Bayern Munich must prepare for life after David Alaba with defensive reinforcement
Bayern Munich made a statement at the end of 2020 when they withdrew a contract offer from David Alaba, effectively accepting defeat and resigning themselves to losing their star on a free transfer.
It’s a brave move from Bayern, to say the least. Losing a defender of Alaba’s caliber would hurt any upper part, so losing it on a free kick is to bend the knife even more. Not having a plan to replace it properly, however, would be naïve.
Despite the treble and European Championship title in the 2019/20 season, Die Roten did not take advantage of the biggest transfer windows last summer and are suffering as a result. By no means did the wheels fall off, but the failure to improve in a team by adding depth and recognizing the need for defensive reinforcements hurt them in their silverware defense.
They have already lost more matches in 2021 than in 2020 and were sent off from DFB Pokal on penalties by the second tier opposition. The blip was a blunt reminder that investments must be made to stay on top, and not dealing with Alaba’s impending departure could derail things further.
The emergence of Alphonso Davies at left-back hasn’t interrupted Alaba’s importance to Bayern. The 28-year-old has made 22 appearances in all competitions this season, mostly with the impressive center-back in another position. Hansi Flick has been out of service in just one Bundesliga game so far, a testament to his importance to the club despite literally packing his bags to leave at the end of the season.
Injuries and inconsistencies continue to hurt Niklas Sule, while Benjamin Pavard has become the club’s de facto comeback. This means Bayern’s hands are tied at the back and have little choice but Alaba and Jerome Boateng – who are also without a contract at the end of the season.
Of course, looking to young people is always an option, but relying on them to take the reins in Alaba’s absence would be absurd. A lack of depth is hampering Bayern on the pitch and new faces to increase competition would have helped anywhere, but the defense needs to be treated as a priority and fixed immediately.
This fix is expected to happen with the January transfer window.
Major deals aren’t the easiest to strike in January, let alone when a global pandemic won’t go away, but that doesn’t mean no one is available. Die Roten needs a short-term stoppage in the rear to ease the burden on Alaba and Boateng, which also helps them weigh options for the summer.
Eder Militao can’t find a way to get past Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane at Real Madrid. As a result, the signing of an unsuitable £ 43million is linked to a move away from Spain and is said to be even available for a loan in January.
Flick has already proven he has the tools to get the best out of players when other coaches may not and would benefit massively from bringing the 23-year-old on loan.
Competition would intensify with Militao in the camp, and that would give Bayern the chance to spot targets correctly before a more permanent correction in the summer. Militao could find their way into those options not having had the chance to shine in the Spanish capital, so the move makes sense for both sides. Even if a move for Militao doesn’t work, it rules out a candidate and gives the club a clearer focus on where they want to spend their money.
Dayot Upamecano is the defender on everybody radar. Manchester United have long been linked with a RB Leipzig move, although reports suggest their interest has cooled. If Upamecano wants to stay in Germany, making the transition to champions easier would likely prove to be fairly straightforward. And with him having a release clause of just over £ 40million, these weren’t a fee that would particularly break the bank – especially since United had to pay double than signing Harry Maguire.
Whatever Bayern decides to do, they now have until the summer to make sure their next recruiting decisions are properly calculated and – most importantly – successful.
A disappointing summer is a mistake, but repeating that mistake and letting David Alaba go without a lined up replacement could undo a lot of hard work by those at the club.