Bayern plan to ditch ageing stars
Bayern are back on top of the Bundesliga, but club bosses plan to clean out their ageing squad whose shortcomings were brutally exposed by Liverpool in the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds dumped Bayern out of Europe on Wednesday with a deserved 3-1 return-leg win, handing Bayern a last-16 aggregate defeat by the same margin, at the Allianz Arena.
“Bayern urgently need radical change to still challenge for titles,” Germany’s daily Bild said — the lineup which lost to Liverpool had an average age of 30.
German pundits agreed with ex-Bayern coach Louis van Gaal who late last year said senior club bosses had “failed to renew the squad.”
Bayern had no answers as Sadio Mane took advantage of a mistake by 32-year-old Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to score the opener from a near-impossible angle before Liverpool defender Joel Matip netted an own goal to put the hosts level.
Virgil van Dijk killed Bayern’s hopes with a crisp header before Mane again breached the defence late on from a Mohamed Salah chip, leaving Bayern coach Niko Kovac to concede his side deserved to lose.
Robert Lewandowski, 30, the Bundesliga’s top-scorer in 2018/19, failed to score for the seventh straight match in the knock-out stages of Europe, complained that Bayern were “too defensive”.
For the first time since 2011, the Bavarian giants have failed to make the Champions League quarter-finals.
As Kovac glumly admitted, the German Cup and Bundesliga — at home to mid-table Mainz on Sunday — are their focus now.
A clean-out is coming anyway as wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, both 35, plus Brazilian right-back Rafinha, 33, are out of contract in June.
“So it’s only right that Bayern attack again with Hernandez, Pavard, Hudson-Odoi and Werner,” continued Bild, specifying the players it feels Bayern need.
France’s World Cup-winning defender Benjamin Pavard, 22, has already signed to join Bayern from Stuttgart next season.
Bayern have reportedly made three offers for Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, 18, and are determined to get the England Under-19 forward.
Another potential target, Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid, would partner the imposing Niklas Suele at centre-back, meaning a pair of 23-year-olds replacing Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, who are both now 30.
“Hummels and Boateng are prone to injury. Lucas, however, is a lot younger, so this transfer would make a lot of sense,” said ex-Germany midfielder and Sky pundit Lothar Matthaeus.
Timo Werner, 23, has a RB Leipzig contract until 2020, but extension talks have stalled and the Germany striker is tipped to be set to join Munich as Lewandowski’s replacement.
Last month, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge outlined next season’s team.
“We’ve already completed stage one of the upheaval, the second will surely come in the summer,” said the Bayern boss.
“We have (Joshua) Kimmich on the right, (David) Alaba on the left and Suele in the middle of defence.
“In the midfield, (Leon) Goretzka has developed well with (Kingsley) Coman and Serge Gnabry on the wings,” he added.
Canadian wunderkind winger Alphonso Davies, 18, is another option. He was acquired last July in a $13 million (11.5 million euros) move from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps.
However, young talent must bed in quickly at Bayern, where standards are high.
“We have no patience in the club and our fans have three times less. This club wants to succeed,” warned Rummenigge.
“The expectation is huge and we want to do it justice.”
Second-placed Dortmund, who play Hertha Berlin away on Saturday without key midfielder Axel Witsel, are level with Bayern on 57 points, and behind in the title race only on goal difference.
Lucien Favre’s Dortmund face a showdown at the Allianz Arena on April 6, but for Bayern a seventh straight Bundesliga crown would be a consolation prize after flopping in Europe.