When the story broke that Niklas Süle will leave Bayern Munich during the summer, fans and pundits alike lamented just how bad of a sporting decision and business decision this news was.
In his prime, Süle is a dynamic center-back custom-built for the new game. Tall, fast, strong and skilled, the Germany international is exactly what scientists might concoct if building a Frankenstein center-back for 2022.
Now, though, he will move on via a free transfer, which would be hard for any club to stomach given Süle’s talent, age, ceiling, and value.
While no one knows for sure right now where things went awry, let’s take a look at some possibilities for how things ended up this way.
Why Süle might have wanted to move on
- Pay: Simply put, Süle might just feel like he is worth more than the €10 million Bayern Munich was offering. This is likely Süle’s last chance for a “max-type” deal as far as his value is concerned. At 26-years-old, this is Süle’s prime opportunity for his largest possible contract. Assuming he nets a four-year deal, Süle will likely be around 30 when he next has to worry about contract negotiations.
- Bad luck: Süle was primed to display his talent and show the world he was a top-tier center-back before tearing his ACL in December of 2019. In the 2020/2021 season, Süle spent most of the campaign regaining confidence in that knee (like Leroy Sane and Corentin Tolisso). Now, you could argue that Süle is back operating at 100% and also that he has been Bayern Munich’s best center-back. Still, the big man was criticized last season while trying to regain his form at a time where he should have been drawing accolades had that terribly-time injury never happened. That unfortunate tear came at the worst possible time for the defender.
- A feeling of being underappreciated: Physically, Süle was superior to both Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, but took a lesser role to rotate with the respected veterans when many clubs would have vaulted him into the No.1 role. Since that trio was the core center-back depth for the club’s 4-2-3-1, Bayern Munich has added Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Chris Richards, Tanguy Nianzou, and Dayot Upamecano. Upamecano was essentially handed a starting role without really having to compete for it, which is never a good look — especially when his new boss also coached him last season. That instant elevation on the depth chart could have created some friction. Moreover, whenever Hansi Flick or Julian Nagelsmann needed a defender to bail them out to play right-back, Süle did so with aplomb. A player so skilled and so versatile still was often left out of the mix under both coaches, which likely left him frustrated.
- He just might have wanted to try playing elsewhere: In the end, it could be as simple as Süle wanting to try his luck in England or Spain. Players love to challenge themselves and they only get a relatively short time to live out this dream. Perhaps, it was as simple as that.
Why Bayern Munich might have been reluctant to do more to convince Süle
- Fitness: We have all heard the rumors that Süle’s fitness has come into question and while some (okay, me!) have dismissed that his weight might be a concern, the club could have held some reservations about how that would play out as the big defender ages.
- Knee injuries: As previously mentioned, Süle is a big fella and already had two ACL injuries. Perhaps there was some concern about how that would affect his play and if he might be susceptible to another long-term injury.
- A cavalcade of center-backs in house: Bayern Munich already has Lucas Hernandez, Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, and Tanguy Nianzou on the first team roster, Jamie Lawrence as a promising prospect on campus, and both Chris Richards (Hoffenheim) and Lars Lukas Mai (Werder Bremen) out on loan. If the Bavarians (rightly or wrongly) value Pavard’s ability to slide in centrally — and with the youngsters in-house or on loan enough, perhaps the club felt Süle was more of a luxury than a necessity.
- Arrogance: Let’s be honest...there is a bit of hubris when it comes to how Bayern Munich views itself (and rightfully so). The club is a destination club who offers good pay and great chances to win multiple trophies every season. With that comes a bit of a cost to players. It sometimes feels as if Bayern Munich thinks that its stature should impact player decisions — almost as if players should be lucky to play there and should be willing to either take less money, less playing time, or both. For Süle, those might not have been concessions he was willing to make any longer.
In the end, Bayern Munich will find a replacement and that player will be a very good player. That’s how things go in Bavaria. Still, losing Süle hurts both financially and from a sporting perspective.
The big man was a unicorn on the backline and could have developed into a cornerstone piece for club and country had both sides been able to come to an accord. Alas, Süle will — barring a dramatic change of heart — move on and look to establish himself elsewhere. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich will — likely — seek to find a player it feels can help fill the void that will be left.
Will that be a right-back, who will allow the club to push Pavard inside? Will it be an established center-back like Chelsea FC’s Antonio Rüdiger or Andreas Christensen, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Matthias Ginter, or Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt? Or perhaps a youngster like SC Freiburg’s Nico Schlotterbeck, whose talent and value are both on the rise? Or maybe even a versatile swing player like Gladbach’s Denis Zakaria, who would be a project as a center-back?
Whoever it is, he will have big shoes to fill and big expectations on his shoulders. That’s just the way it is at Bayern Munich — and the club wouldn’t have it any other way.