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Mannschaft Planen: Strengthening the base of the midfield

As players depart, Bayern will need to strengthen in the middle of the park.

FC Bayern München v SpVgg Greuther Fürth - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

As we enter the lengthy international break, let’s look forward to what could be either the most successful transfer window in recent memory, or the start of Bayern Munich’s downfall from the pinnacle of German football.

Having looked at the holes in the backline, we move on to the base of the midfield, an area that seemed more than set at the beginning of the season but somehow now finds itself being short-staffed for the forthcoming 22/23 season.

To review, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka will remain with the club for at least another half a decade, and I’d wager that Kimmich will stay well past his prime. Jamal Musiala is being employed in midfield but I think we all know his future lies further forward, as does Paul Wanner’s. Marcel Sabitzer is a player who is world class, but has struggled to find his feet. Corentin Tolisso will leave Munich this summer for free, and while Marc Roca does not seem too unhappy in Germany, I am sure the board will look to offload him too.

For all intents and purposes, I will be assuming the board have faith in Sabitzer to regain his Leipzig magic, as I very much do. I will also be assuming Roca to have been sold or loaned out meaning there will be no backup for Kimmich. Let’s look at Bayern’s options for defensive midfield next season (not including Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch).

Florian Grillitsch

TSG Hoffenheim v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Florian Grillitsch is the first player on our list. The player screams versatility, with the ability to play as an 8, 6, or even as a centre back in a back three. At 26 years of age, he isn’t the youngest but Bayern do not need another prospect in midfield with the advent of Musiala, Wanner and the possibility of Nianzou playing as a defensive midfielder instead of a centre back. Grillitsch has incredible game sense in knowing where to be defensively and in build-up, making him crucial to Hoffenheim’s play in the defensive and midfield thirds as he breaks the lines to sit between defense and midfield, linking the more limited defenders to Sebastian Rudy and Christoph Baumgartner further forward. Even when not linking together the lines of play, Grillitsch has an impeccable eye going forward, as his ability to play long often results in goals when combined with the sheer pace of Andrej Kramaric or Ihlas Bebou (think Leroy Sane or Kingsley Coman).

Furthermore, he would come for the dirt cheap price of nothing, as his contract expires this summer, which begs the question: why aren’t Bayern Munich interested? Well, it is simple: wages. The player currently is not on any outstanding wages, but interest is brewing from Arsenal and Newcastle, who would most certainly outmatch Bayern Munich’s wage packet and playing time.

Likelihood: 5/10
Player Quality: 8/10
Potential Price: 8/10
TOTAL: 21/30 (70%)

Julian Weigl

AFC Ajax v SL Benfica: Round Of Sixteen Leg Two - UEFA Champions League Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Now, now, I know what you’re thinking: the Dortmund reject?

Stay with me here.

Julian Weigl has quietly become one of the sturdiest defensive minded midfielders in Europe at Benfica this season. He loves to create chances from deep, often finding killer balls that slide through the opposition. His progressive passing has been a joy to watch, as he looks to pass forward more often than he passes backward or sideways, a rarity in the modern game where defensive midfielders often interact with the backline more than they interact with other midfielders or forwards. His balls over the top are not the finest, however he loves to find small gaps and exploit them, usually when up against large midfield banks which leave gaps between the lines. Defensively he has been more than astute, reading the game well at 1.6 interceptions per game and 2.1 tackles per game, and while he does not win possession directly often, he does not let players dribble past him and looks to clear instead of always trying to work it out of tight corners, a problem that has sometimes plagued Bayern Munich as of late, especially plaguing Dayot Upamecano.

Weigl is only halfway through his contract so he will not be cheap, but he is the ideal backup for Kimmich. He would not need time to acclimatise to a new environment either as he is familiar with the Bundesliga and is German. That being said, the contract situation would mean having to fork out atleast €20m if not more, which is a big no-no for the board at the moment.

Likelihood: 3/10
Player Quality: 8/10
Potential Price: 6/10
TOTAL: 17/30 (56.67%)

Teun Koopmeiners

Atalanta BC v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Finally, we have the customary ‘Cyler’s darling’ pick of the bunch: Teun Koopmeiners from Atalanta Bergamo. Atalanta have had an extremely successful midfield partnership in Remo Freuler and Marten de Roon in the last couple of seasons, meaning it would need quite the special player to get game time in the Atalanta midfield. However, Koopmeiners has become exactly that player, displacing de Roon as Freuler’s midfield partner. Koopmeiners has been simply fantastic for Atalanta, being everywhere on the field. Koopmeiners operates in the Goretzka role in Atalanta’s 3-4-2-1, but it is only because of the system’s requirements that he plays this role, as he is more comfortable as a proper defensive midfielder. Koopmeiner’s passing is not elite as such, his pass completion is low but this is only because he is always looking to go forward. This is not a demerit as this is purely due to the nature of his position. His dribbling is really what impresses, he carries the ball with a quiet brilliance characteristic of a savant of ball control, similar to a certain Catalonian who was the heart-beat of Bayern’s midfield for half a decade. Koopmeiner definitely is defensively astute and can carry the ball forward from deep. He would not be a direct Kimmich back-up, but rather a Thiago Álcantara replacement. Him alongside Kimmich or dropping deep beside Goretzka would both be world class midfield pairings. He provides the goal threat of Goretzka with late runs, the activity in pressing of Kimmich, the pure smoothness on the ball of Thiago, and the ever-in-demand quality of familiarity in a 3-4-2-1.

That being said, Koopmeiners has a long contract ahead of him — expires in 2025 — and is 24, meaning Atalanta will not be ready to let him go for cheap. He will definitely cost north of the €25m Transfermarkt has him marked down as, and maybe well above €30m. This will definitely not go down well at the Säbener Straße.

Likelihood: 2/10
Player Quality: 9/10
Potential Price: 4/10
TOTAL: 15/30 (50%)

While I would love to see Teun Koopmeiners come to Munich, I think in reality the board should look to pick up Florian Grillitsch out of these three as he is already established in this country and league. What do you think? Are there any names I may have missed? Let us know, the discussion is yours to take forward.

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