From high profile signings to low priced gems, a large part of Bayern Munich’s success is widely due to their exceptional dealings in the transfer window. With club football and economics further strengthening their bond in the 21st century, I thought it would be a fun idea to rank Bayern Munich’s best signings this century.
First off let’s establish the criteria:
- Most importantly, this is not an article ranking the overall best players Bayern has bought since 2000. Success on the pitch plays a huge part, but equally important is overall value for money. Also, this article takes into consideration how the prices of football players have drastically changed. For example, today, Roy Makaay’s price tag of 19,75 million euros in 2003 almost seems minuscule. In reality, this was only 7 million euros less than the most expensive transfer of the 2003 transfer window, David Beckham to Real Madrid.
- The player had to play first-team football before going to Bayern. This means players such as Toni Kroos and David Alaba are excluded from this article.
- I have decided to leave out players who played for Bayern less than two full seasons as it is difficult to evaluate their impact. Hence, players such as Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry won’t be included in this article.
- No loanee’s will be considered in this ranking.
Honourable mentions: Mats Hummels, Zé Roberto, Ivica Olić and Niklas Süle.
20. Mario Gómez for 30€ million from VfB Stuttgart (2009)
Gómez’s arrival meant that Bayern had spent 30 million euros for the second time on a single player. While Franck Ribéry’s name will forever echo in Bayern history, Gómez’s high-profile signing proved to be less successful. Still, winning the golden boot one season and the Champions League another while scoring 75 Bundesliga goals in 115 appearances justifies his appearance on this list.
19. Mark van Bommel 6€ million from Barcelona (2006)
The antichrist of Johan Cruyff’s total-football dream, van Bommel was well respected in Munich for his charisma and leadership. Although his first years at the club were tumultuous, the Dutch enforcer became the first foreign captain to lift a trophy for the Bavarian giants. Van Bommel won the double in 2009/10 and reached the 2010 Champions League final only lose to José Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
18. Daniel Van Buyten for 8€ million from Hamburg SV (2006)
Belgian powerhouse Daniel Van Buyten came to Bayern Munich as one of Bundesliga’s best center-backs. Van Buyten formed a great partnership with Lúcio in his first season with Bayern Munich. Injuries stopped “Big Dan” from being a regular starter, although his eight years in Munich are mostly considered successful.
17. Claudio Pizarro for 8.2€ million from Werder Bremen (2001)
Arriving at Munich as Bayern’s most expensive signing ever, the 22-year-old Peruvian started his Bayern career well, scoring 30 goals in his first two seasons. Over six seasons, Pizarro won the double three times in his first spell at Bayern, scoring a total of 71 Bundesliga goals.
16. Roy Makaay for 18.75€ million from Deportivo La Coruña (2003)
Bayern splashed a club-record fee on Roy Makaay, who repaid the investment by scoring 78 goals in the Bundesliga and 17 in the Champions League. Being able to score aerially and with either foot, Makaay won a reputation as a player who needed only one opportunity to get the ball in the back of the net.
15. Martín Demichelis for 5€ million from River Plate (2003)
Part of Bayern Munich from 2003 to 2010, Martin Demichelis won back-to-back doubles for Felix Magath during his second and third season. He converted into a central defender under new Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld, a position he played for the remainder of his career. After 174 Bundesliga appearances from the Argentine, Demichelis left in 2010, mainly because of an internal dispute with Louis van Gaal.
14. Rafinha for 5.5€ million from Genoa (2011)
Who would have thought that Rafinha would have become such an important depth player for Bayern when he was signed from Genoa? Rafinha played fewer than 20 Bundesliga games in just two of his 8 seasons for Bayern, consistently playing on the right-back position with stability. An underrated legend for the club.
13. Mario Mandžukić for 13€ million from VfL Wolfsburg (2012)
Although he played only two full seasons for Bayern, Mandžukić is included primarily because of the crucial part he played in Bayern’s 2012/13 treble season. With physical strength, a powerful physique, and endless stamina, ‘‘Mandžo’’ was initially bought as a relatively cheap competitor for Mario Gomez as Bayern’s number 9. He left Bayern because of the newly changed playing-style under Pep Guardiola.
