When Ryan Gravenberch joined German giants Bayern Munich from Ajax, it looked like the perfect move. The Dutch midfielder wanted to play at a higher level, and with Bayern, he would play in the Bundesliga and Champions League. The German side wanted midfield depth, and Gravenberch provided that — and, at 20, he was one of the best prospects in Europe.
However, things quickly went sideways. Right before he signed for Bayern, Gravenberch picked up an injury, resulting in a slow start to the season. By the start of the World Cup, he had started just three matches — zero of which came in the Bundesliga. He missed the tournament, with Dutch manager Louis van Gaal citing a lack of playing time.
As the season progressed, Gravenberch complained about his minutes frequently — and publicly, giving interviews to voice his dissatisfaction. It looked clear that he would leave Bayern in the summer, but then manager Julian Nagelsmann was fired, and replaced by Thomas Tuchel. Gravenberch featured in all of the games of the Bundesliga season under Tuchel, making more league starts (two) than he had under Nagelsmann (one). Now, his future is up in the air.
Option One: Liverpool
For years, Liverpool has had one of England’s best midfields. However, age is catching up with the trio of Fabinho, Thiago, and Jordan Henderson, and Liverpool slumped to fifth in the Premier League. Since then, the club has been linked with dozens of midfielders — and Gravenberch has been a name that frequently appeared as an option.
Liverpool offers a fresh start for Gravenberch, as well as a stable environment. Manager Jürgen Klopp has been at the club since 2015 and is known for getting new signings to work in his system. The German has reportedly asked to bring in Gravenberch, too, and with Liverpool’s midfield struggles, he would definitely get some decent minutes.
However, success is far from a guarantee in England. Gravenberch’s strengths are mostly his playmaking ability. He can carry the ball forward, helping transition from defense to attack, and his passing is great. In the Premier League, he may struggle with the increased physicality.
Option Two: Manchester United
After years of mediocrity, Manchester United is finally showing signs of being the team they used to be. The club finished third in the Premier League and reached the final of the FA Cup, and, despite rumors of a takeover, they are being linked with some big signings. United has reportedly shown interest in Gravenberch.
Gravenberch could thrive in Manchester thanks to familiarity with some players and staff. Manager Erik ten Hag helped develop the Dutch midfielder while both were with Ajax in the Eredivisie. Additionally, Gravenberch knows Antony, Lisandro Martínez, and Donny van de Beek from their time with Ajax, as well as Tyrell Malacia from the Dutch national team.
Physicality would still be a problem, and Gravenberch would not be a guaranteed starter in Manchester. The club is also expected to sign more midfielders, so he may still struggle for minutes — and English clubs are less forgiving than Bundesliga clubs. This is a high-risk, high-reward move for the Dutchman.
Option Three: Stay at Bayern
This is looking increasingly likely. Towards the end of the season, Gravenberch started to earn more minutes, and, in one of his latest interviews, he said he wanted to stay and fight for a spot.
Bayern has midfield problems of its own to deal with, as Leon Goretzka underperformed last season. Marcel Sabitzer is returning following a loan to Manchester United, but he’s unlikely to have much more of a future with the club. Konrad Laimer has been brought in from RB Leipzig, but, with his injury history, Bayern needs more options. With a big money signing looking increasingly unlikely, Gravenberch can prove that he’s the guy.
If Gravenberch wants to develop as a player, staying in Munich is probably the best place to do it. Last season the club dealt with all kinds of problems, but, this season, stability looks much more likely. Throw in some new signings and this could be a big season for Gravenberch and Bayern.