Two things are clearly true: one, Bayern Munich have suffered season-ending injuries to two key players, and two, the club has already identified the next player they are convinced of integrating into the team: RB Leipzig’s versatile pressing midfielder, Konrad Laimer.
Without Manuel Neuer and Lucas Hernández, Julian Nagelsmann will need to adapt Die Roten for the second half of this brutal and unforgiving season. There aren’t likely like-for-like replacements available — no keeper is going to simply replace what Neuer does, particularly with almost no time to integrate into the squad.
Bayern will go get a keeper of some kind, that’s certain. But the defensive hole left by Hernandez remains concerning. A left-back situation already dicey due to the numbers becomes even more so.
With losses sustained in one area, the best way to compensate might be to reinforce another. This allows the team to adapt to different strengths which they can maximize, and protects against the possibility of future injury losses in central midfield — which otherwise might occur on top what what Bayern have already incurred.
Laimer also offers flexibility. Noussair Mazraoui, Benjamin Pavard and Josip Stanišic are all going to potentially be needed to cover either left or center-back spots over the course of the remaining Bundesliga, Champions League, and DFB-Pokal runs. Laimer then adds a tough, physical presence who can play right-back or allow Joshua Kimmich to shift there in a pinch. Additionally, he can allow Bayern to field a midfield three when everyone is healthy to give the currently beleaguered attacking troops more rest — or sub on to help preserve leads and control games.
Pavard’s potential departure in the next summer transfer window — potentially without a direct replacement — adds another dimension to this.
We’ve seen tough acclimation periods for huge talents in Bavaria — from Leroy Sané to Dayot Upamecano to Sadio Mané to Marcel Sabitzer. If Laimer doesn’t manage to get going and rides the bench his first half-year, it’ll only help him hit the ground running in the next campaign, when he already is projected to be called upon. Time is valuable, and the less time spent next fall getting Laimer up to speed, the stronger Bayern’s team prospects next season.
There is the issue of cost, of course. But for a player who is already determined to leave, with six months on his contract and winding down — and who has, due to a September injury, only played six games across all competitions for Leipzig this season — the cost might be manageable.
Bayern have a lot of challenges now to solve. But for both the present and the future, negotiating to bring in Julian Nagelsmann’s favored pressing machine makes a great deal of sense.