After six straight Bundesliga crowns, how do you improve the undisputed best team in Germany? Well, they always say that if you’re not moving forward then you’re going backwards and with many criticising Carlo Ancelotti’s lacklustre side last season, there needed to be some form of evolution in the transfer market.
The club could no longer rely on the ageing duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, they also needed that extra bit of quality to push past the Spanish sides in Europe. So did they finally splash a bit more cash to go that one step further? Or have they stood still in the hope that the others around them haven’t caught up? Let’s take a look.
It’s been tough for the Colombian in Real Madrid. With the emergence of Marco Asensio and the form of Isco in his position, James Rodriguez just didn’t have a regular place in the starting line-up that he craves.
However, he could not have hoped for a better sideways step to this one. A move to Bavaria, with a club looking for more young, creative players, came at the perfect time and gives him a chance to show Los Blancos exactly what they are missing.
Eight goals and eight assists in all competitions last season is nothing to be sniffed at, especially as he only played 28 games. If he can keep up that kind of output with regular football at the Allianz Arena, he could be a revelation for a team that loves special footballers.
Finding the form that saw him win the Golden Ball at the 2012 World Cup might be beyond him but if he can get anywhere close, this will look like a sensational move. A two-year loan with a low option to buy, Bayern are almost the experts at finding these clever little moves out of nowhere.
Bayern have struggled for depth at centre-back for years, with a mixture of poor play and terrible injuries debilitating their defence. With both Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng having spells on the sidelines last season, they needed quality cover.
Niklas Sule is exactly that, having come to prominence last season with Hoffenheim. The German is big, strong, has excellent positionally and on his current trajectory, a potential starter at international level for years to come.
Too many times Munich have been forced to either move a midfielder back, a full-back inside or hope that one of their crocked bench players is not on the treatment table. That has been fixed with aplomb because Sule will not settle for a place on the bench and should their usual pairing pick up any knocks, they may struggle to walk back into the starting eleven.
Sometimes when an opportunity arises to buy a real talent at a good market price, you have to take that leap of faith. While it cost them more than any other player they’ve ever bought in their history, Corentin Tolisso has the ability to be a big player for Bayern for many years to come.
The team felt like it needed an extra creative outlet, with Thiago Alcantara taking too much of the load last season. With the option to also play him in wide areas or behind the striker as a number ten, Tolisso adds the tactical flexibility that Munich were sometimes lacking.
Especially with Thomas Muller being out of sorts and out of favour, adding another to the ranks was vital. The Frenchman is young and a real rising star that could prove to be a huge bargain in a world where transfer fees are starting to go through the roof.
This move came somewhat out of left-field. As mentioned in the intro, the club needed to start looking for people that could eventually replace the stalwarts of Robben and Ribery, with Kingsley Coman already entrenched as one heir to the throne, Serge Gnabry isn’t a home run to be the other.
The former Arsenal man had a great season at Werder Bremen, a standout performer in a team that for a long time was in the mire and showed a lot of explosiveness. A creator and scorer of goals, on his day he can be a real livewire that can cause problems to any defence.
Except, that can be a wildly inconsistent metric. Too often the winger has off-days where he tries to do too much or gets that tunnel vision that makes him seem like a selfish player.
Whether he’s really of Bayern quality remains to be seen.
Xabi Alonso’s retirement this summer caught a few off guard but as always, Munich had a replacement all sorted out. Sebastian Rudy was convinced to come over from Hoffenheim on a free transfer and you might not see a better move this past window.
The German international is a dependable midfielder, able to begin attacks from deep and help slow down the opposition in the middle of the park. A partnership with Thiago, Arturo Vidal or both would create a superb balance to the Bayern midfield that was somewhat lacking over the past year.
While the Spaniard was special, Alonso was clearly showing signs of wear and tear in recent seasons. Though Rudy isn’t quite of the level he was in his prime, both his pedigree and price make this another one of those clever moves for Bayern that flies under the radar.
Since his move from Roma in 2014, everyone expected Medhi Benatia to become a regular Bayern fixture. Desperate to find a permanent partner to Jerome Boateng, the Moroccan was seen as the ideal foil having proven himself in Serie A.
That reality never really came to pass and after two indifferent seasons in the Bundesliga, he was shipped out to Juventus on loan. After disappointing in Turin, it’s actually rather surprising that the Italian champions came back in for him this summer.
In the end, Munich got a reasonable fee for a player they’ve replaced twice over with Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule. Hopefully, Benatia will do well for The Old Lady but there was no real place for him at the Allianz Arena anymore.
Much like Hercules, Renato Sanches has gone from hero to zero. Lauded as one of the most special talents in Europe back in 2016 that Bayern had beaten the big guns to, only to be shipped off on loan to Swansea just a year later.
The Portuguese international never really settled in Germany, struggling to get to pace with things and regularly being too over-zealous or wayward with his ball skills. He turned in some truly woeful displays that saw him benched before being frozen out of the squad altogether.
Carlo Ancelotti’s relationship with Paul Clement helped him go to Wales and it gives the chance for Sanches to grow again under the spotlight. Whether he’ll ever be of a Bayern quality remains to be seen but for a young footballer, a chance of scenery can do them the world of good.
Heralded when he first came to Bavaria as their new wing hero, Douglas Costa has often flattered to deceive. Often moments of brilliance were underpinned by moments of madness and unfortunately for the Brazilian, that meant he needed to be shown the door.
What also hurt him was his production, where he never really created enough and did not subsidise that with a glut of goals either. He made an impact in a few games, had some fabulous goals and possessed outrageous burst but he never really showed all of that on a consistent enough basis.
At a big club like that, it simply can’t happen. Whether he has found a new dawn in Juventus, only time will tell but with a new influx of young talent in attacking areas, there was simply no more room to keep Costa on their roster.
A career cut much shorter than it should due to a number of debilitating setbacks, Holger Badstuber finally flew from the nest this summer. Once an exciting prospect from the long line that have come out of Bayern, his battle to stay fit eventually beat his ability to stay at the club he had been at for 15 years.
A free transfer to Stuttgart was needed, both for the club and the player. He needs regular game time and as much as he can get having missed so much football while Munich couldn’t keep waiting for him to available while they challenge for titles.
This one makes sense, even if Bayern would love someone of his experience to be available off the bench. It was a sentimental move to allow him to leave and everyone in football hopes that the defender is finally rid of his injury nightmares for good.
Bring him in, ship him out. The move to Bayern seemed strange in the first place but then moving him to Hoffenheim, a “potential” rival, makes almost less sense.
While he wouldn’t start for Bayern, Gnabry possibly offered a more conventional wing option than the likes of James Rodriguez or Corentin Tolisso, who prefer to be attacking midfielders from a central area.
From a player point of view, this makes a lot of sense as under Julian Nagelsmann, he’ll get more game-time. However, from a Bayern perspective, it seems counter-productive to bring a player in to replace another, only to allow him to move away and leave you shorter in a key area of the field.
Maybe this was a subtle sweetener to the club ahead of an attempt to woo their manager in the near future.