Given Bayern Munich's lack of cover for Robert Lewandowski, rumors linking Hoffenheim's Sandro Wagner with a return to his former club are gathering momentum. Is it a move in the interests of both parties?
The word out of Säbener Straße is that Jupp Heynckes would rather work with the options he already has at his disposal.
Nevertheless, at the press conference ahead of Bayern Munich's game against Augsburg, Heynckes confirmed Bayern were in talks to sign Sandro Wagner.
"Hasan Salihamidzic and Alexander Rosen are in contact to see if there is a possibility of a transfer," Heynckes said. "We are in this phase and no further," the 72-year-old added.
The day before, Hoffenheim head coach Julian Nagelsmann said: "We are aware of his interest [in a move]. We will make an announcement if there's something to announce."
In James Rodriguez and Thomas Müller, Heynckes does have two viable alternatives up front.
However, while both are extremely talented, neither have made the desired impact in a less natural role. Rodriguez failed to impress when he led the line in the 2-1 win over Celtic as his lack of discipline saw him drift deep and wide, while Müller remains a player who flourishes best when unshackled from a rigid position. As a result it seems Bayern, uncharacteristically, may be willing to test the waters of the January transfer window.
The German record titleholders need a front man that is happy to play second fiddle to Lewandowski, but one that can make an impact with limited minutes, a player who can settle quickly but also bring something different to the table. Furthermore, he needs to do all that whilst not rocking the carefully-balanced boat carrying the weight of star-studded egos. Wagner already ticks most of those boxes.
Bavaria born and bred
As a player familiar with the Bayern set up, and one who also bleeds the blue and white of Bavaria, settling in shouldn't be a problem for Wagner, who once famously said: "Representing your country is special for every football player, but given that the state of Bavaria doesn't have a national team, I'll retain the hope of one day playing for Germany."
Wagner now has seven international caps to his name, but definitely took a long road to the top. After making just eight appearances for Bayern in the 2007/08 season, the now 29-year-old bounced around established clubs before finally enjoying his big break with Darmstadt, the first team he managed to score in double digits for since being on the books at MSV Duisburg in the third tier.
The definition of a late-bloomer, Wagner has gone from exciting young prospect to middling back-up striker and is now a fully fledged international being linked to Bayern. "In my eyes, I've comfortably been the best German striker for a while now", the Munich native said back in December 2016. "In all honesty, I'm definitely not one of the most loved players, but that's absolutely fine. I'm not someone who pretends to be what they aren't."
A career gone full circle?
What Wagner is, is a grafter who has specialized in thriving within his limits as a footballer. While his goalscoring record is impressive - only Anthony Modeste, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski have scored more Bundesliga goals than Wagner since the start of the 2015/16 season - it's of secondary importance as his real contribution is intangible. "If I scored 10 goals against England in Wembley, I'd still know that I'm no cooler than someone who works as a trash collector," he told kicker recently.
Wagner's return to Munich would make a lot of sense.
The player wants to return home to his boyhood to be closer to his family and Bayern won't have to break the bank to bring in a striker that is capable of much more than being Lewandowski's back-up. As to whether a move to Bayern would help or hinder his chances of featuring at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, only Joachim Löw has the answer to that. For Bayern and Wagner though, this could be a match made in heaven, 15 years in the making.