With the transfer window only just open here in Germany, one of the first big moves of the winter has already been made. USMNT youngster Ricardo Pepi has officially transferred from FC Dallas to Augsburg. Despite being linked with the likes of Bayern Munich and VfL Wolfsburg, Augsburg have taken the unprecedented step of shattering their record transfer fee for the 18-year-old.
The strangeness of this move has not gone unnoticed by fans and the media. How did Augsburg, a relatively small team in the Bundesliga, afford a highly sought-after star like Pepi? The transfer fee is reported to be in the region of $20m plus add-ons — making him the most expensive homegrown MLS player of all time. This would be a significant outlay for almost any club, let alone one like Augsburg, in the middle of a pandemic.
So what’s going on? Well, pretty much immediately, rumors began linking Bayern Munich with the transfer. The gist of it goes like this:
- Bayern Munich have a partnership with FC Dallas, and have a history of sourcing talent from MLS.
- Bayern have been after Pepi for a long time, being linked with him for months now.
- With Robert Lewandowski in the squad, though, Bayern could not find a place for Pepi in the first team.
- If Pepi had gone to Wolfsburg or some other Bundesliga club, he might have become out-of-reach in the future after his price goes up.
- So Bayern helped Augsburg finance the transfer like they did with Serge Gnabry’s move from Werder Bremen four years ago.
- Pepi can now develop in Augsburg where Bayern can keep an eye on him, and they can get him when Lewandowski is finally done.
This theory has become pretty popular on social media, especially because it explains Augsburg’s sudden interest in Pepi and how they were able to afford the transfer. However, Bild reporter Tobias Altschaffl pours cold water on the theory with this tweet:
Da die Gerüchte direkt aufkamen: der FC Bayern hat keine Beteiligung an Augsburg-Transfer Pepi, wie es beispielsweise einst bei Gnabry/Werder der Fall war.— Tobi Altschäffl (@altobelli13) January 2, 2022
Since the rumors came up straight away: FC Bayern has no involvement in Augsburg-Transfer Pepi, as was once the case with Gnabry / Werder, for example.
Altschaffl also explained why Bayern didn’t go for Pepi:
Bayern war an Pepi interessiert, der bereits am Campus vorspielte und im Januar 2021 wieder kommen sollte (abgesagt wegen Corona). Ein Transfer in dieser Größenordnung war beim aktuellen Sparkurs kein Thema, da Pepi derzeit keine Chance auf regelmäßige Profi-Einsätze gehabt hätte— Tobi Altschäffl (@altobelli13) January 2, 2022
Bayern was interested in Pepi, who was already playing on campus and should have come back in January 2021 (canceled due to Corona). A transfer of this magnitude was not an issue with the current austerity course, as Pepi would not have had a chance of regular professional assignments at the moment.
In this case, we’re inclined to believe Bild. When Gnabry transferred to Bremen from Arsenal, pretty much everyone in the media knew that Bayern was involved. Even Arsene Wenger said he thought that the Bavarians had something to do with it. There’s no such noise this time, so we can safely rule it out.
But then where did Augsburg get the money for the transfer? Well, Derek Rae might have an explanation:
The other background fans should know is Augsburg have an American investor by the name of David Blitzer (Bolt International Holdings.) However his arrival was a bit mysterious in terms of the announcement & viewed slightly suspiciously by a segment of the Augsburg support.— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) January 2, 2022
It could be that an American investor pumped some money into the club to get more exposure for Augsburg. If the transfer was owner-funded, then it makes everything very simple. Bundesliga clubs are allowed to have such investors even with the 50+1 rule — Hoffenheim are one such example, bankrolled by the billionaire Dietmar Hopp.
So there you have it, an explanation for how Augsburg could buy Ricardo Pepi without some grand conspiracy involving Bayern. Some football fans need to learn that Bayern doesn’t actually run the Bundesliga like a puppetmaster.