Summer Transfers Who Would Fit Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich Style
The summer transfer window will soon open in Germany, and Bayern Munich are already making preparations for the 2015-16 season. It has already been confirmed that Joshua Kimmich will arrive in July, while Pierre Hojbjerg is set to return from his loan spell at Augsburg.
On Tuesday, the German giants revealed on their official website that goalkeeper Sven Ulreich will join their ranks to offer further depth between the posts.
In all likelihood, the aforementioned pair of central midfielders and reserve goalkeeper will not be the only additions Bayern make heading into the upcoming campaign. Bayern played a good 2014-15 season overall but were found to be lacking at the business end of the campaign.
Pep Guardiola is a very specific coach who can do great things, but he requires players of very specific qualities, his type.
Click "Begin Slideshow" to see B/R's top picks of players Bayern could target this summer who would fit their trainer's philosophy.
Angel Di Maria
At Barcelona, Guardiola had Lionel Messi. At Bayern, he has Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. These are the priceless attacking players he's used to catalyze success. But in the case of his current playing staff, Guardiola may soon find that he will have to try to replace the irreplaceable.
Both Ribery and Robben spent lengthy spells on the sidelines last season, and with the former 32 years old and it being unknown as to when he'll return following a tricky ankle injury, Bayern will likely look to make a big signing this summer.
Of all the players Bayern have a chance at signing, perhaps the best candidate is Angel Di Maria of Manchester United. The Argentinian attacker would fit in very well with Guardiola's system because of his versatility. He can play on either flank, as either a classic or inverted winger, and even in a semi-playmaker role in the center of midfield, as he did in his last season at Real Madrid.
On the ball, Di Maria is an excellent dribbler with a fine touch. He's a brilliant crosser and has a strong left foot. Yet he also has a spark of creativity and can create play beyond mazy runs and predictable long balls from the wing. This range of abilities would serve Guardiola well as he looks to find a player to fill the role Ribery has enjoyed since his move to Munich in 2007.
When out of possession, Di Maria is a tenacious runner. He has great athleticism and is willing to use it to chase after and win the ball, making him a perfect option for Guardiola's pressing, possession-based system.
A big part of Guardiola's success at Barcelona was his use of Andres Iniesta, who was arguably the best midfielder in the world at his peak. With Xavi and Sergio Busquets, the Fuentealbilla native was part of the central midfield that was the driving force of Guardiola's Barca. If the trainer is to recreate that success at Bayern, he'll need a similar balance.
Ilkay Gundogan is, as sports media commentator Cristian Nyari recently put it on Twitter, much like a German Iniesta. His touch is so refined. His technique is so exquisite that he has all the grace of a classic playmaker while possessing the physicality of a deeper-playing midfielder.
He showed his complete range of abilities during the 2012-13 Champions League campaign, when the Borussia Dortmund man outplayed greats such as Yaya Toure and Xabi Alonso en route to the final. He also proved, like Iniesta, to be a man for the big games, saving his best for when it mattered and stepping up to convert a penalty in the final.
For all his talent, however, Gundogan missed well over a year of action because of a persistent back injury, and he hasn't been the same since. He's shown glimpses of the player he once was, but there are legitimate doubts as to whether he will reach his peak once more. And whether Bayern are willing to take a risk and sign Gundogan, and whether the club and player could come to an agreement over wages, is another matter. Still 24 years of age, though, time is on Gundogan's side.
Along with Gundogan, another great option for the Bayern midfield would be Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti. The Italian midfielder has sublime skill on the ball and is, in every sense of the word, a Guardiola-type player. He can dribble, pass over short and long range and has a great mental sense of the game.
On the ball, Verratti isn't enormously different to Gundogan or Thiago Alcantara, but one advantage he has over both is his better tackling and defending skills. He only stands about 5'5" tall, but Verratti uses his body well and isn't shy to put his foot in to win the ball.
Verratti is more of a regista than Thiago, who, despite playing well in such a position, has always performed better when deployed higher up the pitch. The two could therefore fit into the same team without their styles clashing. And with the Italian just 22 years of age, he would be a signing capable of having an impact not only in the present but in the future.
The only challenge Bayern would face is convincing PSG to sell the player while he still has four years left on his contract.
Even more fitting of a replacement for Ribery than Di Maria would be Eden Hazard. The Chelsea man is perhaps as close in style to the Bayern winger as there is in world football at the moment, at least among those currently in the world-class category.
Like Messi and Ribery, Hazard is a crafty dribbler with phenomenal agility and balance and an exceptional burst of pace. He's the kind of attacker who can create play at will and isn't a bad finisher, either. With the right influence from Guardiola, Hazard could perhaps reach an even higher level than the one he's achieved at Chelsea under the more defense-minded Jose Mourinho.
The trouble for Bayern is that Hazard already is in a good place in his career as part of a Premier League-winning side that could foreseeably become Champions League contenders in the near future. He penned a new contract in February, which is set to expire in 2020, making his purchase almost impossible. But he would nonetheless be a perfect signing for Guardiola and company.