Holger Badstuber is no longer a part of Bayern Munich’s season. The centerback is going on loan to Schalke 04 for the next six months to gain some needed match fitness. He will return to the club over the summer, assuming he and the club sign the extension they’ve reportedly agreed to.
For Badstuber, this move is all upside. After a disastrous appearance against FC Rostov, the centerback has not been a factor in Carlo Ancelotti’s matchday plans despite an extended run of health. This represents his chance to resurrect his career and prove why he was considered one of the best centerbacks in the world at age 23. But this move is not without it’s complications for Bayern Munich.
But on a broader level, the playing time for Holger Badstuber was already available. To date this season, Bayern centerbacks (ie the quarter of Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez, Mats Hummels, and Badstuber) have notched 91% of the minutes at that position. Considering last season that same quartet (sans Hummels and plus Benatia) accounted for only 64% of the available minutes at that position, it’s definitely easier to say Bayern Munich has been healthier this season. Health is a fickle beast though.
For Bayern, this is a move they might come to regret this season. Jerome Boateng will be out for two months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. This leaves Bayern with Hummels, Martinez and a plethora of Guardiola-era makeshift centerbacks in David Alaba, Joshua Kimmich, and Philipp Lahm. Add Hummels and Martinez injury history over the past three seasons to that pile of facts, and you have a centerback corps that’s built on a sand foundation.
In the best case scenario, Boateng returns in March while Martinez and Hummels finish out the season splitting the remaining 5000 minutes of playing time as a group. However we live in the real world, and in Bayern language that means there is always a worst case scenario.
It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario than what happened last season for Bayern, so let’s assume that last season’s playing time splits is worst case scenario. From that, Bayern have to account for 2000 minutes of playing time at centerback between a combination of Alaba, Kimmich, and Lahm. That is the equivalent of playing without 2 of their 3 centerbacks for the remainder of the season.
If we split the difference and assume Bayern centerbacks play 80% of the remaining minutes, there likely over 1000 minutes for Carlo Ancelotti to allocate this season. Giving them all to David Alaba isn’t a bad scenario in that regard, but is that sufficient playing time that could have gone to Holger Badstuber?
If the intent behind shipping Badstuber off to Schalke is to get him as much playing time as is possible, ahead of all other concerns, then this move is understandable. But isn’t the team better served by Badstuber playing the equivalent of every other match and retaining the needed depth at centerback? That makes this a risky move for Bayern. And that’s not typically something they do.