In an article that should not come as a shock to fans of Bayern Munich, Bild (via sportbuzzer.de) reports that the club’s top brass — specifically the quartet of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeness, Hasan Salihamidzic, and Niko Kovac all consider Niklas Sule to be the club’s primary starter in defense going forward. This is part of a campaign to slowly rejuvenate an aging squad by giving younger players larger roles in the first team.
For anyone wondering why this is a big deal, let’s recap — for the last six years, Jerome Boateng has been a mainstay in the Bayern defense. He’s won a treble and a World Cup and is generally considered to be one of the best center backs in the world. His partner, Mats Hummels, is not far behind on the trophies department, and these days he’s considered an even better defender than Boateng due to the latter being hampered by injury. That management are willing to break up such a storied and experienced duo for a youngster like Niklas Sule is not shows the confidence they have in the 22 year old, but also demonstrates how serious they are about this “rejuvenation”.
What does this mean for the squad?
Not much, yet. Anyone who has watched Sule over this past year could tell you that he’s one of the best young defenders in the world right now, alongside the likes of Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane. Hummels’ position should be safe for now — despite Sule’s meteoric rise, he’s only one guy. Javi Martinez’s situation doesn’t change — he’s a defensive midfielder who fills in as a part-time CB. It’s Boateng who has to be worried.
Learning lessons from Robbery
Boateng has already been fighting an uphill battle against injuries for several seasons now. Without consistent playing time, his form has withered and been on a consistent decline. Once he had hardly any competition, but now he has to deal with the fact that Bayern have not one, but two center backs ready to leapfrog him in the pecking order. Hummels arguably did so long ago, and Sule has narrowed the gap down to nothing.
Sule’s promotion up the pecking order good for the squad, as it means that we’ll have younger, hungrier players in first XI positions. Bayern’s reluctance to let go of older, experienced players has led to our current debacle with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, and it’s good to see management becoming proactive and taking some of the lessons learned to heart.
Is Boateng’s era over?
Boateng, of course, still has a lot to offer to the team. There are still a few things he has over Sule, such as his unparalleled ball-distribution and half-a-dozen years of chemistry with his teammates, but it’s really not enough. Sule has explosive pace that Boateng nowadays lacks, he is a monster in the air, and he rarely makes mistakes. While he is inexperienced, his quality of play cannot be ignored.
It gets worse. The report by Bild even suggested that the only reason Boateng was played against Drochtersen/Assel was to help the club find a buyer for him, something that has looked increasingly unlikely.
Boateng is still a world class center back and Bayern have nothing to lose by keeping him, but unless he gets a handle on his form and injury situation, he might realistically see himself completely sidelined by Sule in the near future.
Should Niklas Sule be considered one of Bayern’s starting center backs?
This poll is closed
Yes, he is ready.
No, Hummels and Boateng are still better.