Pep Guardiola has declared himself happy with his Bayern Munich squad, despite striker Robert Lewandowski being the German champions’ only major signing of this transfer window. Bayern Munich will head to the United States next week for two matches to continue their preseason ahead of the German Super Cup and the start of their Bundesliga title defense.
In his second season in charge, Guardiola will also doubtless be targeting the Champions League crown after Bayern were emphatically ousted in the semifinal by Real Madrid in last season’s semifinals. But while Madrid have made a major splash by securing Colombian sensation James Rodríguez, as well as snatching Toni Kroos from the Bavarians, and other contenders like Barcelona and Chelsea have also spent significant sums, Bayern have made more modest adjustments to their squad.
The headline deal has been Lewandowski joining from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer that was tied up in January and effectively sealed long before that. Midfielder Sebastian Rode has also arrived on a free transfer, from Eintracht Frankfurt, while Spain Under-21 left-back Juan Bernat has been snapped up from Valencia for close to €9 million. Yet Guardiola stated on Thursday that all his squad needed was an extra goalkeeper.
“We need another goalkeeper as backup to Manuel Neuer and Tom Starke, but nothing else,” he said, according to Bild.
The void left by the all-round talent of Kroos appears significant, but Bernat could well be part of a typically inventive Guardiola plan to replace the German World Cup winner. Last season Guardiola surprised many by converting the world’s best full-back, Philipp Lahm, into a deep-lying midfielder and he could well now do the same for Bayern’s other full-back.
In David Alaba’s case such a conversion should not be so much of a surprise. Alaba began his career as a central midfielder before being told his future was at left-back by then Bayern coach Louis van Gaal four years ago. At international level Alaba has continued to operate in the middle for Austria. Even last season, while starting at left-back, Guardiola’s tactics meant Alaba spent much of his time essentially as a midfielder. With great pace and athleticism as well as excellent technical ability, the 22-year-old should have little trouble adapting to the role on a more permanent basis if Bernat is handed his left-back slot.
And it’s not as if Bayern are short of quality midfielders. Lahm, Rode, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcântara, the versatile Javi Martínez, and promising Danish teenager Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, a starter in May’s victorious DFB-Pokal final, all offer quality options. Thiago, in particular, could well be in for a big season to help ease the pain caused by Kroos’ departure. Having been poached from Barcelona last summer, the immensely gifted Spain international suffered an injury blighted frist campaign that restricted him to just 11 Bundesliga starts.
Ahead of a fine group of midfielders, Bayern’s quality is even more startling. Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry and the man who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final, Mario Götze, provide much competition. Many of those also provide options to operate with a false nine, but Guardiola now has the kind of top level orthodox striker he has lacked for most of his managerial career. Lewandowski offers Bayern a whole new dimension and threat to opponents.
It is at the back where arguably the main question marks remain. While Bayern Munich’s defensive record domestically was mightily impressive, when it came to the big tests in Europe Jerome Boateng and Dante were often vulnerable. Yet Boateng was superb in the World Cup final and Bayern now have effectively a new signing to reinforce their back line. After more than 18 months on the sidelines, Germany international Holger Badstuber has returned to action in preseason and, if he can regain his previous form, will be a huge boost for the club.
While they may not have made nearly as much impact in the transfer window as their major European rivals this summer, the overall quality of Bayern’s squad looks untouchable domestically and good enough to compete with any on the continent.