In recent weeks, there have been widespread rumors concerning the futures of many of Bayern Munich's star players. Various reports have claimed Toni Kroos, Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Mueller, Javi Martinez, Xherdan Shaqiri and even Bastian Schweinsteiger could be headed for an exit from the Allianz Arena this summer, with many peeved by a lack of playing time under coach Pep Guardiola.
Indeed, it's a real challenge to keep a squad of happy, committed players when there are more than 20 of them competing for just 11 spots in the starting lineup. However, it is possible that Guardiola's rotation will be more accepted among his players during his second season in charge.
The key factor in this regard is the World Cup in Brazil. Bayern have sent 14 players to the World Cup, a tally equal to Manchester United as a high among all club teams. Based on historical precedent, it's possible that Bayern will have a very fatigued squad entering the 2014-15 club campaign.
Consider the 2010-11 season. Schweinsteiger, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan were three of the best players at the World Cup after three enduring grueling club campaigns the season before. Each suffered a dramatic drop in form after the World Cup, with Sneijder even collapsing at half-time of a match against Brescia in November of 2010. The player said (per the Daily Mail) that his "whole body [was] exhausted." He was later diagnosed with anemia.
Natural, every professional will want to start every game, but considering the pace of the modern game, there is simply too much football for mere mortals to be expected to play. Injuries will keep superstars like Radamel Falcao, Franck Ribery and Marco Reus out of the World Cup. Many of Bayern's international players in Brazil are expected to star for their respective national teams, with many of those teams among the favorites to reach the quarterfinals and beyond.
It will therefore be important for those Bayern players who are not at the World Cup to step up and deliver. And, for many, it can be a rare chance to shine in the matches that matter. Xherdan Shaqiri recently expressed to Swiss source 20 Minuten (h/t InsideSpanishFootball.com) that he demanded playing time as a starter and "not just when the league has already been won."
Shaqiri's concern is a common one for a player trying to make his name at a big club, and the likes of Pierre Hojbjerg, Mitchell Weiser and newcomer Sebastian Rode (none of whom will play competitive football this summer) can expect to have opportunities in 2014-15. That may explain why Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently told the official Bayern website why Hojbjerg, for example, will not leave the club this summer despite spending almost the entire 2013-14 campaign in the reserves.
Shaqiri and Julian Green, who will both play at the World Cup but who also spent most of last season in the Bayern reserves or on the bench, can also expect more chances, although all of the aforementioned will find it almost impossible to become permanent starters who are relied upon in big matches. How willing they are to accept such a role remains to be seen; any of a number of Bayern players could leave the Allianz Arena this summer.
Another hurdle for many of Bayern's up-and-coming players is the fact that Ribery and Thiago Alcantara are missing the World Cup due to injuries, while newcomer Robert Lewandowski and the likes of David Alaba did not qualify for the tournament in Brazil with Poland and Austria, respectively.
Ribery is aging and Thiago has proven to be very injury prone, however, and Bayern may have some exhausted players in Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger come August. Therefore, there should be plenty of opportunities for those on the periphery, particularly in midfield, where Hojbjerg, Rode, Shaqiri and Green ply their trade.
The path to prominence at a big club is a difficult one, but every Bayern player knew the challenge at stake when they signed. The 2014 World Cup will surely bring exhaustion and perhaps injury to the overworked players in Pep Guardiola's squad. For the fringe players, it will be a situation of now or never.