What Bayern Munich's Centre-Back Pursuit Says About Pep Guardiola's Plans

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2014


Bayern Munich already have several qualified options at centre-back in the form of Dante, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Holger Badstuber, but it appears that the Bavarian giants have resolved to make the centre-back position their top transfer priority this summer.

Bild, via Metro, reported earlier in May that Bayern were keen to sign David Luiz in a swap with Mario Mandzukic, but the Brazilian's recent transfer to Paris Saint-Germain has forced the Munich giants to look elsewhere.

The Roten have been linked with Aymeric Laporte, although he allegedly has a preagreement with Barcelona, per Inside Spanish Football. Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri recently revealed on Twitter that, according to Sky Italia, Bayern had scouted Roma's Mehdi Benatia in his last four matches.

It will be difficult for Bayern to sign a top centre-back, especially considering that Luiz's transfer value (€49 million) may have inflated the market. But if Bayern do sign a new centre-back, it will have a few implications for the squad.

Badstuber is set to return, but has a long way to go in his recovery.
Badstuber is set to return, but has a long way to go in his recovery.Matthias Schrader/Associated Press/Associated Press

The first and perhaps most obvious is that Holger Badstuber will not be relied upon, at least not in the immediate future.

In February 2013, the Germany international penned a contract extension that will see him remain at Bayern until 2017. But that was before he'd suffered a second torn anterior cruciate ligament, the repair of which had to be delayed while he grew back the portion of his patellar tendon that had been used to replace the ACL from the first injury.

Badstuber will have gone more than 20 months without playing a minute of football before Bayern play their first competitive fixture of the 2014-15 season, and exactly how he will react is uncertain. What is undeniable is that he won't be immediately ready to compete at the highest level.

The question is how long he'll take and whether he'll eventually be able to reach the level at which he played before suffering back-to-back debilitating injuries. In all likelihood, this will be a multiyear process. The good news is that Badstuber is still just 25 years of age and could have a decade of professional football left in him.

Bringing in a new centre-back could mean that Guardiola no longer intends to use Javi Martinez in central defense.

A newcomer would replace the out-of-contract Daniel van Buyten in the Bayern squad, but the German giants would not invest heavily in a fourth-choice centre-back. Especially considering Martinez's struggles in defense in 2013-14, the pursuit of a newcomer suggests Guardiola intends for there to be competition between Boateng, Dante and the new signing.

For Martinez, that means either more playing time in midfield or the possibility of his sale. The 26-year-old had a difficult season, and Guardiola failed to recognize his value as a midfielder for long spells in the season. But Bayern's 5-0 aggregate hammering at the hands of Real Madrid proved they needed a player of Martinez's qualities ahead of the back four.

CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggested to the official Bayern website on Monday that Guardiola had learned his lesson, stating the loss to Real was "not forgotten."

Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

The obvious alternative is that Bayern could sell Martinez, who, according to the is wanted by Liverpool and, according to The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson, is a target for Arsenal. But Guardiola will likely be reluctant to offload his fellow countryman, who proved his value toward the end of the 2013-14 season and who, at €40 million, is Bayern's record signing.

A more likely scenario is that Bastian Schweinsteiger will see his minutes decreased as Martinez plays more in the midfield. For all the talk of Toni Kroos being sold, it's the vice-captain Schweinsteiger who may not be the best fit in Guardiola's system.

If Bayern are to play faster, more vertical football while maintaining a strong presence in defensive midfield in 2014-15, Guardiola's best trio in the center of the park may be Martinez, Toni Kroos and Thiago Alcantara. Martinez can provide the defensive quality, Kroos the distribution in deep areas and Thiago the creativity in the final third.

Schweinsteiger is a more complete player than any of his midfield colleagues, but none of his abilities can match the class of their specialties. Another concern with Schweinsteiger is that he tends to build up play rather slowly, and one of Bayern's problems in Guardiola's first season was the slow pace of their attack. To speed things up, it may be necessary to relegate Schweinsteiger to the bench.

The market for centre-backs will be rather sparse this summer, and those who are available may be for sale at rather inflated prices. It certainly won't be easy for Bayern to sign a top interior defender, but that appears to be their primary objective. And if Bayern succeed, it will have a cascading effect on the squad as a whole, especially Badstuber, Dante, Boateng, Martinez and even Schweinsteiger.

With depth already substantial in the Bayern squad, one more centre-back will ensure that no player is safe and assured in his role. Good motivation for all.


Follow Clark Whitney on Twitter


    Luis Suarez Scores 50th Uruguay Goal 🎥

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Luis Suarez Scores 50th Uruguay Goal 🎥

    via Streamable

    Iniesta: Madrid Can Have Neymar, We're Still Better

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Iniesta: Madrid Can Have Neymar, We're Still Better

    Getty Images
    via Goal

    Is Portugal-Egypt Salah's Real Madrid Audition?

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Is Portugal-Egypt Salah's Real Madrid Audition?

    Evening Standard
    via Evening Standard