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BFW scouting report: a possible center-back signing bucket list for the winter window

Breaking down a list of players Bayern could possibly sign come the winter transfer window, to deputize for Niklas Suele and Hernandez’s injuries.

Hertha BSC v Fortuna Düsseldorf - Bundesliga for DFL
Niklas Stark of Hertha Berlin challenges Adam Bodzek of Fortuna Duesseldorf.
Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Sirens ringing — Bayern Munich is in the midst of an injury crisis. Both the club’s starting center-backs, Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez, are out with serious injuries, Süle possibly sidelined for the entire season. Bayern’s remaining (as of right now) center-backs are Benjamin Pavard and Jerome Boateng, not a bad makeshift defence at all, but one prone to errors. Also, one more injury in the defence department would definitely spell crisis, forcing the coach to call up Bayern U-21 youngsters Lukas Mai and/or Chris Richards to deputise.

For a club that wants to win it all, Bayern seems to be following a risky plan of action... unless Bayern move to purchase another quality center-back come winter! A winter transfer would bolster Bayern’s defensive depth and provide Kovac with another quality option at his disposal in case injuries persist or worsen (as they often do).

So without further ado, here is a list of center backs Bayern could potentially look to sign in the winter window:

1. Niklas Stark

1. FC Koeln v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Bongarts/Getty Images

Stark (23) is one of Germany’s mainstays as of late and is a key piece of the Hertha Berlin back line. Primarily a towering center back at 6’4”, he has also shown he can do a great job in defensive midfield, an asset Bayern may love to capitalize on. This season, he’s won 56.6% of his duels and a whopping 63.2% of aerial duels. He also has a very high average pass percentage of 89.7%, something that bodes very well for the rest of the Bayern squad.

Adding another top center-back would always be a problem for Bayern in the long run, when Süle and Hernandez return, but with Stark no such problem would arise, since he can also be moved to the defensive midfield, where Bayern is lacking a long-term player. Young, German, strong in the air, strong on the ground, and versatile, Niklas Stark is definitely the defender to sign this winter. Bayern has been linked with him in the past, and with a Transfermarkt value of €20 million (the actual value could be closer to €30 million), he would be a steal, considering everything he offers. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting a “Stark” in winter.

2. Dayot Upamecano

The young Frenchman, who currently plies his trade for RB Leipzig, is a defensive rock and has received frequent call-ups to the French National team. At 21 and standing 6”1, he is a regular starter for Leipzig and has a duel success of 67% this season, winning 66.7% of his aerial duels. Upamecano also has a praiseworthy 87.4% average passing accuracy this season, and given his age, all of these attributes will inevitably improve given his immense footballing intelligence, positional play, and timely clearances.

A transfer to another club seems even more likely now that Leipzig have an (arguably) better and younger center-back in Ibrahima Konaté (20), who has already caught the eye of top clubs across Europe with his brilliant performances. With a reported value of €40 million (Transfermarkt), Upamecano is well within the spending limits of the Bayern hierarchy and would be a great addition to the squad, which is stretched really thin in the defence at the moment.

3. Diego Llorente

RCD Espanyol v Real Sociedad - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The 26-year-old Spaniard is a mainstay in his club, Real Sociedad, and has been impressive in defence for both club and country this season. With a pass success rate of 87% and an average of 2.7 aerial duels won per game, Llorente has attracted various European clubs, including Liverpool and Tottenham. He featured in Sociedad’s 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the La Liga this season, and Spain has only conceded a single goal with him in defence in a span of 3 appearances. Llorente’s quality also comes at great value, with an estimated (Transfermarkt) price of €25 million. True, he isn’t very young and is most likely already at the prime of his career, but a move could only do good to Bayern — the addition of a quality center-back to bolster its defence (at a steal of a price).

4. Unai Nuñez

Nuñez, 22, rose to prominence recently after some very promising appearances for Athletic Bilbao in the La Liga and for the Spanish national team in the Euro U-21. At 6”1, the defender has some impressive stats already this season, with an average pass completion rate of 84% and an average of 2.9 aerial duels won per game. According to SPOX, he has already been scouted by Bayern, which could hint that the club is showing interest in bringing the Spaniard to Munich. He is valued at €15 million by Transfermarkt, but with his contract extending till mid 2023, the amount could be closer to €30m, but either way, he seems a great investment with regards to his age, skill and ceiling to develop. Not the experienced CB Bayern is looking for, but potentially a good signing regardless.

