Football is a fickle old game and one team who’ve discovered that more than most over the last few months are Bayern Munich.
As Manuel Neuer stepped up to lift the Club World Cup trophy at the beginning of February, Die Roten were both literally and metaphorically on top of the football world.
Since then things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Hansi Flick’s side.
Their usual stroll towards the German title doesn’t look like being quite so straightforward with RB Leipzig refusing to let go of their coattails, a number of injuries to key personnel have left their squad looking threadbare and they’ve now surrendered their European crown following their quarter-final exit from the Champions League at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.
While all of the above is, erm, far from ideal, a club of Bayern’s stature will nearly always bounce back and once the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry are back fit and available they’ll be in far better shape.
However, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s recent revelation that the club are struggling to negotiate deals with players due to the financial restraints cast upon them amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – now that’s a problem.
Of course, Bayern aren’t the only club who are being forced deal with such financial restraints, but the players they’ll soon lose because of them make it a big issue.
Both David Alaba and Jerome Boateng have already confirmed they won’t be renewing their deals at the Allianz Arena this summer – with the former claiming money had nothing to do with his decision, though it’s difficult not to put two and two together there – leaving Die Roten in desperate need of defensive reinforcements.
While Dayot Upamecano’s arrival has already been secured, Bayern are still a defender light given their two outgoings this summer and Rummenigge’s revelation that the club are struggling financially suggests there won’t be any big-money signings on the horizon.
Step forward Lucas Hernandez.
The Frenchman has struggled to cement his place in Flick’s starting XI this season – starting just 13 of their 28 Bundesliga outings – and has spent much of the campaign playing cameo roles or watching his side from the sub’s bench.
Ahead of Bayern’s second leg clash with PSG on Tuesday night, Hernandez was drafted in to play centre-back – a role he’s not exactly unfamiliar with but is far less experience in compared to his usual left-back berth – a truly harrowing prospect as he faced up against arguably the best frontline in world football.
But guess what? He was absolutely brilliant.
Even the twinkle-toed pairing of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar couldn’t get past the formidable Frenchman, with Hernandez proving time and time again that he’s got the reading of the game and the nous to be able to step into a central position when needed.
His defending as PSG looked to counter late on was the reason Bayern stayed in the game until the final whistle, while his ability to hit cross-field balls helped open up the game as Flick’s side went in search of that illusive second goal.
The loss of Alaba and Boateng this summer is no doubt going to be a huge blow to Bayern as they lose two of the finest defenders in the Bundesliga as well as two leaders in the dressing room.
Upamecano’s arrival will play a big part in plugging the gap left by the pair, though the club will need to be wary of relying on him so heavily during his first season at the Allianz Arena as he takes another step up in his career.
Hernandez’s display against PSG proved he can step up in Bayern’s time of need. His display at the heart of the defence was far from one of a player just filling a gap and doing the bare minimum, he was a huge part of stifling some of the best attackers on the planet, and going into next season he could be a massive player for Bayern and Flick.