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End of Robbery era at Bayern? Part 1: Potential Bundesliga replacements

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While the future for Ribery and Robben looks uncertain at Bayern, we take a look at how what potential replacements there are in the Bundesliga.

Julian Brandt (C) of Germany celebrates his first goal with teammates Timo Werner (L) and Sandro Wagner during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Germany and San Marino at Max Morlock Stadion on June 10, 2017 in Nuremberg, Bavaria.
Julian Brandt, Timo Werner, and Sandro Wagner.
Photo by Alexandra Beier/Bongarts/Getty Images

As the rumor mill churns on towards the summer, Bayern face a very real issue: how to progress with the winger situation. The contracts of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben expire in the summer and there is still no clarity on whether either of them will get extensions.

This has led to much speculation on who Bayern could sign in the summer, should one or both veterans be leaving the club.

The Current Situation

At the moment Bayern would be left with the following players to play on the wings: Kingsley Coman (Left and Right), Thomas Muller (Right), James Rodriguez (Left), and Juan Bernat (Left). Then as of next season Serge Gnabry (Left) should be back too.

While Bernat is an if-no-one-else-is-available option, James’s strongest position lies slightly more inside—simply because he has less speed. Müller has shown that he can produce from the right wing, but I believe his skills are better utilised coming from deep in the middle where he can branch out all over the pitch, including the right wing.

That leaves Coman and Gnabry as the future wing duo for next season, without any real internal solutions as back-ups. In this three-part series I will be looking at potential solutions from the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and other leagues.

I will go though some of the main players linked with Bayern, adding some others who I think should bear consideration. The format will be as follows:

Name - age - position - (games played in/ goals/ assists/ minutes played)

Followed by a brief analysis.

Bundesliga Replacements

Atalanta v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Europa League Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Christian Pulisic - 19 years old - Left/Right wing - (33/ 4/ 4/ 2344)

To start with, the youngest guy on the list, although it feels like he has been playing in Dortmund for ages. Continually linked with a move to Bayern by various pundits, he would also be welcomed with open arms by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as he drives forward Bayern’s international marketing.

Only problem: he has categorically said no to Bayern when asked previously. However, we have often seen that opinions can change in football—so why not also for Pulisic? While I think this is unlikely, Bayern would be getting in Pulisic a player with grit who doesn’t give up on any ball over 90 minutes. He definitely has a Bayern mentality, and with his top speed and drive towards goal he would be a great addition.

While his stats don’t look great this season, he managed 18 scorer points last year and you have to consider 2 things: BVB have had a weak season this year and Pulisic is still only 19 years old.

AS Monaco FC v Bayer 04 Leverkusen - UEFA Champions League Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Julian Brandt - 21 years old - Left/Right wing - (30/ 9/ 6/ 1989)

Strongly linked to Bayern last summer, Julian Brandt remains on the periphery of potential candidates for a number of reasons. He is young, German and breaking into the national team.

BUT the big question mark behind him has always been: is he good enough? He has good speed, is good at dribbling and has a good finish, but is he great or does he have the potential to be better at any of those things? In my opinion, the answer is no, and that is why he is not really a candidate for Bayern.

Leon Bailey of Leverkusen controls the ball during the Bundesliga match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04 at BayArena on February 25, 2018 in Leverkusen, Germany.
Leon Bailey
Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Leverkusen has two more players with potentially even greater potential: Kai Havertz (though I believe strengths lie more through the middle) and also possibly Leon Bailey. The problem with Bailey is that he relies excessively on his speed at the moment. That’s a fantastic basis to work from, but if he wants to be really good, he needs to improve in other departments.

For example, playing for Bayern you have fewer chances to counter-attack as for Leverkusen. This means less space to run into, so you need to be able to work through multiple players with speed but in smaller spaces. If Bailey can show he can do that or improve that skill, then he could be very interesting. Especially if he gets German citizenship to play for the national team, something he has been reportedly interested in.

Napoli v RB Leipzig - UEFA Europa League Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Timo Werner - 22 years old - Left wing (striker) - (34/ 17/ 5/ 2469)

Werner can play both off the wing and as a striker and is one of the most talented young German players of his generation. A team built around (from back to front) Niklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and potentially Werner would give Bayern Munich a German core that could last almost a decade.

As little bonus, Bayern could present a star player sponsored by one of their main partners: Adidas—thereby avoiding all of the drama of the last years over Nike shirts or trousers being worn to player presentations and shoe photographs from the changing room. Of course, this is not a major reason to sign a player, just more like the cherry on the icing of the cake.

Werner always seems to score, no matter what competition you put him in. I find his 6 goals and one assist in 9 Europa and Champions League games especially exciting. That’s the same amount as Robert Lewandowski and one more than Coman, Ribery and Robben combined. That is also one of the main criteria why I think that Werner would succeed at Bayern.

Whether you utilise Werner as a striker or a winger doesn’t take much away from how valuable he is to any team that he is in. He will probably lead Germany’s attack in the summer and Bayern would do well to sign him sooner rather than later, because his price tag will only increase.

The major drawback is Werner’s recent declaration that he will play in Leipzig next year, thus squashing speculation of a transfer in the summer—at least for now.

Analysis

The only player in the Bundesliga who could be an immediate improvement, in my opinion, is Timo Werner. While he might be the longterm replacement at the striker position, if or when Lewandowski leaves, bringing him in to the wing rotation would allow him to start to get a feel for the team.

Apart from that, Pulisic and Bailey are interesting but have too many question marks behind them, in addition to being too young. You can pick up a player between 22 and 26 and he will still need some time to grow into being a starter for Bayern. Taking players 20 or younger (which both Pulisic and Bailey are) requires too much time for development; I therefore would not consider either of them. They are better off at their respective clubs, taking their time to develop. They both have a great future ahead of them.

While Werner is already one of my favourites to add to the Bayern team, there are many more interesting players to come in the next two articles from this series. Part 2 will include analysis on Thauvin and Malcom and the Ligue 1, while Part 3 will look at the Premier League and others, even checking out the Chinese Super League.

Stats courtesy of transfermarkt.com