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 gutsy move from Bayern, to say the least. Losing a defender of Alaba’s calibre would hurt any top side, so to lose him on a free is twisting the knife even more. Not having a plan to replace him properly, however, that would be naïve.
Despite securing the treble and being crowned champions of Europe in the 2019/20 season, Die Roten didn’t enjoy the greatest of transfer windows last summer and are hurting as a result. By no means have the wheels fallen off, but failure to improve on a squad by adding depth and recognising the need for defensive reinforcements has hurt them during their defence of silverware.
They’ve already lost more games in 2021 than they did in 2020 and were booted out of the DFB Pokal on penalties by second-tier opposition. The blip served as a stark reminder that investments must be made to stay on top, and failing to address Alaba’s impending departure could derail things further.
The emergence of Alphonso Davies at left back hasn’t halted Alaba’s importance to Bayern. The 28-year-old has made 22 appearances in all competitions this season, featuring primarily at centre back and impressing in yet another position. Hansi Flick has been without his service in just one Bundesliga fixture so far, which is testament to his importance to the club despite him literally packing his bags to leave come the end of the season.
Injuries and inconsistencies continue to hinder Niklas Sule, while Benjamin Pavard has become the club’s de-facto starting right back. It means Bayern’s hands are tied at the back and have little choice beyond Alaba and Jerome Boateng – who is also out of contract at the end of the season.
Sure, looking towards youth is always an option, but relying on them to take the reigns in the absence of Alaba would be absurd. A lack of depth is hindering Bayern across the pitch and fresh faces to increase competition would’ve helped all over, but the defence must be treated as priority and fixed immediately.
That fix should 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 it doesn’t mean there’s nobody available. Die Roten need a short-term stop gap at the back to ease the burden on Alaba and Boateng that also helps them assess options for the summer.
Eder Militao can’t find a way in over Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane at Real Madrid. As a result, the misfit £43m signing is being linked with a move away from Spain and is supposedly even available for loan in January.
Flick has already proven that he has the tools to get the best out of players when other coaches perhaps can’t and would benefit massively from bringing in the 23-year-old on a loan deal.
Competition would ramp up with Militao in the side, and it would give Bayern the chance to properly scout targets ahead of a more permanent fix in summer. Militao could play his way into those options having not had the chance to shine in the Spanish capital, thus the move makes sense for both parties. Even if a move for Militao doesn’t work out, 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 everyone’s radar. Manchester United have long been linked with a move for the RB Leipzig man, although reports suggest their interest has cooled. If Upamecano is keen to stay in Germany, facilitating a move to the champions would likely prove rather straightforward. And with him having a release clause of just over £40m, it’s not a fee that would particularly break the bank – especially considering United had to pay double that to sign Harry Maguire.
Whatever Bayern decide to do, they now have until the summer to ensure that their next moves regarding recruitment are properly calculated and – most importantly – pulled off.
One disappointing summer is a mistake, but repeating that mistake and letting David Alaba leave without a replacement lined up could undo a lot of hard work done by those at the club.