The worst-kept secret in the world of football – where Pep Guardiola will be coaching next season – was finally made public when Manchester City made it official that the Catalan super-coach was coming to the Etihad for the 2016/17 season. Of course, to nobody's surprise, the rumors about which players Guardiola will lure to Manchester started about 10 seconds after that.
Reports in the English papers speak of an alleged €200 million war chest that will be available for Pep to use as he pleases. The names of some of the best players in Europe are on a supposed wish list, which, along with Juventus Paul Pogba, and even Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Neymar, also include Bayern Munich players Robert Lewandowski, David Alaba, and Thiago Alcantara.
Should Bayern be worried their stars might succumb to the combination of outrageous salaries in the Premier League and Guadiola's siren call, and follow the coach to his new digs? Well, not really, and here's why:
Pep said he's not going to
In the last press conference of 2015, after announcing that he was not extending his stay at Bayern and would like to move to the Premier League, he made a joke about taking all the players with him to England. He then turned serious though, and assured the reporters that he had no plans to lure them to England. "These players need to stay here, at Bayern," he said.
Can the Spaniard be believed? There's little reason to doubt that he meant what he said, as the coach appears to be a man of his word.
Although the sample size is small, Guardiola didn't try to entice any significant Barcelona players to Munich. Even though Lionel Messi wouldn't have been a realistic target anyway, he never attempted to bring players such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi, or Sergio Busquets over. The sole exception was Thiago Alcantara, who followed his former coach to Bavaria, but this was a case of a frustrated young player who was not getting playing time at Barca, not an established starter (although Barcelona would have undoubtedly wanted to keep him). This would be similar to someone like Joshua Kimmich or Sebastian Rode leaving for more playing time.
Contrary to how the English and Spanish sports media portray them, it is an indisputable fact that Bayern is not a selling club. They are one of the "big boys", arguably the most financially stable organization in world football, and have a history of not selling star players if they don't want to. Truth is, losing a player that the club really wants to keep doesn't happen very often.
Only Michael Ballack (left on a free transfer to Chelsea), Toni Kroos (sold to Real Madrid with one year left on his deal, after it became clear he would not sign an extension) and Owen Hargreaves (sold to Manchester United) are the noteworthy names to leave over the last ten years. One could add Bastian Schweinsteiger to the list, but the Bayern legend was on the wrong side of 30, appeared to be increasingly injury prone, and, with the glut of able midfielders on the roster, was easily replaceable.
Recent contract extensions
The club's sporting director, Matthias Sammer, and Bayern's chairman, Karl Heinz Rummenigge, have both repeatedly assured anyone who will listen that Bayern is a buying, not a selling club, and has no plans to unload any of their core players. When asked about players following Guardiola, Rummenigge said in no uncertain terms, "I can rule that out."
As part of their strategy to counter clubs trying to raid their roster with suitcases full of cash, Bayern have quietly been signing all their top performers to long-term extensions (Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng, Javier Martinez, Thiago Alcantara), coupled with signing more recent new players to maximum five-year deals (Lewandowski, Douglas Costa). This gives them the upper hand in any attempt to lure a player away, by being able to insist on fulfilling the contract.
So, what about Alaba?
Notably absent from the above lists are three big names: Mario Götze (contract through 2017), Holger Badstuber (also 2017) and Alaba (2018). Of these three, the Austrian international is arguably constitutes the most desirable target for other big clubs, due to his age (23), his impressive experience, his versatility and, though very accomplished already, his future potential.
When recently asked about finishing his career at Bayern, Alaba was understandably non-committal, saying, "I don't look that far in the future, I'm more of a person that sets short-term goals." If people want to interpret that as a hint that he is ready to leave, he was also quoted just last week as saying "Everyone who's ever been at Bayern, knows how good the club is, that you feel like a part of a family here. Every player is grateful that he is able to play for Bayern. Munich is a great place for me."
Relax, Bayern fans
Bayern management has been diligent in binding most of their key players to long-term deals, and have shown they won't be swayed, even by obscene amounts of money, if they really don't want to lose one of their team. And since it's not Pep's style to raid his former team's roster, it appears that the fans will continue to be able to admire their young core of players in Bayern red for the foreseeable future.