As the Champions League Round of 16 match in the Allianz Arena between Basel and Bayern drew to a close, the fourth official raised his board to announce a substitution. Xherdan Shaqiri’s night was about to come to an end. Shaqiri was playing for the opposition. His side was getting toyed with in the match. A group of Bayern fans though, applauded this young man.
They had more than enough reason to cheer for the Swiss—they knew he would be donning the jersey of their team shortly. Shaqiri really came to the fore in the Champions League last season where he helped his side defeat United 2-1. He set up both goals in that match. He is a confident individual and as is required of all Bayern signings, a "winner".
Shaqiri has won all there is to win in Switzerland. He can play as a right-winger as well as a right-back. He himself is confident in his abilities and is seen as a long-term replacement to Arjen Robben. Many would question the requirement of a replacement for Robben. There are various reasons why replacing Robben might help the team.
Robben knows what he has at Bayern—a supporting club and a great medical team to take care of him. However, the Dutchman was responsible to a certain extent for slowing down Bayern’s play last season.
Without him, the team flourished in the first five months of the campaign. They went on such a long unbeaten streak that even the Bayern fans were getting slightly bored of the lack of challenges presented to them on both the domestic and European fronts.
With Robben back on the team, Bayern’s approach returned to the old approach—pass to Robben or Franck Ribery and expect them to produce some magic.
All of Bayern’s good play with minimal possession in the first five months disappeared. Some of that can be put on the loss of Bastian Schweinsteiger to injury to be fair to Robben. The Dutchman is not the youngest player out there either. On the other hand, time is on Shaqiri’s side.
The move also means perhaps that Philipp Lahm can take a break when required as Shaqiri can fill in on the right side of defence. The Bayern hierarchy knows very well the after-effects of a major international tournament. Lahm will require rests and Shaqiri could turn out to be a more valuable asset than Rafinha turned out to be last season.
How Shaqiri will link up with Mario Gomez will also be important. In fact, he might find himself passing to Mario Mandzukic or Claudio Pizarro. Bayern sent Ivica Olic to Wolfsburg. Mandzukic joins Die Roten from Die Wolfe. Mandzukic showed everyone what he is capable of at the Euros.
The Croat is much more than just a good header of the ball. His build-up play is much more developed than Mario Gomez. He scored 12 goals for Wolfsburg in 32 league appearances last season. Mandzukic has adapted to life in the Bundesliga, but will he succeed in Europe? Mandzukic can learn about adapting to life at Bayern from one of the very best at Bayern, a certain Claudio Pizarro.
Pizarro needs no introduction. He spent six fruitful seasons in Bavaria and is now back to spend at least one more summer with them. He is carrying an injury from his Bremen days and has been unable to take part in regular training sessions. Pizarro wants to win it all—he does not fear competition. In his last time at Bayern, he was behind five other world-class strikers in the pecking order, but made his way to the top.
Pizarro scored 71 goals in 174 appearances for Bayern. However, he incurred the wrath of Karl Heinz Rummenigge on his way out in 2007 when he demanded a pay raise.
Pizarro has arguably turned into a much calmer individual now than he was back then. He has added more dimensions to his game in his time at Bremen to make up for his age.
Pizarro’s signing is a shrewd one by Bayern. He comes on a free transfer, first of all. Secondly, while his role will most likely be minimal, playing under the spotlight won’t scare him. He will want to win the one trophy he missed out with Bayern—the Champions League.
Next on the new signing list for Bayern is of course, the curly-haired Dante. Dante was a huge part of the Borussia Mönchengladbach defence that refused to give in to any team this past season. He is 28 years of age and is most likely to play backup to the youthful pairing of the talented, but erratic duo of Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber. With both having played for Germany in the Euros, they will require rests.
Dante might even become first choice if the German duo doesn’t improve. Bayern, in the not-so-distant past did have a very reliable Brazilian at the back—a certain Lucio. Dante is an incredibly solid player and he is experienced as well. Bayern’s defence is pathetic when it comes to dealing with set piece situations. Dante just might help improve that.
Mitchell Weiser, who has been named to the senior squad, is a youthful addition to the side. The Köln youth star recently featured for Bayern in their first friendly and he seems to be a signing for the future, unless of course he turns out to be a fast bloomer like David Alaba or Thomas Mueller.
Emre Can has been promoted from the youth team to the senior side. Thus, Bayern adds more quality to a very qualified midfield. Can is said to be the future jewel of Bayern’s midfield. Uli Hoeness had made a similar statement about Toni Kroos in the past and Kroos seems to be living up to that potential.
Finally, two keepers have been added to the side. The vastly experienced and reliable Tom Starke joins from Hoffenheim to be the backup to Manuel Neuer, while Lukas Raeder joins from Schalke to be the third-choice shot-stopper.
The signings might not be completed yet with the addition of Javi Martinez still a distinct possibility. With the presence of Kroos, Luiz Gustavo, Schweinsteiger and Can, the addition of Martinez might not be a necessity. However, despite the quality of Schweinsteiger, how long he takes to return to form remains to be seen. Kroos is a fantastic deputy, but his talents are wasted in defensive midfield really.
Last season, Bayern, despite the thinness of the bench, lacked a Plan B. The number of horizontal passes played on the pitch drove almost everyone crazy. The slow build-up play was one of the factors leading to Bayern’s three runner-up finishes. Bayern has the players for initiating fast build-up play, but whether they will remains to be seen.
They recently played SpVgg Unterhaching in a friendly. Bayern ran out 1-0 winners due to a marvelous goal from 25 yards by David Alaba. Matthias Sammer was present in the dugout for this one.
So, what do you think of Bayern’s signings? Let me hear your thoughts.