Oh, look. Would you believe it?
I suggested Bayern Munich purchase a defensive midfielder last summer. They didn’t. It bit them in the back side and now Thomas Tuchel is demanding a defensive minded midfielder this summer. It’s almost as if I knew what I was talking about. Enough of the hubris then, shall we get into this?
Note: As is the nature of Mannschaft Planen, this article will not contain players that Bayern Munich are already linked to. So do not expect Mateo Kovačić to show up here. Another caveat is that I will not be including the three midfielders mentioned in the previous article, so no Florian Grillitsch, Julian Weigl or Teun Koopmeiners.
The preferred profile that we are looking for is a player who is defensively solid but also can play the ball around at least a bit to either fill in for Joshua Kimmich occasionally or to play alongside Kimmich and let him off the leash to spear attacks.
Starting off with a name that has caused some stirs amongst Bayern’s more vocal fans on Twitter, and for good reason.
Declan Rice fits the profile mentioned perfectly. He offers a pittance going forward, but that’s not what we want him for. Rice’s ability to control games from deep is exceptional. While Rice doesn’t have the highest passing numbers around, a lot of this is down to the fact that West Ham simply do not retain the ball much. Rice is great at spreading play around and progressing the ball ahead of midfield lines, and if it comes down to it he is able to carry the ball forward himself too.
It however is his ball-winning ability that really makes me excited to see him paired alongside Kimmich. Simply put, Rice does not let the ball past him. Rice is very good at recovering the ball from tackles against fast attacks, but he is truly exceptional reading the game with interceptions and clearing the ball in desperate situations. He offers the physicality Leon Goretzka does but unlike Goretzka, he offers balance to the midfield. The big stumbling block is of course, price. Rice has a contract expiring next summer so may not be extremely expensive, but we have to remember that he is young and English, which raises the price significantly. We could be looking at something north of €40m.
Player Quality: 9/10
TOTAL: 18/30 (60%)
Bryan Cristante is your favourite defensive midfielder’s favourite defensive midfielder.
The Italian is simply a picture of defensive solidity. While Cristante doesn’t make many passes in José Mourinho’s 3-4-2-1 at Roma, it is a systemic effect rather than a detriment to his play. Cristante is the extra man in midfield for Nemanja Matić or the centre-backs to fall back on, always showing himself in safe areas. This shows as Cristante barely ever receives progressive passes, but always looks to play positively.
Cristante defensively may be the best midfielder in the world. While his reading of the game is more passive allowing Matić to make more interceptions, Cristante’s tackling, blocks and aerial ability is amongst the very top in Europe. His brilliant defensive play makes him the perfect complement to the adventurous centre backs and Kimmich.
Cristante has a contract expiring in 2024 and is 28, meaning Roma could let him go for as low as €15m, and his wage package should not be anything extravagant.
Player Quality: 8/10
TOTAL: 20/30 (66.67%)
As is Mannschaft Planen tradition, the third player has a twist on the premise.
Raphaël Guerreiro has gained a new lease on life in the middle of the park for Borussia Dortmund. And by new lease on life, I mean he has become the best central midfielder in the Bundesliga. His transformation in the 4-1-4-1 has completely changed the way Dortmund play, and it shows as Guerreiro has the most goal contributions of any player in the Bundesliga in 2023. From midfield. Guerreiro is safe on the ball at the back but is unafraid of taking risks going forward. He is not afraid to bomb forward in a pinch but does not sacrifice balance in the middle, providing defensive solidity unlike Kimmich’s current midfield partners. While he would not be a true number 6 to pair up with Kimmich, he would offer a dynamic double pivot option, akin to the roles we saw Marcel Sabitzer and Kimmich share at the start of this season.
Guerreiro offers a wide range of passing options, can carry the ball forward himself, and of course has a rocket of a left foot, scoring some incredible goals over his years in Dortmund. Furthermore, let’s not forget that he is primarily a left wing back, which would serve us very well as Alphonso Davies has no real back-up in his position.
The price? There is none. Guerreiro’s contract expires this summer and the club and player have not agreed a new contract yet. This could be the perfect time for Bayern to swoop in. He is my favourite option by far.
Player Quality: 9/10
TOTAL: 23/30 (76.67%)
What do you think of our picks? Is there somebody you would have included? Let us know in the discussion below.