Over the past few seasons, Bayern Munich has been slowly replacing their aging, treble-winning squad — although not necessarily by choice. Immediately following their triumph in Lisbon, 29-year-old Thiago pushed for a move to Liverpool. The following season saw David Alaba, 29, refuse to renew before eventually joining Real Madrid, while long-term fixtures Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez — both 32 — were released.
Last year, prolific forward Robert Lewandowski demanded a move to Spain — although Barcelona is now considering replacing the 35-year-old too. This past summer, Bayern continued the clearout, with newer recruits Sadio Mane, Yann Sommer, Marcel Sabitzer, and Daley Blind — all 29 or older — all shown the door.
The results? Mixed, so far. Some young talents have definitely established themselves as key players — Jamal Musiala, Matthijs de Ligt, Dayot Upamecano, and, although he was already a starter when Bayern won the treble, Alphonso Davies. There are also some players who are ready to be in the starting XI soon — mainly Mathys Tel and Aleksandar Pavlovic.
However, it’s not all been successful. Kenan Yıldız didn’t see his future with Bayern (or with Germany) and left for free. Now, the 18-year-old is a star for Juventus. Ryan Gravenberch was brought in from Ajax but didn’t get the minutes he wanted, so he was sold to Liverpool — and Bayern is now lacking midfield depth. Joshua Zirkzee has become one of Europe’s most sought-after strikers. The list goes on and on.
With the heightened competition for young talent, Bayern is kicking it up a notch, bringing in top prospects for both the main team and the reserves. The hiring of Christoph Freund has shown the club’s heightened focus on signing young stars, and Bayern has been linked with many of them. Here are the statuses of wonderkids linked with Bayern:
Signed: Bryan Zaragoza, 22, Granada
I’ve already written about Zaragoza in length (you can find that here), but a quick summary: he’s very good. Zaragoza can play on the right or left and is an excellent dribbler with 8 G/A and the most dribbles in the league. Did I mention that he’s on the second-worst team in La Liga?
The deal was announced in December, but Zaragoza is staying with Granada until the end of the season. After that, he joins for €15 million on a five-year deal. Low-risk, high-reward deal. Great business.
Signed: Nestory Irankunda, 17, Adelaide United
The Irankunda signing was confirmed in November for €2.7 million — even though the Australian can’t play for the club until next season when he turns 18. That’s how excited Bayern are to sign him, and for good reason.
Irankunda is quite possibly the best talent to ever come out of the A-League or Australia. Irankunda (who plays on the right wing) is fast, an excellent dribbler, and has a powerful shot.` He will likely go immediately to the first team.
Contract Offered: Matija Popović, 18, Free Agent
Per Florian Plettenberg, Bayern has made an offer to sign 18-year-old free agent Matija Popović. Popović was expected to sign with AC Milan on a free transfer after his contract with Partizan Belgrade ended in January, but the deal fell apart because of contract requests. Bayern reportedly faces competition from Napoli, Porto, Frosinone, and Barcelona.
Popović is a versatile forward who can play as a striker or an attacking midfielder and is a highly-rated prospect. He is a strong dribbler and has good vision and passing abilities. The German-born talent would likely join Bayern II, who play in the fourth tier of Germany, before eventually moving up to the first team.
Negotiating: Jonah Kusi-Asare, 16, AIK
Per multiple sources, Bayern is negotiating with Swedish side AIK for striker Jonah Kusi-Asare. Fabrizio Romano reported that Kusi-Asare wants to join Bayern, but AIK is holding out for a bid of €6 million, which Bayern has not yet matched. PSV, Club Brugge, and multiple English clubs are rumored to be interested.
Despite being just 16, Kusi-Asare has already made four appearances for AIK in the Allsvenskan, the top-flight of Swedish soccer. A tall, physical striker with great finishing, he would likely alternate between Bayern II and the first team for his first season with the club.
Negotiating: Assan Ouédraogo, 17, Schalke
According to Florian Plettenberg, Bayern has made an offer for Assan Ouédraogo, one of the top talents in Germany. Ouédraogo reportedly has a €15 million release clause and has attracted interest from clubs in Germany — including Leipzig and Frankfurt — as well as abroad. He is currently injured, so any move would likely see him join in the summer.
Ouédraogo has played eleven matches for Schalke this season and played an important role for the Germany team that won the u17 Euros. A creative midfielder with strong passing and good dribbling, Ouédraogo would likely join the first team in the summer.
Rumored Interest: Joshua Zirkzee, 22, Bologna
Yes, the same Zirkzee that Bayern sold last year. Bayern has a reported 50% sell-on fee and since Zirkzee has a €40 million release clause, Bayern could bring back the Dutch striker for just €20 million. However, it looks unlikely that Zirkzee will switch clubs in winter, which is good news for Bayern as the club’s striker depth of Harry Kane, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, and Mathys Tel means they don’t necessarily need to add a striker right now.
With Zirkzee’s strong form — 9 G/A so far in the Serie A with Bologna — it’s worth wondering if he would want to return to Munich. After all, he would join as a back-up to Harry Kane, whereas he could be a starter elsewhere. Expect this to become a bigger story this summer.
Rumored Interest: Sacha Boey, 23, Galatasaray
Per Florian Plettenberg, Bayern made an unsuccessful loan bid for Galatasaray right-back Sacha Boey. The Turkish side rejected the deal as they would only sell him permanently, which would require a bid of around €25 million.
A skilled wing-back who excels in defense, Boey would be a good signing. However, he is far from cheap, which might make Bayern hesitant to do a deal, despite the glaring need for a right-back. If he signed, Boey would join the first team and compete with Noussair Mazraoui for the starting spot.
Rumored Interest: Julian Zakrzewski Hall, 15, NYRB
Yes, you read that correctly. Julian Zakrzewski Hall is 15, but that hasn’t prevented the Polish-American sensation from making his MLS debut, playing nine minutes as a sub in a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire. It wasn’t exactly a meaningless friendly, either — it came at the end of the season when New York needed every point they could get to help them reach the playoffs.
After his debut back in October, it was rumored that multiple top European clubs — including Bayern Munich — wanted to sign the top talent. His European passport would allow him to move to Europe before he turns 18, unlike Irankunda. Since the initial rumors, there hasn’t been much talk, but Bayern are likely still interested in Zakrzewski Hall, who would probably join the u17s or u19s.
Rumored Interest: Florian Wirtz, 20, Bayer Leverkusen
There isn’t a team on the planet that would reject the chance to sign Florian Wirtz right now. The 20-year-old talent has been a top prospect for years now and is truly emerging as a star this season, with 12 G/A in the Bundesliga alone as Leverkusen is challenging for the title. Of course Bayern would love to sign him.
Wirtz has long been linked with a move to Munich but it’s no secret that he would cost an enormous fee — likely over €100 million — and, with the exception of Harry Kane, Bayern rarely makes massive bids for one player. Then there’s the competition: elite sides from across Europe have been linked with Wirtz, including defending UCL champs Manchester City, while Leverkusen wants to hold on to their star. Expect a battle for his signature in the summer.
Image Courtesy of bundesliga.com.