With Bastian Schweinsteiger’s move to English record champions Manchester United, the makers at Bayern Munich will have to decide as to whom the most adequate replacement is. In this sense, it is likely that FCB might dip into the transfer market before the window shuts, but it is arguably more likely that this gap is closed from within. In this respect, the depth of the club’s current squad is a distinct advantage and might ultimately save the German champions significant amounts of financial outlay. Below, we look at three central midfield options from within the club’s current squad.
To many bystanders Austrian international David Alaba is only known as an attacking left-back. However, the 23-year old actually regards himself and prefers playing as a holding midfielder and was educated as such in his youth at Austria Vienna and Bayern Munich respectively. Having initially started out in his favoured position, in many ways, the Austrian faced the dilemma of being left-footed and fast. Arguably, these are two of the most critical attributes of left-backs in contemporary football. As a result, Alaba quickly ended up on the left side and has been a regular in that position since. In fact, the youngster has been performing so well as a left-back, that in January 2015, he was picked as the left-back for the UEFA.com team of the year 2014, for the second time in a row.
Despite Alaba’s impressive exploits on the left, Bayern’s purchase of young Spanish left-back Juan Bernat from Valencia before the start of last season somewhat changed the dynamics within the squad. Bernat quickly established himself at Bayern and became a regular, playing the full 90 minutes in 26 of his 31 Bundesliga appearances. To some extent, this was a blessing in disguise for Alaba, who was restricted to only 19 Bundesliga appearances due to injury problems last season. The Austrian was mostly pushed into his preferred central midfield role and played this position for full games on ten occasions, with five appearances as a centre back and four as a left-back. Some of Alaba’s strongest performances came in his favoured position, perhaps most notably the 8-0 victory over Hamburg. As things stand, the young Austrian might be the most obvious candidate to fill the void left by Schweinsteiger’s departure for years to come. Despite his young age, Alaba actually comes with a great deal of experience and some of the necessary leadership skills. Nevertheless, there are some other options.
19-year old Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was loaned out to Bundesliga side Augsburg during the winter transfer window, in order to gain some valuable playing time in Germany’s top flight. The youngster had joined Bayern Munich from Danish side Brondby back in 2012, and had always been regarded as one of Europe’s hottest prospects. His loan spell at Augsburg helped him boost his development and Hojbjerg made 16 appearances, scoring two goals and providing three assists. Intriguingly, his best games came against Bayern, Gladbach and Leverkusen, which represent most of Germany’s top four. Hojbjerg’s well-above average pass completion ratio of 83% will be particularly intriguing to Pep Guardiola, as Bayern’s manager will be looking for great passing ability when picking his central midfield.
Finally, Sebastian Rode can be seen as another player with a good chance of landing a starting spot in Bayern’s central midfield. Not fancied by many after moving to the Bavarian capital from Eintracht Frankfurt at the beginning of last season, Rode managed to spring quite a few surprises over the course of the Bundesliga campaign. The 24-year old made 23 appearances, scoring two goals and providing five assists. Rode ran a lot, just over 12km per 90 minutes to be precise. Rode won a lot of tackles, 55% to be precise. And Rode’s pass completion ratio of 88% (90% in his Champions League appearances) was most impressive. The midfielder’s rise to such recognition is impressive in itself, especially given the amount of players who failed at Bayern. However, it will be critical for Rode to keep up the good work. If that is given, there is nothing that would suggest that Rode would not stand a chance. After all, Guardiola seems to like his style and the player is a Schweinsteigeresque midfielder.
It will be interesting to watch the space over the coming weeks, but it is obvious that Bayern already have a top-quality squad that has the potential to compensate a legend’s departure from within. The ability is certainly given, however, the question will be as to whom can step up and become that leader which every midfield craves.