When Mats Hummels announced his departure from Bayern Munich to Borussia Dortmund last month, it left quite a few people in a state of surprise. Here was a World Cup-winning center-back abandoning his club for his former employers, and taking a pay cut to do so. Naturally, there were questions.
Speaking to the press ahead of Bayern’s upcoming summer tour, coach Niko Kovac was asked about Hummels’ reason for departure. The Croatian was blunt, and his answer (via Bild) doesn’t paint the former Bayern star in a favorable light:
Mats approached us and asked how things will stand in the new season. We acquired a new player in Lucas Hernandez for €80 million, who we see in the central defense. Competition means that the better man plays. Mats was of the opinion that he would prefer to step out of the way.
This account pretty much lines rubbishes the claim that Hummels was pushed out by Bayern — he’s the one who wanted the transfer, and the reason is understandable if not a bit disappointing. With Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard coming in, everyone knew that Hummels was going to ride the bench at Bayern next season — at best, he could expect a few appearances due to Lucas’ injury.
The truth about depth
The simple fact of the matter is that no team can have five starting-quality players for two playing spots (four of them World Cup-winners!) and expect them all to stick around. While we all expected Jerome Boateng to be the one to leave, given his clear displeasure at the lack of playing in the Rückrunde, it’s not at all surprising that Hummels ended up being the first to jump ship as soon as a suitable club came calling.
Good players don’t like competition. Everyone dreams of having four or five starting-quality players as backup, just in case one of the best starters goes down before a crucial Champions League fixture — but when you have that much competition for places, players may decide to leave instead of sticking around to “fight for their place.”