There was a lot of scepticism around Sandro Wagner's return to Bayern Munich in January. But just three months later the 30-year-old has proven himself to be an asset to the club, and a gamble worth taking.
For Bayern Munich, 495 is the magic number. It's the total number of minutes Sandro Wagner has played for the club since returning in the January transfer window. Five starts and the same number of cameos don't sound like much, but Wagner's presence alone has been key to Bayern's progress since he signed.
Those 495 minutes also translate into the same amount of time Robert Lewandowski hasn't played, and, in a sport obsessed with finding an edge, eight hours rest might make all the difference.
The Polish striker has become such a pivotal part of Bayern's game that without him they appear a more manageable beast. And yet, remarkably, Bayern had failed to provide Lewandowski with adequate support down the years.
Outspoken and with a high opinion of himself, there was concern that Wagner's boisterous nature would ruffle feathers and leave him frustrated at a lack of playing time. After a promising start to his career - Wagner was a part of that special Germany U21 team that dispatched of England in the 2009 European Championships final - the striker has spent more time roaming than ruling. But just like the return of head coach Jupp Heynckes, Bayern made a good call in turning to a familiar face when the time came.
The right man at the right time
Ten games and six goals later, Wagner proved to be that rare commodity in football: a back-up striker worth the money in January. Powerful and a nuisance for defenders, Wagner's underrated talent lies with his ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play. In short, the 30-year-old has instantly provided a solution for Bayern's lack of depth in the striker role. His impact is such that it begs the question as to why the Bavarians didn't sign him sooner.
Being the key man in Hoffenheim's attack earned Wagner opportunities in the national side, but his January move to Bayern looked likely to scupper further involvement. And yet, Wagner has played the role of back-up so marvellously that Löw can ill afford to ignore him when it comes to selecting his squad for Russia. A lack of regular game time hasn't affected his composure in front of goal, and he's developed his feisty nature into something that gives him an edge. Playing club football with seven other Germany internationals hasn't hurt either.
Read more: Back to the roots for Sandro Wagner
A decade ago, a then 19-year-old Sandro Wagner collected his Bundesliga winners' medal after playing just 63 Bundesliga minutes for Bayern. Last weekend, after a career spent drifting from team to team, the man few expected to win anything again won his second Bundesliga title in the familiar colors of Bayern Munich. And this time, he has more than played his part.