Bayern’s defence, especially at left-back, has been left wanting for much of the season. We explore some targets they ought to approach.
The Bernat problem
Oh man. Where do we even begin?
Juan Bernat started his career at Bayern in a very promising fashion. The young Spaniard legitimately looked like one of the most exciting wing-back prospects in the world and there were times when he outperformed David Alaba. He also did well when he had to fill in for Alaba who had to take up positions as a centre-back or in midfield.
How the mighty have fallen…
It is difficult to say what exactly derailed Bernat’s career at Bayern. Injuries certainly did not help the young Spaniard, and perhaps long spells on the bench hurt his confidence. But ultimately, it does not matter. Juan Bernat has played mostly terrible this last season and has been a tremendous liability for Bayern. So much so that Jupp has opted to play Rafinha out of position over Bernat—and he has outperformed him.
Bernat’s time in Munich is coming to a close. Bayern will need to look forward and sign a new left-back who can play second fiddle to or compete with Alaba.
What Bayern should look for
This is a bit tricky. Bayern already has a starting left-back in David Alaba. Many have said that David Alaba peaked in 2013/2014, and this is perhaps true. A year ago I might have argued that Bayern should look for someone who can seriously compete with Alaba and perhaps displace him in the starting line-up. All this was under Carlo Ancelotti, however.
Since Jupp Heyckes has come back, Alaba has had a good resurgence of form and at times has looked like his 2013 self. If he can keep up this form, there is less reason to find someone who can be a direct replacement. Of course if the opportunity arises to sign a potentially world-class young left-back talent and they are willing to compete with Alaba for the spot, Bayern should not pass on the chance.
But that is unlikely to happen. Most players probably realise that David Alaba in form is one of the best left-backs in the world. A player like Jonas Hector is more likely to move to Borussia Dortmund because frankly he is more likely to play there.
Bayern should seek a young talent with lots of potential, like Juan Bernat or perhaps a veteran who is on the way out of their current club and would not mind being a backup player while they collect a paycheck and some probable trophies. Someone who can do a job if needed. It is not the ideal situation, but it is the reality.
Current team: Benfica
Alejandro Grimaldo is one of the Barcelona youth products who got away from them. In 2015 he signed a contract with Benfica, and since then has demonstrated to be one of the more promising left-back talents in football.
Grimaldo has many of the talents you would expect from a La Masia graduate. His passing ability decent, with an 81.9% success rate. But he does not limit himself to just short passes and averages 2.4 long balls per game.
He is solid defensively with 2.6 tackles per game, 1.6 interceptions per game, and 1.7 clearances per game. For a 22 year old he is not doing to bad. But where Grimaldo really shines is his offensive abilities which showcase his technical abilities. The young Spaniard averages an excellent 1.4 dribbles per game and is only dispossessed an average of 0.7 times per game. He can hold the ball and he can do something with it when he has it.
Grimaldo might be hard to get, because he would likely be pretty expensive. He might also be unwilling to leave Benfica to sit behind Alaba, and he could end up just like Juan Bernat. But he could also pose a serious challenge to Alaba and the competition could benefit them both.
Current team: Inter Milan
Henrique Dalbert has only started four matches for Inter Milan this game, and has made eight appearances as a substitute. These are not fantastic numbers so there is not a ton of data to go off of, but what is there shows some promise and he is a player that Bayern should consider looking at.
Dalbert is statistically pretty strong defensively. It is stunningly impressive, but that may not be completely necessary. Despite a small sample size, Dalbert manages 1 tackle per game, 0.9 interceptions per game, and 1.1 clearances. Not too bad. He is also difficult to get off the ball with 0.7 dispossessions.
The main reason the Brazilian might be a decent target for Bayern is because there is a good chance he would want to make the move. He does not play much for Inter Milan, and while he probably would not play too many more games at Bayern Munich he would be able to play in the Champions League (which granted, is a stage he is untested at) and he would perhaps get to develop better as a player working with David Alaba. He would probably earn some more money too. If he does not play at Bayern much he could move eventually, but he could be a decent stop gap while Bayern finds out what the best solution is moving forward in a few years.
Current team: Milan
I know, this one is a long shot.
Ricardo Rodríguez joined AC Milan last summer when they were doing a major overhaul of their squad. There was a lot of talk that their new owners were pumping lots of money into the club, and many Milan fans seemed to think they were being ushered into a new era of success.
So far, this has not panned out on the pitch or off it. Milan have looked fairly average all season and currently sit seventh in the Serie A table and do not seem to be on any kind of path towards improvement. Their wealthy owners are also seemingly less interested than before in just putting money into the club too.
Rodríguez might be thinking he has made yet another bad career move (seriously man, going to Wolfsburg was bad enough but then going to Milan?) and might finally want to go somewhere where he can compete for titles.
Bayern can at least give him that. Rodríguez has already spent the bulk of his career in Germany as well, so a move back to the Bundesliga might appeal to him.
Milan are unlikely to want to sell, but given their financial situation they might be talked into it and Rodríguez might push for a move if a team like Bayern come knocking. He could provide serious competition to David Alaba and there is little doubt that Rodríguez could perform in a big game.
Jonathan Castro Otto (Jonny)
Current team: Celta Vigo
For me, Jonny is one the more exciting defensive talents in football. He is a Celta Vigo product through and through, coming up from their youth ranks over the last few years. He has so far spent his entire career with Celta, and Bayern might want to consider trying to change that.
He has played 32 games this season and has played most of them at left-back. But one thing that is worth noting is that he has played one game as a center-back and one game as a right-back. Even though these were each only one games, he did fairly well. Versatility is important, especially with a team like Bayern. He could potentially serve as a back-up to multiple players, which might help give him the playing time he would want.
As for his raw numbers, they are mostly what you might expect. He is a solid passer of the ball with an 83.8% success rate. He averages an excellent 2.9 tackles per game and 2.7 interceptions per game, but tends to be a bit enthusiastic with tackles getting 1.4 fouls per game.
Offensively he contributes well with 2.5 long balls per game which is good, but he does only average 0.3 crosses and 0.2 through balls which could be better.
Regardless, he is defensively a very solid player and he can play multiple areas of the pitch. He is not perfect and he might not want to leave Celta, but it would be worth making a phone call.
Current team: Atlético Madrid
This one may be difficult. There is not much to indicate that Filipe Luís will leave the Spanish capital. He is one of the best left-backs in the world no doubt, so there probably is no need to review his statistics; but because of this, it is doubtful that he will be allowed to leave.
However the Brazilian recently suffered a fairly serious injury when he broke his fibula when playing FC Lokomotiv Moscow in March, and he will be out for the remainder of the season and the World Cup. Atlético Madrid might be willing to let him leave because of his injury, and Luís could see a move to a club like Bayern as his last chance to win some major titles. He might not even mind sitting behind David Alaba for this season.
The rumours are currently that he is being targeted by Juventus, who already have a world-class left-back in Alex Sandro. If these rumours hold any water at all, it could mean that not only are Atlético Madrid considering selling, but that Luís is willing to make a move.
If Bayern can hijack this move, they should. Luís brings the perfect mix of experience and talent and provided he can come back from his injury, most Bayern fans should feel more than confident that he could do the job on the big stage if needed.
A complex market
Full-backs are a complicated market these days. There simply are not that many good options out there, and the best players already have a club and likely will not want to move because they do not want to play second fiddle. Even though some of these names are unlikely or may not end up being good enough, most of them might be worth the risk for Bayern.