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Exploring life after Lewy [part 2]: international pedigree

With Bayern Munich strategically getting younger, when will Robert Lewandowski have to give up his place and who could follow? A look at the international options.

FC Bayern Muenchen v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

With two of the top three strikers from last season having left the Bundesliga in less than a year, the signs potentially look bad for Bayern. Add to that Bayern’s ongoing rejuvenation of the squad and we have to ask ourselves...could it be time for Robert Lewandowski (29 years-old) to go?

While this seems a bit far fetched, there will come a time where it becomes relevant to talk about who will succeed Lewy. In part one we looked at the German options. In Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) the Bundesliga has one high-potential candidate, who seems to fit the profile they are currently recruiting: young, German and talented.

The one big negative for Werner may be that he is not a classic no. 9 and rather fits the profile of a winger at Bayern. With that in mind we will check out potential options for life after Robert Lewandowski from outside the Bundesliga. As mentioned before, the profile I will be looking at is young (20-26), talented, able to lead from the front and someone who has established themselves to a Bayern standard.

The top dog: Harry Kane

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

There are so many reason why this won’t happen, but because Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur is currently the highest scoring player in Europe, he has to be on the list. Not only that, but having played as captain for Tottenham and his national team, he has shown the necessary mentality to lead a front line. That international pedigree mixed with Kane’s age (only 24), makes him the dream candidate for every top team in Europe—including, of course, Bayern who are looking for a no. 9 to lead their next generation team.

Why this won’t happen:

  • First of all Kane doesn’t seem done with Tottenham. In an article with The Player’s Tribune he recently said this:

I picture myself lifting the Premier League trophy at our new stadium with my mates. I’d trade the next 100 goals for that feeling.

  • Secondly, English players don’t often leave the Premier League. There have been a few who have recently come to the Bundesliga on loans to improve, but they will go back once they get a chance at a starting role. The only English player to have an impact at Bayern was Owen Hargreaves, born in Canada. He made his move to European football by moving to Bayern.
  • The third point is simple: cost. At an estimated £200 million he would be more expensive than a top starting lineup for Bayern: Neuer (£27mil), Alaba (own youth), Hummels (£31.5mil), Boateng (£12.15mil), Kimmich (£7.65mil), Martinez (£36mil), Thiago (£22.5mil), Ribery (£27mil), Müller (own youth), Robben (£21.6mil), Lewandowski (out of contract). All of those guys together cost £185.4mil and Bayern pride themselves in making sound business decisions. I don’t think £200mil for one player falls into that category.

Why this could happen:

  • I admit that you always have to take what players say with a pinch of salt. So that takes the steam out of what Kane said.
  • Bayern could feel the need to make a statement signing (not likely though).

The hype-player: Mauro Icardi

Spal v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Like the other two players I picked out, Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan was born in 1993. He is also the captain of his team, leadership is something that I think will be invaluable when replacing Lewy (captain of the Polish national team). He also has similar stats scoring 18 in 22 games, Lewy has 19 in 21.

Icardi is a hype player because he has continually been linked to a move from Inter. His agent has claimed that “Icardi will be the summer’s big transfer.” We all know that agents like to talk, but Icardi seems to be the real deal rather than a one hit wonder. This season may be his 4th in a row where he will finish with 20 or more scorer points.

He can sit on the back line of defenders or come from deep to set up others. He is good in the air and with his right foot. Sometimes he seems a bit too playful with the ball, but he is a pretty complete striker.

Why this won’t happen:

  • Bayern have recently taken to focussing on European talent, after South American players such as Sosa and Breno, and arguably Douglas Costa, didn’t do so well.
  • Another reason why I call Icardi a hype player is that, after watching tape on him I am not 100% convinced. He seems really good but is he something special?
  • For the third point we come back to price. In this heated market he will probably cost between 100-150mil (judging by the cost of Dembele and Neymar, he probably falls somewhere in between). As per the previous point, it is questionable whether he is worth that much, or whether Bayern are even prepared to spend that much on one player.

