With the news of Thiago Alcantara’s departure to Liverpool now official, Bayern Munich has finally turned the page on the Spaniard’s successful career in Germany that culminated in last month’s Champions League title.
While he is not quite tussling his hair, throwing back on those clothes from last night, and creeping out the door in a walk of shame, Thiago’s departure marks the dawn of a new era in the Bayern Munich midfield, and we can be sure that Thiago won’t be coming back. Sure, we saw glimpses of what Hansi Flick had in mind for a post-Thiago world last season as Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich did a sensational job of stabilizing the center of the park, but now the two young Germans with boy-band looks represent the new era, a championship era.
Replacing the irreplaceable
Replacing Thiago is not easy or even really possible. The 29-year-old’s vision, creativity, and next-level passing ability were a staple of the Bayern Munich midfield since he signed with the club. Neither Kimmich nor Goretzka are a direct like-for-like replacement.
On the flipside, however, the twosome offers a more athletic and physical option for Flick. Not to diminish Thiago, but he was neither the fleetest of foot nor the most physical player, nor was he the most productive goal-scorer. What Kimmich and Goretzka bring to the table in those areas will help offset the great qualities Bayern Munich will lose with Thiago’s exit. Again, Thiago’s presence cannot be replicated, but it will be up to Flick to strategize the best way to maximize the talents of Kimmich and Goretzka to create trouble for Bayern Munich’s opposition.
Thiago’s own unfortunate injury history helped Flick realize the potential of a Goretzka-Kimmich combination in the midfield, which represents a unique fusion of Goretzka’s physical strength, fearlessness, and box-to-box ability with Kimmich’s leadership, vision, and clutch play. Losing a player of Thiago’s quality and skill is never good, but if there were two players who look ready to fill those shoes, Goretzka and Kimmich are about as good a combination you can muster to lead Bayern Munich’s midfield in the new era.
Poised for success
Much like the Pep Guardiola-induced “Thiago oder nix” transfer of the former FC Barcelona standout to Bavaria in 2014, Goretzka and Kimmich will now be tasked with helping Bayern Munich defend its UEFA Champions League crown.
Can the duo help produce a more immediate return on investment than Thiago did? We’ll soon find out, but Kimmich and Goretzka are well-equipped, talented, and certified treble-winners. With both players at just 25 years of age, you could do a lot worse for a post-Thiago plan.
As for how Kimmich and Goretzka fit into the squad’s overall structure, the duo is a key link between the “young” (Alphonso Davies, Michaël Cuisance) and the “old” (Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer). Along with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Pavard, and Niklas Süle, Kimmich and Goretzka are integral components of the “new core” group of the unit.
In addition, Kimmich and Goretzka are leaders on and off of the pitch and will give Flick the necessary foundation for future success. Will Flick miss Thiago at times? Absolutely, but with Kimmich and Goretzka as his new age and dynamic central midfield, Flick should have no problem making the best out of a tough departure.