As Bayern Munich prepare for the 2015-16 season, it appears likely that a new attacking player will move to the Allianz Arena to bolster their options in the final third. The German giants looked a decided step below Europe's very best last season, but new blood could be just what they need to propel them back to the top of European club football.
Below, B/R takes a look at three of the top players linked with Bayern in recent weeks, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and how they could fit in with Die Roten.
Angel Di Maria
Perhaps the best option for Bayern would be one of the strongest performers for Real Madrid when Los Blancos hammered Bayern 5-0 on aggregate in the 2013-14 Champions League semifinals: Angel Di Maria.
He had a disappointing first season at Manchester United, and Bayern have since been linked with a move for the Argentinian. According to Kicker, technical director Michael Reschke made an inquiry about Di Maria. He'd be an expensive acquisition and may prove too costly to sign but would be a great addition to the Bayern team.
During his career, Di Maria has developed into a very versatile player. Previously used exclusively on the wing, his last season at Real Madrid was one in which he developed into a central player. Far from a classic No. 10, Di Maria was nonetheless a driving force through the midfield.
With Xabi Alonso the regista and Luka Modric playing a role closer to that of a traditional playmaker, Di Maria was a new type of central midfielder. Whereas his partners would pass, the Argentinian would also dribble quickly from deep in his own half to bring the ball into attack. And of course, he could occasionally drift into position as an auxiliary winger.
This versatility made Di Maria a brilliant option to have in counterattacking situations. He was an all-round threat, as he showed against Bayern in 2014 (first leg highlights here—take note of Di Maria's positioning and different roles in counterattacking situations).
For the majority of his career, though, Di Maria has played out wide. And it is there where he would most likely fit into the Bayern team. Franck Ribery played a very limited part at Bayern last season, and his injury proneness and advanced years—he's 32 now—likely make him the first attacker among the current staff Bayern will look to replace.
Ribery's role in the Bayern attack has long been primarily to assist goals: He's the playmaker for the German giants. And more than any other player Bayern have been linked with—albeit with a different style from Ribery—Di Maria is also a provider. Per Transfermarkt, he's recorded 124 assists during his professional career at club level to complement his 61 goals.
Critically, Di Maria is rather selfless in that he doesn't consider himself above the role of defending. He was such a success as a central player at Real because of the fact he was willing to use his athleticism to drop into deep areas and fight for the ball. It's an attribute that doesn't beget glory and is undervalued by many but also helped transform Ribery from nearly man to key figure in Bayern's run to the treble in 2013.
Di Maria's industry, either in the center or out wide, would be very useful to the German giants as they look to replicate the success of two years ago. The only problem is the player himself would also be aiming to find the form of yesteryear having disappointed in Manchester.
A completely different direction for Bayern would be to sign Antoine Griezmann, an option the German giants are apparently mulling. Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo recently labeled the Frenchman "un-transferrable" in an interview with Radio4G (via ESPN), but the club may ultimately prove powerless to prevent a move because of Liga rules that state every player's contract must include a buyout clause.
Per Le 10 Sport (h/t Squawka), Griezmann's is around €60 million and Chelsea are interested. Bayern have also been closely linked with Griezmann, with Sport Bild claiming the German giants could also activate his exit clause.
Whereas Di Maria is more the type to set up goals, Griezmann is much more a scorer who stays higher up the pitch. The Frenchman, Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski would make an absolutely lethal front line, although there would be reasonable cause for concern about supplying the forwards.
The Atletico Madrid man is more than capable of dribbling from his own half as Di Maria can and has some creativity, but the numbers don't lie: He assisted just six goals last season while scoring 25, and as a professional, he has set up just 24 compared to the 77 he's scored, recorded by Transfermarkt.
In any case, Griezmann would solve the long-term problem of replacing Robben as the pacy dribbler with a killer finish.
Additionally, he would be able to serve as backup for Lewandowski in the striker role, a position in which Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze haven't always convinced when called upon. With 36-year-old Claudio Pizarro seemingly set to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of June, depth behind Lewandowski would be quite useful. As would a secondary striker option for the sake of diversity up front against hard-to-break defenses.
Another key attribute of Griezmann's is his ability to play with both feet. Whereas Robben and Ribery are primarily one-footed players whose decisions have been rather predictable at times, and whereas Di Maria is similarly dependent on his left foot, the Atleti forward is more capable of going in either direction. It makes him more dynamic and capable of playing effectively in different roles on the pitch.
Finally, Griezmann is coming off a brilliant first season at Atleti. He proved he was ready for the step up from Real Sociedad and has form on his side. Still only 24, he could really take the next step at Bayern.
Should Bayern be unable to land Di Maria or Griezmann, a more affordable but riskier option would be to move for Felipe Anderson. The Sport Bild report linking Griezmann to Bayern also linked the Lazio man with a move to Munich.
Whereas Di Maria is a Champions League winner and World Cup finalist and Griezmann has experience at a top European club, Anderson is much more raw. He recently turned 22 and has yet to play for Brazil or in the Champions League. Still, Anderson scored 11 goals and provided 10 assists in all competitions last season, as Lazio finished third in Serie A.
Playing just wide of Miroslav Klose, Anderson is the classic Brazilian forward. Blessed with great pace and scorching acceleration, he's a terrific dribbler with impeccable shooting technique. He's fully comfortable with either foot and is perhaps the most ambidextrous of the players Bayern are said to be considering.
The main downsides with Anderson is that he hasn't yet been tested at the highest level and his productivity isn't yet on the level that Bayern will need. He's a bit raw and contributes little in defense, which could be problematic at the telling moments of the season.
Anderson's weaknesses can be coached away, and there can be few doubts over his long-term potential. However, Bayern will be looking for a player who can be relied upon to produce in the immediate future, preferably the finished article, as they aim to get the most out of the final years of many among their aging core.
Whether Anderson will be able to make a big leap forward in his first season, as Ribery did, will be a concern that may influence Bayern to focus more on Di Maria and Griezmann as transfer targets. But if approaches for those two are unsuccessful, Anderson is far from substandard as a tertiary option.