If Robert Lewandowski's free-transfer to FC Bayern München was the worst kept secret in German football, Sebastian Rode signing a pre-contract in January might be the second.
After long linked to a move south from Eintracht Frankfurt, Rode will transfer to the Rekordmeisters in the summer, a kicker report that CEO Heribert Bruchhagen confirmed in the Frankfurter Rundschau [ESPN FC]. Rode's contract expires with the Adler in June of this year.
Rode has 23 appearances in all competitions for Frankfurt, a majority of which have come in the center of the park. He is not a goal scoring threat – only one goal in all competitions before the winter break – but his passing (84.7 percent) is part of the reason why Eintracht Frankfurt has the fifth best passing percentage in Bundesliga play.
Getting another Germany U-21 player from a year ago to Allianz Arena may be a great prospect, but FC Bayern did the same thing a year ago when Jan Kirchhoff signed a pre-contract with the Roten a year ago. Now Kirchhoff is playing in blue instead of red and will not return until the 2015/16 season, if at all.
Since this question will come up, I will be the first one to ask it: how is Rode's situation at FC Bayern going to be any different than Kirchhoff's was before the club eventually loaned him to FC Schalke 04?
The two are very different players, Rode playing higher up the pitch than Kirchhoff despite Pep Guardiola's experimentation with Kirchhoff in midfield. Frankfurt also started Rode significantly more than 1. FSV Mainz 05 did for Kirchhoff before the transfer to FC Bayern. Still, FC Bayern's midfield depth is much greater than its depth in defense (is that safe to say?), so Kirchhoff may have had a greater assurance of playing time than Rode at the time of their respective moves, at least on the surface.
By the same token, if the best team in Europe wants him, how can Rode say no? He may not have the talent yet to break into the side FC Bayern currently possesses, but Rode must believe that he does, a challenge that he thinks he can defeat. Kirchhoff, though, probably has the same mentality, and he did not fly to Qatar with the team that signed him last January.
A move like this could also damper the bright eyes of the youth players looking to graduate to the senior side. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who is more a team sheet filler than a consistent contributor, will either be bumping elbows with Rode on the bench or playing in the third or fourth tier of German football. A prospect like him or Alessandro Schöpf cracking into the side was slim as it is, but more bodies sure do not help their cause. Their fates might resemble that of Emre Can, who left for Bayer Leverkusen seeking more playing time.
What may be deeper in the works is a major shuffle in personnel. Javier Martínez started Thursday's friendly against Sudanese side Al-Marrikh at center-back and switched to center back against Borussia Dortmund when Jérôme Boateng came off. The speculation around a permanent move to defense will continue to surround Martínez, even before Rode could arrive.
After injuries and knocks hindering 15 players on professional contracts out of a match day team sheet, one can understand the hording habit on the part of FC Bayern. The issue arises when everyone is healthy; choosing 18 players a match with the depth the team has is a tough task for every manager. Guardiola already has a full plate with the imminent returns of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben, so imagine him trying to fit another midfielder into his side.
Another young German should not be shunned from the Stern des Südens, and upgrading as much as an android app usually leads to sustained success. Still, Rode is joining a crowded area. If he can't break into the side, perhaps a negative trend will surface that discourages young players to coming to Germany's most successful club.