13. Lúcio for 12€ million from Bayer Leverkusen (2004)
Denying a new deal to the 105-times capped Brazilian international in the summer of 2009 will forever be one of Bayern’s greatest mistakes. At his peak, Lúcio was one of Bundesliga’s best central-defenders of the 21st century. After 5 successful seasons at Bayern Munich, Lúcio was a critical member of José Mourinho’s Inter Milan side that beat Bayern in the Champions League final in 2010.
11. Michael Ballack for 12.9€ million from Bayer Leverkusen (2002)
Bayern bought Ballack for a relatively low fee considering that he was one of Germany’s best players at the time. His time in Munich was successful, although he left the Bavarian club on a sour note. The East German-born midfielder won six titles for Bayern while scoring 58 competitive goals in 4 years.
10. Thiago 25€ million from Barcelona
“Thiago oder nichts.” The steal of the summer of 2013 has not disappointed. Today, Thiago’s price tag would at least be tripled. Because of injuries, his performances stagnated in his first two seasons at Bayern. Today, Thiago has become one of the best central-midfielders in the modern Bundesliga. European silverware would have put him even higher on this list.
9. Javi Martínez 40€ million from Athletic Bilbao (2012)
Javi Martínez comes before Thiago in this list largely due to his partnership with Bastian Schweinsteiger in the treble-winning season of 2012/13. I consider that duo to be one of the best central-midfield partnerships Bayern has seen since the start of the new century. The highest-paid Bundesliga transfer at the time, Martínez has failed to reach the same heights since, largely on account of constant injuries.
8. Joshua Kimmich 8.5€ million from RB Leipzig (2015)
If this article was written five years in the future, Kimmich would make top 3. To buy a future captain for less than 10€ million is quite the steal. It’s incredible to think that Kimmich is still only 24-years-old, and hopefully has yet to show his peak.
7. Dante for 4.7€ million from Borussia Mönchengladbach (2012)
It is easy to forget that it was Dante’s consistent performances that were the heart of Bayern’s central defense in the treble-winning season. Jupp Heynckes told the media that Dante was one of the first names on the team sheet and Philip Lahm described him as one of the best defenders he had ever played with. To sign a crucial defender in a historic season for less than 5€ million is an economic win.
6. Arjen Robben for 25€ million from Real Madrid (2009)
“Mr. Wembley” wrote himself into the Bayern history books forever in the 89th minute of the Champions League final in 2013. Injuries stopped him from becoming a consistent world-class player, yet his presence proved to be the difference for Bayern on many occasions in important European games.
5. Jérôme Boateng for 13.5€ million from Manchester City (2011)
At the time, some pundits questioned Bayern’s decision to buy Jérôme Boateng from Manchester City for more than what the English club paid Hamburg SV. Sure, Boateng had a great 2010 World Cup, but there were doubts about whether he was good enough for Bayern after he failed to win playing time on an inferior team. Boateng’s first four seasons at Bayern sealed his reputation as one of the best center-backs in the world. Recently, Boateng has declined and may soon leave the club.
4. Willy Sagnol for 7.7€ million from AS Monaco (2000)
A blockbuster transfer at the time, Sagnol did not take long to get into the first team. At Bayern, Sagnol gained a reputation as one of the best fullbacks of his generation. Winning 10 titles, including the Champions League in 2001, and playing 184 Bundesliga games in nine years. Sagnol’s acquisition should be considered as one of the best transfers Bayern ever made.
3. Manuel Neuer for 30€ million from Schalke 04 (20011)
Although the final amount varies amongst different sources, Manuel Neuer became one of Bayern’s most expensive signings when he signed for the Bavarians in the summer of 2011. Part of Schalke’s Nordkurve as a child, his arrival first met with hostility from the Bayern ultras. Eight seasons later, it is hard to argue that Neuer was not worth every cent Bayern paid for him. A goalkeeper who reintroduced the “sweeper-keeper” position to world football, Manuel Neuer at his peak is indisputably the best in the world.
2. Franck Ribéry for 30 million from Olympique Marseille (2007)
How much is a legend worth? Bought for a then club-record, Ribéry is undoubtedly the most loved foreigner who has ever played for Die Roten and arguably one of the best footballers that has graced the pitch of Allianz Arena. Born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, made in Munich.
1. Robert Lewandowski on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund (2014)
A no-brainer for the first spot. Yes, Bayern has paid the Polish superstar many millions in wages every year but the fact they got him for 0.00€ is genuinely the best steal in football history. He has scored 135 league goals in 163 games and his chapter is still not finished.