Bayern favor continuity as they prepare for title defense | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 28.07.2010
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Bayern favor continuity as they prepare for title defense

German champions Bayern Munich are looking to defend their title by maintaining the core of a squad that almost completed an unprecedented treble last season. However, this doesn't mean they're not looking for recruits.

Munich's Mark van Bommel , center with trophy, and the other players of Bayern Munich celebrate after becoming the new Bundesliga champion after the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Hertha BSC Berlin and Bayern Munich in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, May 8, 2010.

Bayern wants to keep its double-winning team together

Bayern enjoyed such success during the previous campaign, while contributing some of the leading players not just to Germany's World Cup team but to other nations too, that it comes as no surprise that other big European clubs are looking to poach some of their stars.

But Bayern's success in recapturing the Bundesliga title, winning the German Cup for the 15th time and reaching the Champions League final for the first time in a decade also means that the German champions are back among Europe's soccer elite and are therefore unlikely to bow to pressure from clubs that they now see themselves on a par with.

Bayern are also in a more secure financial state than many of the clubs looking to raid their squad and will feel no need to cash in on players to raise funds for their own transfers. In fact, it is unlikely that the Bayern hierarchy will sanction any moves away from Bavaria which could disrupt or dismantle such a successful team. This could be bad news for Bastian Schweinsteiger, depending on whether or not the indecisive midfielder wants to leave for Real Madrid this week.

Louis van Gaal has publicly stated that none of his team wants to leave Bayern Munich. This should not be interpreted as the Dutchman bullishly telling the rest of Europe to forget about signing his best players, although he has also stated this. What it does mean is that van Gaal is ready to offload a number of players – but most of them don't want to be sold.

Excess of strikers means someone has to go

Munich's Mario Gomez, left, and Miroslav Klose

"Don't let them sell me!" Klose or Gomez may be on the move

After experimenting with two strikers - his first preference in the first few games of last season being Miroslav Klose partnering Mario Gomez - van Gaal soon discovered that this was getting Bayern nowhere; their early slump reflecting the inability of both strikers to gel and the rest of the team to execute the formation. Switching to a 4-4-1-1 formation, van Gaal found that Ivica Olic as the lone striker was a much better idea and as such, with Thomas Mueller and Arjen Robben able to play deeper, Klose and Gomez became the main victims of the change in tactics.

Van Gaal may be looking to offload one or both of them before the season starts, despite Klose being one of those players who is unwilling to leave. Klose has been linked to clubs in the English Premiership and with French champions Marseille but he has vowed to fight for his place at Bayern. After an impressive World Cup, he could be spared. Gomez, who has attracted surprising interest from Real Madrid, may be the likelier of the two to swap a cold bench in Bavaria for a slightly warmer one in Spain.

Fringe players such as midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk and Jose Sosa have been told they can start looking for new clubs but both seem keen to dig in their heels. Depending on how successful van Gaal is in attracting new talent, even the strongest attempt by either to stay put may prove futile.

Defensive targets slipping through van Gaal's fingers

Japan's Yuto Nagatomo, left, and Netherlands' Gregory van der Wiel run for the ball during the World Cup group E soccer match between the Netherlands and Japan at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Saturday, June 19, 2010.

Dutch defender van der Wiel looks likely to stay at Ajax

So far, however, van Gaal has been unsuccessful in his moves for his top targets. Bayern are in the market for a left back but have been rebuffed in their attempts to sign Dutch World Cup star Gregory van der Wiel from Ajax and Benfica's Portugal international Fabio Coentrao.

Another defensive target, Brazilian star Michel Bastos, is also reportedly off-limits having only just signed for Lyon last season for 18 million euros ($23 million). If Bayern fail to recruit in this position before the season begins, van Gaal will play Diego Contento in the left-back role.

With Toni Kroos returning from his loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen, and Mueller excelling in South Africa, the fight for starting berths in the Bayern midfield is set to be a hot one. Things could get warmer too if Bayern splash the cash on the 23 million euro-rated Benfica midfielder Ramires. Bayern have allegedly made contact with Benfica with regard to the 23-year-old Brazilian's availability but they face stiff competition from Chelsea who are willing to meet the asking price and go higher if need be.

Bayern consider options as Ribery's future hangs in the balance

Franck Ribery

Bayern look for midfielders in case Ribery gets sent down

One midfielder who continues to be mentioned as a possible Bayern signing is Sami Khedira. Reports on the Stuttgart player's summer-long flirtation with Real Madrid have begun to mention a shadowy pre-contract agreement with Munich that would see the German international move to the Allianz Arena at the beginning of the season. The details of this agreement have yet to be revealed while the existence of the document has neither been confirmed nor denied. It is thought it is being used as a negotiating tool by the Stuttgart star's agent to engineer a more lucrative move to Madrid than is currently on offer.

While the Bayern midfield could end up being a little congested next season, someone who could be making way for a replacement is Franck Ribery. A constant among the transfer rumors over the past two seasons, Ribery's absence from Bayern is being talked about in a very different context this summer: the France midfielder could end up serving time in prison should the investigation into his involvement in an on-going underage sex scandal result in his incarceration.

If he doesn't receive a custodial sentence, it remains to be seen what effect the psychological strain will have on Ribery and his team as the season begins.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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