Runaway league leaders Bayer are shifting focus to next year’s squad. They're reportedly wooing rival Borussia Dortmund’s top striker. Buying the competition is a tried and tested Bayern trick.
Bayern have done a lot to win over detractors this season in what is likely to be a campaign that shatters most of the records. The latest highlight, Saturday's 4-0 demolition of Schalke, was a master class in incisive attacking football. From the very first run Franck Ribery made up the Royal Blues' utterly overwhelmed right side, there was no question who was going to win and win big.
Yet just when you thought it was respectable, maybe even hip, to be a Bayern fan, the Bundesliga's wealthiest club go and pull out one of those tricks that make them the most resented team in Germany: using the transfer market to weaken the competition.
At least that's what Lothar Matthäus says they're trying to do. After Saturday's Munich blowout, the former Bayern sweeper turned TV commentator said that he had it on good authority (from a proverbial "insider") that the Bavarians had already agreed terms with Dortmund goal-getter Robert Lewandowski, whose contract expires in 2014.
That drew the immediate roundhouse, below-the-belt counterpunch from Bayern president Uli Hoeness. Hoeness, whose relationship with Matthäus is roughly that of fire to gasoline, growled that the latter had obviously tired of his recent well-publicized amorous affairs and was trying to expand his "hunting grounds."
Matthäus is indeed known as something of a blowhard, but he seems very confident of his information, even citing a specific transfer fee of 25 to 30 million euros ($33.5-40.2 million). Lewandowski has also been linked with clubs like Manchester United, and should Bayern tender an offer, the 24-year-old Polish international would be foolish not to consider it.
The prospect of such a move has got a few people fretting. Should it come to pass, Dortmund's bosses would have to replace a forward who has scored 14 goals this season and netted 22 in the previous campaign.
But someone who's even more nervous than Klopp, Watzke, Zorc and company is the man who is - nominally - Bayern's top striker.
Odd man out?
Mario Gomez was Mr. Mixed Messages this weekend. The striker, who was injured last fall and is currently second choice to Mario Mandzukic for Bayern, got only his second start of the season against Schalke. He bagged a goal and an assist and didn't forget to say thank you for the playing time while asking for a bit more, please.
"I'm very grateful to the coach - I don't know how many coaches would have started me right now," said Gomez, alluding to his less than convincing performance in Germany's France friendly during the week. "But a vote of confidence for the strikers who are already here looks a bit different."
Some diplomatic praise for coach Jupp Heynckes, and a not-so-subtle complaint for those deciding on the make-up of Bayern squad for 2013-14. If Hoeness and Bayern's other bosses do indeed decide to bring in Lewandowski - or any other striker of his caliber for that matter - someone would have to go. And Gomez would most likely be the lucky fellow.
Mandzukic has proved one of the transfer bargains of the season, scoring 14 goals - and that's without being granted a crack at Schalke's deer-in-the-headlights defense on Saturday. Veteran Claudio Pizarro is a 34-year-old who's content to fill the emergency-option role and won't complain about lack of playing time.
That leaves Gomez. The forward, who was the Bundesliga's most expensive transfer ever when he moved from Stuttgart to Bayern in 2009, has scored a more than respectable 67 goals in 103 matches for the Bavarians. He also extended his contract in April 2012.
Yet he's never really established himself one-hundred percent in Munich. He played second fiddle to Miroslav Klose in his first season with Bayern. Although he's scored lots of goals over the past two campaigns - albeit sometimes fighting for his place with Ivica Olic - Bayern didn't win any titles in that time. Thus Gomez has never really become a hero to the fans.
And what's even more unsettling for Gomez is that other footballing and financial reasons argue for his departure.
Out of deference to Heynckes, incoming Bayern coach Pep Guardiola is keeping a low profile. But you can bet say, 25-30 million euros, that the former Barcelona man has a major say in which transfer targets the Bavarians are and aren't talking to.
Despite Gomez's considerable merits, his style of play does not exactly scream Barca. He's a target forward in the classic mold, akin to Luca Toni and Klose, two former Bayern stars who were allowed to move on after three and four years respectively. It's easier to imagine the more mobile Lewandowski in a Guardiola system.
Moreover, if Bayern do decide to shake things up at the front, they could use Gomez, who has estimated value on the transfer market of up to 42 million euros, to finance Lewandowski and still have spare change for dinner and a movie left over.
The counter-argument would be that Munich know what they have in Gomez, whereas there's no guarantee that Lewandowski would continue to shine if he moved south. In terms of personality and ball skills, though, there's no reason to be pessimistic about the Pole, and bringing him in would be a blow for Dortmund, the only domestic side Bayern view as a true threat.
Indeed, insofar as there is anything to Sir Alex Ferguson's rumored interest in Lewandowski, signing him up now would also be a way of denying a Champions League competitor a potentially decisive performer.
Hoeness has told reporters that they're not getting a straight answer on Lewandowski even if they ask "a thousand times." Bayern Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge muttered something utterly content-free about how the club need to stay "relaxed and confident." A simple "no" would have been a lot easier, if Bayern weren't pursuing the Polish forward.
Bayern-haters often suspect Hoeness of harboring a Darth-Vader-like plan to dominate everything in the known universe, so that no other team would ever win anything again. As Dortmund are probably the strongest faction within the Bundesliga's rebel alliance, poaching their top scorer wouldn't be a bad way to start.
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