Why this could happen:

  • Icardi has been playing in Europe for over 10 years, starting in the Barcelona youth academy, he is therefore not going to have the settling in problems other South Americans had, especially with our large Spanish contingent there to help.
  • If you believe his agent, he seems to be open to a move and fits the profile.
  • He is cheaper than Harry Kane, while he still has a lot of quality.

The underdog: Andrea Belotti

Torino FC v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

This is perhaps my favourite option. “The Rooster” (as he is nicknamed) is more of a bull. Similar to the two strikers above, Andrea Belotti of Torino FC is also the captain of his side, and when you watch him play you can see why. Probably stronger than Lewandowski with a low center of gravity, Belotti is always battling for the ball and never seems to give up on it.

This is what Bayern should be looking for. Players with top mentality AND the necessary ball skills. To be fair, this year Belotti is having a dreadful season, scoring only 8 in 21 games, while assisting another 3. These are stats similar to his first season where he scored 12 and set up 6 in 37 games. Doesn’t seem like someone who could lead the Bayern attack? Well maybe he is.

First of all you have to consider that this season he had to deal with two knee injuries that forced him to miss 6 games. That will always influence your numbers. Last season though, where Belotti was mostly healthy, he scored a whopping 28 goals/ 8 assists in 38 games. And all the while you have to consider that he is playing for a team that does not have the quality to get the most out of him.

Why this won’t happen:

  • If Torino insist on the 100mil that has been talked about, Bayern could shy away.
  • Having been strongly linked to AC Milan, if they sign Belotti first he is off the market.
  • Related to the previous point: even if Bayern are there first, “The Rooster” may prefer to stay in Italy, having never played abroad before.

Why this could happen:

  • Price: although could be as expensive as 100mil, other reports say he could go for as little as 20mil due to an off season and no chance to shine in the World Cup. While the truth is probably somewhere in between those two numbers, scoring him for 50-60mil (potentially less) would be a typical Bayern move.
  • In recent years Bayern have had good experiences with italian strikers (Luca Toni), and could hope that Belotti has a similar impact. Conversely, it might also be an incentive for Belotti to see that an Italian striker also did very well at Bayern.
  • He fits the profile: young, European, talented and a leader.
  • Besides Milan, lots of clubs wanted him and have been linked to him. If Bayern were to get him, could be a prestigious signing at a bargain price—at least relatively speaking.

The Lowdown

So what is the current situation Bayern face while looking for a replacement in the future? At the moment, one of the biggest concerns has to be the heated market, which is drives clubs to make the kind of signings that go against everything Bayern have always said they stand for: good business.

The market for the type of player Bayern need at number 9 isn’t very big. While there may be a lot of talented young players, Bayern is not a development club. They need someone who can come in an take responsibility. That takes the right mentality, which is why all three of my choices are captains of their respective squads. Similarly they have to show that they can perform, which all three have. Unfortunately, Kane doesn’t seem to be an option, which leaves Icardi and Belotti.

Belotti is the cheaper option who, unlike Icardi, seems to have more talent left to unlock—having only played for an upper-mid-table side until now. That, combined with his bullish and unrelenting nature make him a very attractive option—if the injuries don’t become a concern. Since Italy will miss the World Cup this summer, he could also fly under the radar of a lot of teams, allowing Bayern to push the price down further and get a good deal: the opposite to Renato Sanches basically.

The real question is this: is it worth waiting, or should Bayern cash in on Lewandowski now and push on the rejuvenation of the squad? With no other Bundesliga team having any top goal scorers at the moment (except maybe Dortmund with Batshuayi), Bayern have time to rebuild the squad and enough talent in the existing squad to support a new young striker. At the same time they would probably still be a lock for winning the double.

Oh and speaking of Michy Batshuayi, if he continues to perform so well (3 goals/ 1 assist in 2 games), Bayern should perhaps consider picking him up in the summer. It’s not as if Dortmund have the option of signing him permanently...

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