Despite all the uncertainties that come after a season halted by the coronavirus, Bayern Munich has continued to do business as usual in the transfer window. Signing talents on a free transfer is a triumph from an economical perspective. They do not often happen in football, but the Bayern board certainly has a knack for pulling them off.
This article will evaluate the potential pros and cons of the two latest free-agent signings to move to Die Roten: 23-year-old Alexander Nübel and 18-year-old Tanguy Kouassi Nianzou.
1. No economic sacrifice
Let’s start with the most obvious pro there is. Both potential future football stars came to the club in two transfer dealings that cost nothing. A player’s price tag is often the main criterion when determining the success of a transfer deal. The free signing of both Nübel and Nianzou means they will not face the immediate pressure to succeed like signings for whom Bayern opened their wallet, such as Lucas Hernandez or Renato Sanches. Even if they fail to make it into the first-team, Bayern still most likely can sell them for far more than they bought them for.
2. Little risk, high potential reward
Nübel and Nianzou’s signings epitomize transfers with little economic risk but a high potential reward. Nübel is a very talented goalkeeper who was made captain by Schalke’s head coach David Wagner only 8 months after he replaced Ralf Fährmann as Schalke’s first-choice goalkeeper. After Nübel’s break-out season in 2018/19, his second season as Schalke’s first goalkeeper did not go as planned. He lost the captaincy after signing for Bayern in January, and he often looked like an average goalkeeper playing for a below-average team, showing his inexperience with a horror-foul against Eintracht Frankfurt that resulted in a four-match ban.
Nevertheless, the potential is there, and it is not insane to suggest a change of scenery will benefit the former U-21 Germany goalkeeper.
Nianzou is more of an unproven talent, but one with an extremely high ceiling. Only turning 18 on June 7 this year, Nianzou made his professional debut on December 7, 2019, against Montpellier in Ligue 1. A few days later, Nianzou made his Champions League debut. German Thomas Tuchel was very disappointed to see Nianzou leave. The former Borussia Dortmund coach rated the talent extremely highly. Seeking a “stable environment,” Nianzou has found just that at Bayern.
3. Moves that resembles previously successful transfers
Less important than the previous two, the third potential pro of these two transfers is that Bayern has made such transfers before with success.
Making the same move as Nübel, from Schalke to Bayern, Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka are two current players who have found success in Munich after transferring from Gelsenkirchen. Also, Bayern often finds success in domestic talents: Serge Gnabry came from Werder Bremen, Niklas Süle from Hoffenheim, Joshua Kimmich from Leipzig, and Frenchmen Benjamin Pavard from Stuttgart. Buying talents from the Bundesliga can of course be hit or miss, but recently the strategy has more often than not turned into a successful transfer story.
The resemblances are more limited when comparing Nianzou to previous Bayern Munich signings. Like Coman, Nianzou started his career in the PSG academy, although Coman was bought from Juventus, not PSG. Nianzou has the chance to continue Bayern’s trend of turning young Frenchmen into quality football players. Franck Ribery is the most obvious example but there is plenty of others: Willy Sagnol, Bixente Lizarazu, and arguably Benjamin Pavard. Time will tell if Lucas Hernandez, Corentin Tolisso, and Mickaël Cuisance will join this category or make up another, less glamorous, category of their own.
Nevertheless, Nianzou will join a Bayern squad filled with fellow francophones, which might help the 18-year-old to feel at home.
1. Immediate success?
The two talents are relatively inexperienced and have fewer than 70 games of first-team football between them. Nianzou’s inexperience is understandable: he just turned 18 in June 2020. In fact, he has more first-team experience than most players his age and at one of the best clubs in the world. Still, since Nianzou has less than 1000 minutes of professional experience, Bayern fans will have to be patient with the Paris native.
Nübel’s experience is a bit more worrying. Nübel turned 24 this September: his 46 Bundesliga games experience is nothing to brag about. To put that into perspective, Manuel Neuer had already played 61 games just after turning 22. Nübel’s experience is more on par with Thomas Kraft, who also played 46 games before turning 24. There’s a big chance Nübel will spend the first few seasons on the bench or loan, delaying any immediate success.
2. Potential unhappiness on the squad
I’ll admit, I don’t see competitiveness in the squad as a major disadvantage for squad cohesion, but it is worthwhile to review all potential outcomes. The Neuer and Nübel situation is the most obvious. Will Bayern’s current number 1 allow Nübel to play occasionally or accept it if he does? Knowing Neuer’s winning mentality, we cannot be sure whether he will be happy if Nübel plays a fixed amount of games.
Tanguy Nianzou’s arrival might also create headaches and threatened attitudes on the team. Nianzou can play both as a center-back and a defensive midfielder. There’s a risk that players such as Lucas Hernandez, Lukas Mai, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez, Corentin Tolisso, or even Thiago might start to rethink whether they will get enough playing time next year.