It is long overdue, but over a year-and-a-half since we originally posited that Bayern Munich should sign a new defensive midfielder, we are now re-visiting the topic as it has become a discussion amongst the Bayern brass.
It is almost like everyone has consistently identified Bayern’s squad issues well before they ever became issues (wink wink replacing Robert Lewandowski, Benjamin Pavard, signing a new right-back, signing a new goalkeeper).
If you haven’t read the original article (which is one of the first I ever wrote on this site), you can find it here, and there is already massive ‘I told you so’ energy radiating from this article since all three players have found successes since this article. The series ran it back to this issue in the spring of this year too, with another set of interesting options that later found themselves linked to Bayern in one capacity or the other during the summer, which you can find here.
Anyway, that’s enough grand-standing, let’s get into the new options. Let us keep in mind that with Bayern having turned a net profit in the summer, there should realistically be no budgetary restrictions on this position, but I will not be going over the €60 million barrier, to give us some wiggle room especially with the necessity of a defensive signing also being made in this window.
To be clear — if the title didn’t make it clear already — we are looking for players that can be the heartbeat of the team on the ball, recycling possession and being the main option in the defensive third to facilitate Joshua Kimmich or another midfielder as well as the attackers further up the field, while being very strong at reading the game off the ball and screening the defense.
Note: As is the nature of Mannschaft Planen, this article will not only ignore transfer rumours, but players linked with Bayern Munich will be actively avoided. The point is to present alternative options, so don’t expect João Palhinha or Kalvin Phillips.
It is no secret that Tottenham Hotspur are flying through the Premier League right now, and there is perhaps no player that affects their play as much as Yves Bissouma.
The Ivorian is playing well above the £30m price tag Brighton & Hove Albion demanded of him a year ago, controlling play in Spurs’ defensive and midfield thirds with his magnetic ball-carrying ability, fantastic control of space and reading of the game and his teammates. Off the ball, Bissouma is the perfect player to put at Tuchel’s No. 6 spot, as he is well-versed with both screening the defense as well as pressing attackers to compress space. Just the perfect player for this system, but he will cost well north of his original price tag. I would think somewhere in the price range of €50m should get Spurs balking on rejection.
Bissouma is 27 and while that isn’t young, it means he still has at least five years of top level football in him, and his current salary of €3m/year is more than manageable to be raised, even doubled if it makes Bissouma force a move out of the club.
Player Quality: 10/10
Potential Price: 6/10
TOTAL: 16/20 (80%)
Olympique Lyon are in dire straits, having failed to pick up a single win. Out of this mountain of garbage has grown one singular rose in midfield, and that rose is Maxence Caqueret.
Lyon’s midfield and defensive structures have been — to put it lightly — easy to pull apart but the one screw that refuses to come loose is Caqueret, who consistently puts up solid performances from defensive midfield. While Caqueret’s passing volume may not be very high, it must be contextualised with the fact that Lyon simply are unable to hold onto the ball, and that Caqueret is often the only one who can. His ability to play passes from deep to his teammates to create shot opportunities as well as recycle possession is fantastic, and while he doesn’t get too adventurous with his passes, that is not what we want from our defensive midfielder. What we do want however is work-rate off the ball, which Caqueret has in spades, combining an excellent reading of the game with a great ground game.
Caqueret turns 24 in February, so he has more than enough time on the clock while not being too young and inexperienced at a top level — let’s remind ourselves that he has played in a Champions League semi-final against none other than Bayern Munich themselves. Transfermarkt values Caqueret at €22m, and I think Bayern can get him for around €20m as Lyon are currently threatened with relegation. Caqueret’s wage package is more than manageable too as he is currently on just over €3m/year.
Player Quality: 7/10
Potential Price: 8/10
TOTAL: 15/20 (75%)
Here we go again. Just as the BFW fanbase breathed a collective sigh of relief that there weren’t articles on the site talking about players no one has ever watched, Mannschaft Planen strikes again.
Valentin Rongier has been on my radar for a while as an advanced midfielder, but this season the captain of Olympique Marseille has taken on the role of defensive midfielder and has flourished into one of the best deep lying playmakers in all of Europe. Rongier was always an elite ball-winner in the press and counter-press, battling for loose balls in the middle and being very strong in the air. However he has now combined his great ground and aerial play with a very strong reading of the game which has resulted in him becoming a top drawer defensive player. Rongier’s creativity is nothing to scoff at, as the Frenchman is well known for his ability to slice open defenses with simple looking passes, but is a smart decision maker more than anything else, knowing not to press the issue on the ball when there is no need to and instead recycle possession.
Rongier turns 29 this December, which is not ideal, but with the rise of Aleksandar Pavlović in recent months at Bayern, there is no pressing need for a long-term solution as Pavlović is showing great potential. Transfermarkt values Rongier at €20m, but I think Bayern can get him for a bit under that, somewhere in the €15-18m range. Rongier’s annual salary of €3.5m is easily upgradeable, making him a great option fiscally.
Player Quality: 9/10
Potential Price: 8/10
TOTAL: 17/20 (85%)
What do you think of our picks? Is there anyone else you would have brought into the conversation? Let us know in the discussion below.