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Opinion: Bayern’s lack of January transfer activity will haunt them

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As major fixtures loom ahead, Bayern’s inaction on the trasnfer market is disappointing.

FC Bayern Muenchen v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Group E Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

With another January transfer window come and gone, fans of Bayern Munich have every right to be concerned going forward. As I was scrolling through Twitter this morning, angry that classes weren’t cancelled (-30ºF here with the wind chill — but I digress), I saw a tweet that perfectly encapsulated my feelings toward this transfer window:

Now, I know that the January transfer window isn’t always something that makes or breaks teams, but after a rocky first half of the 2018/19 campaign, it should have been clear that Bayern needed to bring in immediate reinforcements to prepare for the big matches ahead.

So what happened?

Below are all of Bayern Munich’s transfers in this window:

IN

  • Benjamin Pavard from VfB Stuttgart: €35 million; Signed for 5 years; arrives July 1st
  • Chris Richards: €1.1 million; signed for 4.5 years
  • Taylor Booth: undisclosed fee; 3.5 year deal

OUT

  • Sandro Wagner: €5 million to Tianjin TEDA

While the purchase of Richards and Booth bodes well for the future, the Bavarians needed to make moves that would impact THIS SEASON.

At one point in the fall, it seemed like every single position needed reinforcements. The defense looked slow and tired, the midfield looked uninspired, and despite his goal-scoring prowess, Robert Lewandowski looked like he could use some help at times.

And yet, after their overtures to certain targets (most notably Lucas Hernandez and Callum Hudson-Odoi) were rebuffed, the front office is seemingly content to sit on their pile of money without fixing the holes in this team. Looking back on who Bayern was linked with at each position, it baffles me that the club couldn’t sign ANYONE in this transfer window.


Defense

Some things are out of the club’s control, such as Stuttgart’s refusal to let Pavard go this January. But, that said, Bayern were linked with other interesting names and yet no rumors of offers were reported for any of them.

Many here, including myself, thought it would have been a long shot for Bayern to bring in Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid before next summer, and many outlets in Germany and Spain reported that a move in January was out of the question. But, as far as I’ve seen, Bayern did not attempt to accomplish even that. Rumors that the two sides might agree on a transfer meanwhile have gone stale.

But even besides Hernandez, Bayern were also linked with names like Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt and Inter Milan’s Martin Skirinar, but they did not attempt to sign any of them in the transfer window.

Going into the toughest part of the season with only three true center-backs, two right-backs and one left-back is extremely risky, especially given that three of those players are over the age of 30. There have also been serious questions about the inconsistent performances of two of those three center-backs, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.

If even one of those players go down, Bayern will undoubtedly feel the squeeze. Niko Kovac has few reinforcements on a back line that conceded the most goals of any team in the top four of the Bundesliga.

Central midfield

The club didn’t need to sign anyone in the midfield, and in recent games, the team has looked very consistent here. Thiago has been amazing distributing the ball, Leon Goretzka is creating more chances and scoring wonderful goals, and Thomas Müller has been a great leader for the younger players on this roster. Plus, the eventual return of Corentin Tolisso points to good things on the horizon for the Bavarians.

The only thing I might say was a downside in this transfer window was a feeling that an opportunity was missed. Frenkie de Jong slipped through Bayern’s fingers and is headed to Barcelona for €75 million. In addition to de Jong, Die Roten were also linked with star midfielders Adrien Rabiot and Christian Eriksen, only for nothing to materialize. A lack of movement on the Kai Havertz front was also disappointing, but the club will have another opportunity to try and capture his signature this summer.

Wings and forwards

It is in the final third, so to speak, that Bayern’s winter transfer window disappoints the most.

Farewell, Sandro

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t too impressed with Sandro Wagner, but his transfer to Tianjin TEDA this move should have been early in the window so that a suitable replacement could be found. Bayern are now forced to deal with the reality that if Lewandowski goes down with an injury [knocks on wood, turns around three times and spits] they will have to look to Müller, Serge Gnabry, or the reserves to replace him.

It’s not as if Bayern have not been looking to sign another attacking option. Ante Rebic has been linked with a move to Bavaria ever since Kovac joined. And the German champions have been favorites to win the Timo Werner sweepstakes for the last two years. Links with Luka Jovic and a brief hope the club would sign Alvaro Morata on a loan deal add up to an abundance of evidence pointing to Bayern’s hope of signing a backup striker.

Yet somehow, no deals were able to materialize.

Stagnation on the wings

Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity for Bayern was signing American starlet Christian Pulisic to reinforce the offense on the wings. It may have taken a lot to convince the 19-year-old to join his current club’s biggest rival, but Bayern was always among the front runners to sign him before he agreed to join Chelsea this summer.

Failing to sign him is a blow not only to Bayern, but also to the Bundesliga as a whole. More Americans will now be watching the English Premier League on NBC instead of Fox’s coverage of the German top flight. Signing Pulisic could have had a similar effect to James Rodriguez’s joining the club. Instead, Pulisic will swap black and yellow for royal blue, and Bayern will have lost yet another chance to sign a young talented star.

But even young attacking talent like Cengiz Under seemed unattainable for Kovac and Company as clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United joined the race to sign the young Turkish player linked with Bayern since the fall.

Chasing moving goalposts

And then there’s the Callum Hudson-Odoi saga.

The will-he, won’t-he feelings inspired by these protracted negotiations drove fans mad. Hudson-Odoi said he wanted to leave Chelsea and rejected the new contracts they offered him, while Chelsea rejected four different offers from Bayern until they ruled out a move this January entirely — and now even a summer transfer may fall apart.

For me, this was the death of any hope of a new signing this winter. No player was more strongly linked with a move to Munich and yet, Chelsea refused to budge. There’s always the possibility that CHO could force a move this summer, but we’ll have to wait until then to see if anything changes.


And so, yet another transfer window has passed Bayern by without any significant signings. The next five matches should be a good test for the squad, with tough fixtures against Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke, two ties with Hertha Berlin and the first leg of the UCL at Anfield against Liverpool looming.

I don’t know about you, but I’m apprehensive about how well the squad will do, and given the club’s resources I’m surprised that they couldn’t bring anyone in. To paraphrase our own Ineednoname, “€200 million in the bank doesn’t win games.”

A transfer in this window could have been the shot in the arm to galvanize this team and get them ready for the tough road ahead. If anything, it seems like a missed opportunity to jump-start the changes needed on this team. The club may regret it.