5. Moussa Niakhaté

Not generally mentioned in your lists of”‘the usual” Bayern center-back targets, Niakhaté (23) has been putting in some impressive shifts for Eintracht Frankfurt this season. The Frenchman has started in all 9 games for Frankfurt outfit, winning 56.9% of all duels, 57.5% of aerial duels and completing 85.9% of his passes. With an imposing 6’4” frame, he has become an indispensable part of the starting lineup, and for good reason. Although he is under contract till summer 2023, his Transfermarkt pricing of €14 million means the club could be lured into a transfer for something in the region of €25 million or lower. Niakhaté is still quite young and has ample time to develop, while his pace, tenacity and contribution in the air would be welcome assets. A wild card entry, sure, but a justified one at that.

Unlikely dream signings

These defenders have been linked to Bayern at some point, but a move to Munich seems unlikely, however much we fans might like to have them in the squad:

1. Samuel Umtiti

Barcelona’s defensive stalwart and an almost surefire starter for the French national team when fit, Umtiti (25) needs no introduction. The rock at the heart of the Catalan outfit’s defence, he is one of the most highly valued center-backs in world football. His addition would upgrade any squad in the world, and as much as we would all love to see him at Bayern (in line with the buy more Frenchmen policy!), his contract runs through 2023, and Bayern would have to shell out an astronomical fee (at least €100 million) for his signature. Couple that with the fact that Barcelona would be unwilling to let one of their best assets leave so early in the season, and we are looking at Mission Impossible 7.

2. Milan Skriniar

There is no club in the world that doesn’t want to transfer in Skriniar right now. The 24-year-old Slovakian is one of the best center-backs in the world and is rated extremely high by many football observatories, such as CIES. Although he would literally be the best center-back signing Bayern could engineer, his club, Inter Milan, will definitely not let him go without a fight, and a ferocious one at that. Even if Bayern somehow managed to convince Inter to let him leave, he would definitely cost over €100 million (an understatement). Given the conservatism of the Bayern board, this will be a HUGE if. A very unlikely transfer, but one that would almost guarantee an early Oktoberfest next year if successful.

An alternative: the youth

None of the above players in question would be required in Bavaria, if our youth center-backs step up their game this season. Bayern has long been facing difficulties in giving Bundesliga game time to its talented youth academy products, simply because of the top quality depth of our back line. But right now, as things have taken a nasty turn, would be the best time to give our youth center-backs the opportunity to rise to the occasion and prove their worth.

Lars Lukas Mai (19), is one of the most promising center-back talents to emerge from Bayern’s academy. He played two games under Jupp Heynckes in the 2017-18 Bundesliga season and looked very confident at his position. There’s definitely talent and potential in there and, with Bundesliga minutes, he could prove to be an extremely valuable asset for Bayern in the years to come. Chris Richards (19) is yet another quality youth option, and after he was recently included in the list of 10 Global Prospects in the FIFA U-19 World Cup, there is no denying his ability or skill. A few Bundesliga appearances could go a long way to help him bridge the gap between regular youth starter and a first team option.

If Kovac places his trust in the Bayern youth, and it reaps him rewards, this would be the best possible scenario for Bayern: no spending in defence (money that could prove useful next summer, with Havertz and Sane in mind), promoting quality talent from our youth teams and guaranteeing a strong future AND giving hope to other youth starlets to up their game. Such a move could prove a huge confidence-booster and prevent more Niklas Dorsch situations in the future.

True, this could prove risky, especially since injuries seem to be a never-ending theme at Bayern, but if this works out, Bayern will be the eventual winners, and the rewards would be massive.

Either way, here’s to hoping Bayern Munich come up with the best possible solution, so we can make a good run into the CL and compete for top spot in the Bundesliga yet again without leaking in too many goals. Mia san mia!

What do you think Bayern’s approach should be? Who would be your ideal CB transfer? Or would you deem it better if Bayern didn’t sign a player and gave its youth a chance instead? Let us know in the comments!

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