This week we are examining what business the top clubs around Europe are looking to do in January, starting with Bayern Munich…
Having won the league at a canter for the past six seasons, Bayern are feeling the heat under a renewed challenge from Dortmund, who are leading by six points at the halfway stage.
With Bayern in unfamiliar territory, their ageing squad is in need of rejuvenation, and their public display of interest in Chelsea’s 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi has proven their intent during this month’s transfer window.
But is Hudson-Odoi all they need? We weigh up where Bayern need reinforcements…
Bayern’s 2018-19 so far
- Last six matches: WWWDWW
- Bundesliga: 2nd – six points behind Dortmund
- Champions League: Last 16 vs Liverpool in February
- DFB-Pokal: Last 16 vs Hertha Berlin in February
A younger wingman
With four wingers at Bayern’s disposal, veterans Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery – 34 and 35 respectively – have found competition in Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry.
Bayern have nine players in their squad aged 30 or over; Jerome Boateng (30), Robert Lewandowski (30), Mats Hummels (30), Javi Martinez (30), Sandro Wagner (31), Manuel Neuer (32), Rafinha (33), Arjen Robben (34), Franck Ribery (35)
Gnabry and Ribery have been Niko Kovac’s most-fancied wingers this season, though the Bayern boss has never had a fully-fit quartet to choose from.
Robben has missed their last five league matches, while Ribery picked up an injury during their training camp in Doha, and it appears the duo’s days are numbered in Munich, with their contracts set to expire at the end of the season.
The club’s pursuit of Hudson-Odoi is spearheading their commitment to adding fresh impetus, but Chelsea are not playing ball after what head coach Maurizio Sarri described as a lack of “respect” by Bayern, who have made four bids – the latest of £35m – for the England U19 international.
Jadon Sancho, thriving at Dortmund, has told close friend Hudson-Odoi “to do whatever is best for him” – there is every reason to believe Bayern will return with a renewed offer later this month.
The Rabiot hunt
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot also sees his contract run out this summer, and Bayern are looking to hijack Barcelona’s move for the 23-year-old.
Barcelona looked set to secure his services, but Sky in Germany understand no deal has been finalised and that Rabiot’s agent, who is also his mother, is in negotiations with multiple clubs – one of which is Bayern.
It is understood Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic is negotiating with his counterpart at PSG, Antero Henrique, to bring Rabiot to Germany either this month or in the summer.
Rabiot’s potential arrival would boost Kovac’s options in the centre of midfield with Thiago, Javi Martinez and Leon Goretzka all vying for two starting positions in a 4-2-3-1 formation that has been used in five of their last seven matches.
Seeking strength in depth
It is not just in midfield where Bayern are looking to strengthen and Kovac’s inability to settle on a centre-back partnership has seen the club seal a summer move for Frenchman Benjamin Pavard, while his compatriot Lucas Hernandez is also said to be a target.
The 23-year-old was left out of Atletico Madrid’s matchday squad against Levante on Sunday, but the La Liga club released a statement last month denying his release clause had been triggered by Bayern.
Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski continues to be Bayern’s talisman up front, but the forward is in clear need of support, for his 22-goal haul from 24 games is 17 goals more than any other player has contributed – with Robben, Ribery and Thomas Muller all on five apiece.
This shortage could be helped by Timo Werner, who hinted to Sky in Germany last month that his future may lie away from RB Leipzig.
“I’ve had a nice two-and-a-half years at Leipzig, so they are in the picture [for next season],” he said.
“There are other clubs in the picture. If you play in Germany and want to stay in Germany, there is only one club in question.”
Any move for Werner does not appear likely until the summer, which could indicate why Bayern have been linked with a loan move for Chelsea forward Alvaro Morata – according to the Daily Mail – as the Premier League club target Gonzalo Higuain.
With two-and-a-half weeks remaining in the transfer window, there is plenty of time for Bayern to recruit on their return from the winter break. With Liverpool to come in the Champions League, and with Dortmund to track down in the Bundesliga, it would be a surprise if Kovac made no January additions.