer, the idea is plausible, and perhaps even likely, in my mind.
Or maybe this is just wistful thinking and buying into a narrative being sold by a tabloid (admittedly, a very good tabloid by most standards) wanting to sell clickables. But we have dreams...
Holger Badstuber may legitimately be back. He's only 25 and has a contract that runs through the 2017 season. And, he has two years of mashing European strikers in the face to catch up on. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Europe.