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Opinion: Bayern's recruitment to blame for exit, not tactics

Meadows Mark Kommentarbild App
Mark Meadows
April 13, 2022

Julian Nagelsmann's late substitution was a factor in Bayern being dumped out by Villarreal. But years of odd transfers, including overpaying for average players, left him with few options, writes DW's Mark Meadows.

Sport I Fussball I Villareal v Bayern München
Are Lucas Hernandez and Dayot Upamecano really worth the money?Image: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

Many Bayern Munich fans are blaming Julian Nagelsmann for their Champions League quarterfinal exit to Villarreal, especially his decision to go gung-ho and substitute centre back Lucas Hernandez for wideman Alphonso Davies shortly before the Spaniards' late goal.

But the bigger problem was the lack of genuine options he had on the bench to boost a tiring side. For years, Bayern have been overpaying for decent but not top players, leaving them scraping around for bargains when it comes to players who offer that much-needed inspiration (think youth player Jamal Musiala or free transfer Leon Goretzka).

Just look at some of these numbers. The error-prone Dayot Upamecano for €42.5 million ($46 million) or injury-prone duo Hernandez and Corentin Tolisso for €80 million and €41.5 million respectively. They are good players but would those sorts of huge sums not have been better spent at the goal-scoring end of the pitch to share the burden with Robert Lewandowski?

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DW's Mark Meadows

When Nagelsmann looked to freshen things up in the second half, he only really had Serge Gnabry to turn to off the bench. Forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also came on late but all Bayern fans know he is very much a reserve of last resort.

Davies arrived as a winger and has been turned into an impressive left back at Bayern, but the fact Nagelsmann put him on effectively as an attacker rather than a defender speaks volumes about the lack of viable options.

Go sit in the stand

A case can be made that the coach should not have sacrificed a defender with extra time likely, and should have taken off a tiring Leroy Sane instead, but much of the blame for this exit and the German Cup debacle lies with the boardroom.

It is always so strange to see German sporting directors sitting on the bench in a match next to the coach. Very few other places on the planet would allow such a thing. Having Hasan Salihamidzic, effectively his boss, in his face the whole time cannot be easy for Nagelsmann. It clearly wasn't for Hansi Flick.

Salihamidzic needs to go sit in the stand with Chief Executive Oliver Kahn and discuss transfers. No one in world football was considering meeting Hernandez's massive exit clause at Atletico Madrid except Bayern. Yes, he was a France World Cup winner and yes, Bayern needed defenders, but €80 million was eyewatering. They could have found someone for less than half as much who was just as good, leaving them extra cash for forwards.

Champions League | Viertelfinale | Villarreal v Bayern München | Tor (1:0)
Even in the first leg, Bayern could have done with better options off the benchImage: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

Let's just compare the Hernandez fee with others. Manchester City bought Kevin De Bruyne for €76 million from Wolfsburg. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang cost Arsenal €64 million and then went to Barcelona for free.

Ronaldo moved to Manchester United for €15 million and Paris Saint-Germain's Lionel Messi was free.

Transfer woes go way back

Bayern acknowledge they cannot compete with the Qatar and Abu Dhabi-fueled wealth of PSG and City. No fan expects them to. But better transfer planning has to be a major aim especially with the holy trinity of Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer needing new deals.

Wild transfer speculation is linking Lewandowski with Barcelona and Bayern's chances of pulling off the same trick they did with the Pole and finding a world-class striker on a free transfer looks nearly impossible. Kylian Mbappe seems to have his heart set on Real Madrid. 

The coronavirus pandemic hit Bayern's finances hard, but they might have cash spare if only they had not overpaid for the likes of France midfielder Tolisso, who has contributed very little since 2017.

Bayern's transfer woes go way back. Just think of the revolving door of strikers they had before settling on Lewandowski. Roy Makaay 2003, Lukas Podolski 2006, Luca Toni 2007, Miroslav Klose 2007, Mario Gomez 2009, Ivica Olic 2009, Mario Mandzukic 2012. Then think about the weird loans for James Rodriguez and Coutinho. They saved money but didn't make the players feel like permanent fixtures.

A 10th Bundesliga title is coming but the exit to Villarreal means it is time for Bayern to fix their transfer malaise.

Edited by Chuck Penfold.

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