At the end of the season, we will see two of football’s greats call it a day when Phillip Lahm and Xabi Alonso call time on their illustrious careers.
The pair leave the game having won a remarkable 34 club honours between them, not to mention they’re both World Cup winners with Germany and Spain respectively.
Given the fact that both Lahm and Alonso are still playing at the top level for Bayern Munich on a regular basis implies that they could go one for a few more years yet, but the acknowledgement that they’ve had their day in the sun and its time for a changing of the guard illustrates a level-headed approach that we don’t see too often.
Every squad goes through an annual turnover, but losing players of this calibre will be a big miss, not just on the field but in the dressing room, especially in Lahm’s case, being the club captain and spent his entire professional career with the club.
Carlo Ancelotti will have a tough job on his hands going about replacing these two stalwarts of the game in the 21st century, but as Bayern tend to do, they have been proactive in seeking replacements.
Bayern have often taken the approach to pick off the best talents from their league rivals to bolster their squad, you just have to look back at the last decade or so, and the right additions will hopefully make Bayern league favourites again next season in CrownBet’s Bundesliga betting odds.
Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez, Luiz Gustavo, Manuel Neuer, Mario Mandzukic, Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Sebastian Rode, Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels – all of these players have been brought in from league rivals and played key contributing roles in Bayern’s domestic dominance over the last 10 years.
Given how Bayern will dominate the ball in almost every game they’ll play, they like their fullbacks to get on the ball, perhaps drift into midfield and get involved in the build-up play, and it’s something we’ve seen for a few years now.
Lahm is one of the most confident fullbacks on the ball we’ve seen in decades. He can comfortably play in holding midfield as well and the same goes for David Alaba at left-back, he’s one who does like to get on the ball in the attacking areas.
Having a real ballplayer at fullback is something Bayern like and we’ve seen it when Joshua Kimmich has dropped into that position, and it seems like Bayern will be bringing in another similarly versatile player to help fill the void lost by Lahm.
Hoffenheim midfielder Sebastian Rudy will be joining Bayern in the summer and it really wouldn’t be surprising to see him drop in at right-back from day one or enter a rotation with Rafinha. Rudy has played there for club and country and is a very capable footballer.
Rudy is a natural holding midfielder and he could feasibly be the replacement for Xabi Alonso in the middle of midfield, but it’s apparent that Bayern have an in-house replacement there.
The mega-expenditure to bring Renato Sanches to the club last summer from Benfica was a move made with the future in mind. The teenager who made a big impact at Euro 2016 with Portugal has been a bit-part player for Bayern this season but no one expected him to step in day one and start for a European juggernaut.
Alonso is a true sitter deep in the midfield, a player who dictates the tempo drops in between the centre-backs to pick up the ball and they distribute it with consummate ease.
Sanches is not that kind of player, he’s more of a box-to- box kind and certainly wants to be making lung- bursting runs into the final third and getting involved at that end of the pitch.
We could see a bit of a re-shape for Bayern next season with Thiago or perhaps even Arturo Vidal dropping into that deeper role giving someone like Sanches the licence to break forward. Both Thiago and Vidal are better on the ball right now than Sanches, so that move makes sense.
One thing’s for sure: a player of Sanches’ calibre and potential doesn’t want to spend a great deal of time sitting on the bench or they will start to assess their options. It’s clear Bayern want to get him more involved from next season onwards and Alonso will be ‘passing on the torch’ so to speak.
There’s no doubt Lahm and Alonso will be missed, but Bayern, as they tend to be, have been ultra-proactive in sourcing their replacements before the time comes that they’ll need them – the sign of a well-run organisation.