Bayern Munich’s summer is already off to a tumultuous start.
The Rekordmeister’s mega-star, Robert Lewandowski, wants to leave the club this summer, and the only available player who could somewhat adequately fill his boots, Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, has confirmed a move to Manchester City.
Coming out of this transfer window without either player would be a massive blunder and the question of whether it could have been prevented will be debated for years to come. How did we get here? Who is at fault? Let’s take a look.
This was always going to happen with Lewandowski
The moment that Lewandowski fired his old agent and hired Pini Zahavi was a clear indicator that at some point, a move would be made. Players do not necessarily hire Zahavi to hammer out a few more euros in a contract extension, they put him on the payroll to broker transfers…big transfers.
While the Bayern Munich bosses are adamant that Lewandowski will see out his contract and stay through the end of the 2022/23 season, we can expect the player and his agent to make this situation very difficult.
This might have all been able to be avoided if the club’s archaic 30+ rule on player signings would have evolved with the times. No longer is turning 30 the death knell for a career and there should not be self-imposed limitations that unnecessarily prevent multi-year deals for key players just because they reach a certain age.
I’m not saying Bayern should’ve written Lewandowski a blank check for three years, but some flexibility could have helped.
A bit of arrogance led to this ultimate demise
If the reports are true that Bayern Munich failed to offer Lewandowski a deal (there are conflicting reports on this) and also stiff-armed his desire to hold contract talks for the months leading up to this point, then the club needs to re-examine how it handles its players, especially star players.
We saw Niklas Süle experience the same feelings of disrespect and not being appreciated — in addition to an overall lack of communication during his own contract dealings (which also ultimately might have led him to leave the club).
What does not make sense, however, is how the cases of Lewandowski, Süle, and Serge Gnabry differ from Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Thomas Müller, and Manuel Neuer. Clearly, the bad experience some are claiming to have with the front office is not universal. So what gives?
Are Lewandowski and Süle over-sensitive? Did Brazzo fail to communicate properly? Were these cases all just part of the club’s strategy to the let situations play out naturally? Maybe Bayern Munich was willing to just let Süle leave on his own accord and the Rekordmeister was just content to milk the rest of Lewandowski’s deal with no real plans of extending a player entering his mid-30s?
Or...maybe Bayern Munich is plotting to go full bore in convincing Lewandowski to sign an extension over the course of this season.
We do not know the club’s strategy, but it could conceivably help many people understand exactly what is going on and where this all might be going.
Misplayed public statements could have hurt
Think about how the cases of Lewandowski and Süle worked internally and the hard feelings that were built up. Now...also think about the dozens of denials and the lack of respect shown to Erling Haaland when it was clear that the club was at least interested — reports indicated that Bayern were doing some due diligence on a very important player who was about to be available — with an affordable release clause.
Every Tom, Dick, and Harry from within the organization and among the club’s distinguished alumni made it a point to publicly state how ridiculous the notion was for Bayern Munich to look at a player like Haaland when it already had Lewandowski in tow.
By the time Brazzo and Haaland had their secret meeting in Munich, the damage had been done — the Norwegian might have felt like he was viewed as an “off brand” Lewandowski by the time any serious talks occurred. And yes, it is understood that Bayern Munich couldn’t publicly comment or put its plans out there for the world to see, but there was no reason to risk turning Haaland off in the process either. A simple “We don’t talk about players under contract with other clubs” would have been suffice.
Chances are that Manchester City’s financial offer was overwhelming, anyway, but if Bayern Munich knew that they were going to lose Lewandowski — or even had an inkling that it could happen — not doing more to pursue Haaland will go down as a huge gaffe.
Sure, the club was in awkward spot. For all of Lewandowski’s great traits (there are many), he is a bit sensitive and insecure about some things — one of them being his career. Bayern Munich definitely wanted to avoid alienating their star striker, but it ultimately happened anyway, even as some folks try to go above and beyond to deny that the club had interest in Haaland.
Maybe it was a no-win situation, but it was certainly not handled with aplomb.
Buckle up...this could be a bumpy road
As one of the folks who often falls more into the positivity camp than the negativity crew around these parts, this is hard to stomach. There is no replacing Lewandowski.
At one point, Joshua Zirkzee and Fiete Arp would have been considered contenders to eventually take the job, but neither are remotely close to Lewandowski’s level, nor could they consistently be the threat against high-level competition that Lewandowski always was.
Gabriel Vidovic? Sure, he looks like he might be a player at some point, but he can’t be Lewandowski — or a semblance of Lewandowski — any time soon.
So...can Bayern Munich cover this loss by committee? No. While it might look like the overall talent on the roster could potentially just be maximized by each player taking on a bigger, more productive role, there are a lot of issues with this line of thinking.
Serge Gnabry is in the midst of his own contentious contract negotiations. Leroy Sane is not the consistent threat he should be by this point. While the heart of the team, Thomas Müller is headed into the twilight of his career. Kingsley Coman is immensely talented, but also majorly brittle.
Jamal Musiala? Surely, the youngster can help, but he’s also not quite ready to assume the type of burden that Lewandowski shouldered from season-to-season.
What we know is that Bayern Munich is exploring options. Some good, some bad...and all questionable with regard to how they would react to the bright lights at the Allianz Arena on a week-in and week-out basis.
Scoring as much as Lewandowski does is not easy; maybe the club will remember that lesson for future dealings with important players. Whether a replacement is needed for this upcoming season or in 2023/24, the pain of filling Lewandowski’s boots will be felt...and in a big way.
Looking for EVEN MORE discussion of the Lewandowski issue? Well why not check out our podcast? We deep dive into the poor decision making by the board in recent years, how it may have contributed to Lewy’s exit, and the possible solutions to this whole mess. Listen to it below or at this link.
As always, we appreciate all the support!