28 Feb European Round-Up: Bayern Need to Be Bullish with Lewandowski, Atléti Can Continue Title Charge
BAYERN MUNICH WILL NOT BE BULLIED INTO ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI SALE
As has so often been the case throughout his career, Robert Lewandowksi’s newly hired agent has once again talked up the prospect of his client leaving Bavaria for pastures new, but Bayern Munich will absolutely not be pushed into selling their leading goal-scorer.
Observing the evolution of modern football in recent years, it is clear that the club have become acutely aware of the fact they aren’t able to go and sign high-profile world-class footballers on the regular. James Rodriguez’s two-year long loan deal from Real Madrid is one of very exceptions to this rule.
If Harry Kane were to become available for transfer tomorrow, Bayern Munich wouldn’t be able to compete financially with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, and nor would they want to. Now, don’t misconstrue this as a criticism — some of the Bavarian club’s transfers in recent years have been quite remarkable. They pushed the boat out for Javi Martinez and he has been pivotal in their success since he arrived from Athletic Bilbao in 2012.
Where Bayern Munich are strong is in their monopoly of the domestic market — they can secure the best Bundesliga talents because players who move to Bavaria are guaranteed of success. This is exactly what they did in coaxing Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund to the Allianz Arena. Just like Mario Gotze before him, the Polish international was comfortable in Germany but wanted to challenge for major honours. The solution was to move to Bayern Munich.
The puzzle for Bayern is that if Lewandowski was to leave, they wouldn’t be able to replace him with like-for-like quality. Agent Pini Zahavi has been hired by the Polish international, possibly in the hope of securing a big-money transfer in the summer, but Bayern Munich hold all the cards. Lewandowski’s contract at the Allianz Arena runs until June 2021, so there will be no cut-price deal, and if the current market as a whole is assessed, it would be hard to suggest that the forward is worth anything less than £160 million, with age the only factor counting against him.
Bayern Munich’s managerial struggles have been well documented, and it’s still unknown just who will be in charge next season. They are desperate for Jupp Heynckes to stay for another season until Julian Nagelsmann is ready, but the veteran coach is seemingly unwilling to come out of retirement fully, having taken interim charge following the abrupt sacking of Carlo Ancelotti earlier this season. Former BVB boss Thomas Tuchel seems the most likely option, therefore, yet it’s unclear to Lewandowski and the rest of squad who exactly the club intends to take them forward and truly challenge for the Champions League triumph which has eluded them since 2013.
Whilst Bayern can’t necessarily compete for purchases at the top end of the market, they are rarely forced into selling by other clubs. Some may point to Toni Kroos’ departure to Real Madrid in 2014, but because he had just a single year left on his contract, it made positive business sense to sell. This is the situation Lewandowski finds himself in. Ideally he would like to move to the Bernabeu this summer, but it would make no business sense for the German giants to sell, never mind the fact such a deal would make next to no footballing sense either.
The Bavarian club were stung by both Pep Guardiola’s departure to Manchester City and the failure of Ancelotti’s appointment. Neither case was good PR for a club that prides itself on being able to keep up with Real Madrid in terms of prestige.
Bayern now need a good summer to recover — a positive managerial appointment is a must, and they must keep hold of their star striker, who is arguably their best player. As such, they can’t afford to consider any offers for Lewandowski, no matter his posturing.
ATLÉTICO MADRID CAN KEEP UP LA LIGA TITLE FIGHT WITH BARCELONA
Diego Costa’s January arrival has boosted Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid. Significantly. The Argentina manager finally has a forward pairing he can rely on now, and after Sunday’s 5-2 victory away at Sevilla, the club are ready to push Barcelona all the way for the LaLiga title.
Los Colchoneros stuttered through the first half of the campaign, with Antoine Griezmann failing to find consistent form, but as March arrives the club is just seven points adrift of the Blaugrana, with the two sides set to meet at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barcelona have been runaway league leaders for much of the season with Real Madrid’s title challenge all but ending when Ernesto Valverde’s men trounced Los Blancos 3-0 just before Christmas, but while the Catalan giants have lost a bit of their attacking flair since then, Simeone’s charges have gone from strength to strength.
Costa and Griezmann have struck a perfect partnership right from the off, with the pair directly involved in 21 of the team’s 30 goals in 2018. The former Chelsea forward has brought out the very best in the Frenchman, and with Atlético’s always reliable defensive structure behind them, the team has a real shot at troubling Los Cules.
The two sides meet on Sunday, with Los Rojiblancos unbeaten in the league since December. They’ve forced their way back into the title race and with Valencia falling away, they remain the only credible challenger to Barcelona. Simeone has never won as a coach at the Camp Nou, but crucially, he has never entered the famous stadium with two world class forwards in his team as he does now.
Sunday’s match will give us a clearer idea as to just how close Atlétí are to the Catalan giants. With Barcelona still involved in the Champions League, a famous away victory could well turn the title picture upside down.