It is highly unlikely that there is a single Bayern fan who does not love Holger Badstuber. Bayern announced recently that they plan on loaning the 27-year old centre-back in January. Here is why this move could benefit everyone.
Modern football tragedy
Fans who do not follow the Bundesliga may not know this, but at one time Holger Badstuber was tapped to be one of the biggest defensive talents in Germany. Louis van Gaal even described Badstuber as “the best left-footed defender in Germany”. He could play as a centre-back and a left-back, and even at a very young age Badstuber displayed tremendous passing ability and could hold the ball as if he had been doing it for years.
Badstuber even started off as an integral part of Bayern’s incredible treble run, playing as a left-back while David Alaba was recovering from an injury. But against Borussia Dortmund, Badstuber made a sliding tackle on Mario Götze that would prove to be a pivotal and potentially career ending tackle as Götze accidentally kicked Badstuber. He injured his anterior cruciate ligament. Badstuber would re-injure his cruciate ligament which kept him out the entire season.
Since then, Badstuber has suffered numerous injuries, often times unrelated to each other aside from the fact that he may have been lacking match fitness. It is difficult to tell why, but the fact is that he has rarely been able to play for more than a couple games in a row. When he has played, he has actually been quite good, at times the best defender on the pitch. But the song is always the same. He comes back, only to have an aggravated knee problem or a broken leg.
Bayern to assess with a loan
Bayern are unsure on how to proceed with Badstuber. Obviously, they want to keep him at the club. He is a youth product and has demonstrated great loyalty to the team and his reasons for not playing are beyond his control. However, the club cannot plan to have Badstuber available or rely on him. Not only can they not plan for him on the pitch, but there are financial costs with wages and signing fees when his contract is up.
The Bayern board has concluded that the best way to really test if Badstuber can play is with a loan move. Early reports mentioned Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Manchester City as potential destinations. There are also rumors that Badstuber could be heading to Schalke.
The reason for the loan move is simple; Bayern want to be able to give Badstuber an environment where he can regain some match fitness. If he can impress and perform at a decent level, they can evaluate a new contract. The club wants to keep him at the club, but at some point it is not financially or strategically prudent to do so.
Is this the right move?
This is a difficult question to answer, because there are two sides to the coin. A loan move could be greatly beneficial to Holger Badstuber, but it can also backfire. He would have time to get match fitness without as much pressure, but playing too much too early could just injure him again. It also could leave Bayern a bit too thin at centre-back.
We will start from things from Badstuber’s perspective, because in a way that is the most important. A loan move could mean lots of playing time. Almost any team in the Bundesliga could benefit from a player of Badstuber’s quality, and he is worth the gamble for most of them. If he is fit and in form, he almost sure to start for any back line in Germany.
That said, if he goes to a team where the need is too desperate, he may play too many games too quickly. There is something to be said with precaution and match fitness, something that even Bayern has struggled with in recent years. Just because some injuries do not seem related or connected does not mean they are not. If a player needs more time to get their body ready but are thrown onto an intense match, it is much easier for them to re-injure themselves.
However, there is nothing quite like playing time to determine how ready a player is, and Badstuber needs just that. Manchester City may not be the best fit for this very reason. He needs to go to a club that needs him, but also will not rush him should he go on loan. Getting into the groove again could be an amazing move for both sides.
There could be a downside for Bayern as well. That leaves them with only two natural centre-backs in Jérôme Boateng, and Mats Hummels. Plus, Javi Martínez who may as well be a natural centre-back considering how much game time he gets there now. All of these players have struggled with fitness and injury, and makeshift back lines have done Bayern no favors in the past. Even though Badstuber cannot exactly be relied on, it does leave the club one player down in terms of depth. This season will no doubt test if Bayern’s depth is up to the task.
A last gamble for Badstuber and Bayern
Loaning out Badstuber is not without risks for both parties. At the end of the day, it is probably for the best that Bayern give the big guy a chance to find his feet again in a new environment. Hopefully, Badstuber can find his footballing feet again and come back to Bayern stronger than ever.