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Mannschaft Planen: Fortifying the castle walls

Bayern Munich’s options in defense look slimmer and slimmer as time goes on.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Edith Geuppert - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

It is becoming a meme at this point with how many times the Mannschaft Planen series has identified and presented options for a hole in the Bayern Munich squad months before the hole actually presented itself as an urgent issue and have had to re-visit the same issue months later because the board have ignored the issue until it has shown visible demerit.

In the latest edition of ‘I Told You So: The Musical’, we take a look at players Bayern could look to purchase this summer to bolster the centre-back position. Now if it was possible, the top pick for this article would be Daley Blind, but it is wildly unrealistic to imagine Blind leaving Girona while they are in such good form, to join a club he left just six months. His passing profile, playstyle and dominant foot (left) would be perfect for this. If you would like to see the first three options that were presented when Benjamin Pavard was on the verge of leaving, you can check out our original article here.

This article is being written in tandem with a set of Mannschaft Planen articles, namely one covering Bayern’s defensive midfielder problem and another about adding cover at right back. In particular today, we are looking for defenders who are very strong in build-up, have the ability to play long balls, preferably are either good in the air or good in the sprints, and ideally are left-footed, although this is not a necessity. The budget here will be tighter compared to the rather extensive budget allocated for defensive midfield, restricted to €30m. For the sake of preventing a cop out, picking up a short-term loan and waiting for Josip Stanišić to return from Bayer Leverkusen at the end of the season is not allowed. Mannschaft Planen would like to highlight an extra player, namely Bayern alumnus Dante, who is a potential option on the market in January and has been having a great season for OGC Nice. However this path for Bayern has already been covered in a great article by RIPLT which you can find here.

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 Trevoh Chalobah or Eric Dier.

Maxence Lacroix

VfL Wolfsburg v RB Leipzig - DFB Cup: Second Round Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Maxence Lacroix seems destined for bigger things than just being part of a mid-table VfL Wolfsburg team that enjoys putting possession-based teams to the sword with counter-attacking football.

The Frenchman is nothing short of a tank, combining great physical athleticism with a willingness to put his body on the line for the task, creating a scary combination of strength, speed and bravery. Lacroix is very strong in the air and on the ground, and is a threat from set pieces too, which combined with Bayern’s new-found penchant for set piece success thanks to Anthony Barry, could be dangerous. My only worry is that while Lacroix has shown great promise, he has yet to really cement himself with consistent performances, often having periods of waxing and waning form.

At 23 and with a year and a half left on his contract, the €17m Transfermarkt valuation seems about the right price, although I think Bayern could get him for €15m with add-ons. Lacroix earns €3.5m annually, which is easily upgradeable to fit into Bayern’s salary structure.

Player Quality: 7/10
Potential Price: 8/10
TOTAL: 15/20 (75%)

Dávid Hancko

FC Twente v Feyenoord - Dutch Eredivisie Photo by Rene Nijhuis/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Feyenoord have made themselves a force to be reckoned with in the Dutch Eredivisie as of late, and a key part of that has been the solid foundation that Dávid Hancko has set for the rest of the team.

Hancko does not have immense tackling volume, but this is due to his tendency to force attackers into bad positions using just his presence and positioning rather than forcing a turn-over. Hancko is similarly smart on the ball, perhaps being one of the best ball playing defenders in all of Europe right now. Hancko is a fantastic progressor of the ball, being able to carve through opposing pressers with relative ease using his wide range of passing abilities as well as carrying the ball himself. Hancko has a good long ball on him too, although Feyenoord’s style of play has required him to restrict himself on how many he makes. Nonetheless, he has shown the ability to spot long ball opportunities and take them, as he still completes around 6.5 passes per game that are over 30 yards in distance. Hancko is one of the smartest decision makers Bayern could pick up for the defense, and could become a crucial cog in the machine, especially since his ability to play left back in a pinch would offer Bayern a new dimension in defense instead of having to rely on pure offensive power and pace down that flank (sorry Alphonso Davies).

Hancko turns 26 in December, so now is the perfect time to pick him up as he is just approaching his best years. Who knows, he may even age into a finer product once his focus shifts away from the hybrid centre-back/full-back role into a complete committal to centre-back. Hancko is the most expensive option on this list, as he would likely cost somewhere in the very upper reaches of our €30m budget. Hancko’s current annual salary of €1.2m is a pittance by Bayern standards, so a pay-rise should not be hard to achieve.

Player Quality: 9/10
Potential Price: 5/10
TOTAL: 14/20 (70%)

Sinaly Diomandé


Olympique Lyon’s historically bad season so far has caused massive unrest at the club, but amongst all the chaos, there are a couple of players with very high potential who may look to abandon ship before it sinks, one of them being Sinaly Diomandé.

Sinaly Diomandé is a fantastic defender for Thomas Tuchel’s system out of possession, as he relies on his positioning and ground game to win the ball back rather than delaying attackers and pouncing only when a situation becomes critical. Diomandé doesn’t have the same prodigious frame of Matthijs De Ligt or Min-jae Kim or the unreal speed of Kim or Dayot Upamecano, but what he does have is balance. Diomandé is a smart defender who knows his role, not over-promising before gifting space to attackers. On the ball, Diomandé is once again smart with his decision-making, being good at spotting weaknesses in opposition structures and adapting his approach to build-up in response. However, Diomandé is not very accomplished at long passing play and will struggle to add that to his game for the first couple of months, resulting in Bayern having to rely on the full backs and midfield for some time to aid build-up as Kim will be unavailable due to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in January and February.

Diomandé is valued at €9m by Transfermarkt, and I think this is about the price Bayern would have to pay for him. Diomandé is reportedly on below €600k annually, which is well below Bayern’s expectations in terms of pay for even a squad player, so it should be upgradeable without hesitation.

Player Quality: 6/10
Potential Price: 9/10
TOTAL: 15/20 (75%)

What do you think of our picks? Is there anyone else you would have included? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion below.

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