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Daley Blind’s unheralded Bayern Munich debut flashes promise

In roughly half an hour, the least flashy of the Bavarians’ winter transfers began to build his case for inclusion.

1. FSV Mainz 05 v FC Bayern München - DFB Cup: Round of 16 Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images

Daley Blind is a man that has flown under the radar. The long-time AFC Ajax veteran’s sudden arrival at Bayern Munich heralded a frenetic winter transfer window in which he was quickly overshadowed by even gaudier purchases: Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer to replace the injured Manuel Neuer, and this week’s shock loan of Manchester City defender João Cancelo just before deadline day.

But Blind has finally made his debut — sneaking in behind Cancelo’s far more headline-grabbing day — and the Dutch international is already building his case for inclusion in Bayern’s squad.

The debut offered clues into how Julian Nagelsmann might deploy him. Though initially surmised as left-back cover for Alphonso Davies in the wake of Lucas Hernández’s injury at the FIFA Men’s World Cup, Blind stepped onto the field in the 64th minute as the left-sided center-back in a back three. By the end of the game, he had delivered this peach of a pass:

Blind’s favored left foot offers favorable angles for distribution from these positions, and it doesn’t hurt that his passing range and ability is extremely impressive. Nagelsmann’s Bayern teams can get ponderous in the final third, but this sort of instant verticality is a weapon that can address those issues. Blind’s pass from deep in his own half found a racing Kingsley Coman down the right flank, playing the winger behind the entire Mainz defense and turning possession into transition.

If Nagelsmann persists with something of this back three — Davies, Coman, Cancelo, and Noussair Mazraoui all look candidates at wing-back — then Blind’s future will be at center-back. Bayern might be losing Benjamin Pavard in the summer, leaving an opening the Dutch veteran could be counted on to fill.

Blind’s contract only runs to June as well, making this period of evaluation doubly important. If both Blind and Pavard leave, Bayern will have a serious situation to address at center-back.

Cancelo’s arrival has turned the most heads and the Portuguese star’s optional €70m buy clause is undoubtedly the top question for the Bayern front office (if it hasn’t been answered already). But behind that, it’s the 32-year-old veteran Blind who could be equally cementing himself as an important fixture in a squad that will need depth and cover as well as star power.

Interested in a more in-depth look at the match, including the formation/tactics deployed by Julian Nagelsmann, Joao Cancelo’s debut, and the amazing influence of Thomas Muller? Well, why not check out our postgame podcast? We talk about all that and more! Listen below or on Spotify.

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