Bundesliga: Bayern Munich expect Matthijs de Ligt to lead from behind | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW
Matthijs de Ligt needed less than two minutes to score his first goal for Bayern Munich, finding the net from Joshua Kimmich’s corner immediately after coming on at half-time in the German champions’ opener against DC United in Washington.
But it wasn’t for his goals that Bayern spent 67 million euros ($68.6 million) to lure the 22-year-old Dutch international away from Juventus; Head coach Julian Nagelsmann has a plethora of defensive options at his disposal on paper, but the lack of strong voices organizing at the back became a cause for concern at all levels at the club last season – despite a tenth consecutive Bundesliga title.
And so, while eyes will of course be on Sadio Mane’s competitive debut at Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday night, De Ligt is expected to lead at the back.
In the past two Bundesliga seasons, the Bavarians have scored 81 goals, 44 in former head coach Hansi Flick’s final season and 37 in Nagelsmann’s first.
Although Bayern’s propensity to press high up the pitch under Flick left them open to conceding the break and contributed to their unusually elusive defence, Nagelsmann sounded the alarm midway through last season in his desire to add a stature player to shore up the return four.
“Nagelsmann expressed his concerns internally in the second half of last season, asking team planners for another centre-back,” Kicker reports the magazine. “A potential boss, a powerful figure who can help build the game but also read opposition transitions, a communicator with leadership qualities.”
General manager Oliver Kahn, speaking in Washington at the start of Bayern’s pre-season tour of the United States, agreed that defensive weaknesses were costing the team, adding: “If you look at the last two or three years we had a lot of success, but we conceded one or two too many goals.”
De Ligt’s ‘aura’ and ‘body language’ key to costly defensive reshuffle
Since David Alaba’s departure to Real Madrid last season, Bayern’s expensively assembled back line has lacked an experienced header, with neither Lucas Hernandez nor Dayot Upamecano having managed to fill the void.
Hernandez, who signed for a club and Bundesliga-record fee of 80 million euros ($82 million) in July 2019, suffered three seasons out of injury, while Upamecano (42.5 million euros from RB Leipzig) took a long time to adapt in his first season.
Now the addition of De Ligt has led Suddeutsche Zeitung hailing ‘the most expensive defense in the world’ – before tackling ‘a hugely expensive defensive fix’.
In De Ligt, however, still just 22, Bayern have a molded player in the form of tough Italian masterminds Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – whom he played alongside at Juventus. In Munich, he will likely be paired with Benjamin Pavard or Upamecano in central defence, while new signing Noussair Mazraoui will fill in on the right and Alphonso Davies will continue at left-back.
Behind them, goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer seemed satisfied with the club’s recruitment, declaring at a press conference in Washington:
“[De Ligt] is a player who can also lead, a super defender with a strong aura. It’s important that we have vocal players on defense – not just verbally, but also in terms of body language. It’s noisy inside the stadium, so gestures matter.
“We used to see that with David [Alaba]. He often spoke with his hands and showed presence with his body language. It always helps.”
Leadership: Manuel Neuer hopes for a more organized defense ahead of him
A new hierarchy builds towards a new future
The blame for Bayern’s recent disappointing transfer activity in recent seasons has generally been placed on sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, responsible for the less than successful signings of Michael Cuisance, Fiete Arp, Bouna Sarr and Marc Roca.
But ‘Brazzo’, as the former Bayern midfielder is nicknamed Sabener Straßedidn’t do his reputation any harm this summer, playing a key role in securing deals for Sadio Mane and now De Ligt.
Now, after back-to-back Champions League quarter-final exits as well as back-to-back German Cup second-round defeats, a new Bayern hierarchy under CEO Kahn and club chairman Herbert Hainer is spending big to launch a new era.
De Ligt’s move could see Bayern’s summer spending exceed the €140m spent in the summer of 2019, before the pandemic, with moves reported for RB Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer and Rennes wonderkid Mathys Tel also aligned.
While the expenses are partly offset by sales, including €50m from Barcelona for Robert Lewandowski, Bayern are still betting on the Allianz Arena remaining at full capacity for the whole season, with no potential new restrictions. of COVID-19.
Nonetheless, Kahn does not foresee any other high-profile departures.
“We’re not thinking about letting any players go at the moment,” he said. “We are always looking to [different] positions that these players can play. There is nothing better than having flexible players.
Or, as a Munich local Abendzeitung tabloid put it: “It was ‘save, save, save’ at FC Bayern for the past few years. But the rescue frenzy is over.”
Edited by: Matt Ford