The January transfer window may have only been open for a week, but already Bayern Munich have been busy. All the speculation coming into the mid-season sales had been about the possible departure of a certain Frank Ribery, who has seemingly been lined up by the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United as a potential signing for an age now.
While a potential deal for the Frenchman could still happen this month, the departures of four of his teammates has underlined Bayern’s half term frustration and the need to unload some dead wood. Offloading the problematic Luca Toni came as no surprise to supporters – but the hasty exit of three fringe players has left the Bayern faithful scratching their heads. After months of discontent and pleas for a return home, Toni agreed a deal to join Roma on a six-month loan with a view to a permanent transfer. The Italian hitman, who was the Bundesliga’s top scorer in 2007/08, had made no secret of his desire to leave the Allianz Arena following an epic falling out with Coach Louis van Gaal earlier in the season, and has secured a move to his preferred destination in Roma. Toni is good friends with Roma captain Francesco Totti and had specified in an interview prior to the move that his first choice would be the capital side. The want-a-way striker is unlikely to be missed by van Gaal – who probably breathed a sigh of relief upon his exit – given that Mario Gomez and Ivica Olic have hit form and young sensation Thomas Muller is continuing to impress.
The decision to allow squad players Breno and Andreas Ottl to join struggling Nurnberg on-loan however, seems a very bold move given van Gaal’s limited squad. Brazilian centre-back Breno, 20, only featured three times in the opening half of the season, but is seen as a bright prospect for the future. The temporary move will give him some much needed playing time to mature his game, but will also leave Bayern short of options in an area that has arguably been their Achilles’ heel so far this season. The loss of holding midfielder Ottl meanwhile will leave van Gaal short of out-and-out central-midfielders, with Anatoliy Tymoschuk and Mark van Bommel the only obvious options remaining. 24-year-old Ottl may not have featured much, but was more than capable if required.
By far the most surprising departure of the last week was that of highly rated winger Alexander Baumjohann to rivals Schalke. The 22-year-old was only signed in the summer from Borussia Monchengladbach and was seen as quiet a coup for Bayern considering the immense interest in the talented youngster. Baumjohann only made three league appearances for the Bavarians but was commonly thought of as one for the future, making his permanent move, as apposed to a loan, rather perplexing. Baumjohann signed a three-year contract with Schalke, the club he started his career with, who are currently a point and a place ahead of Bayern in the league. The decision to help strengthen your direct competition is always a dangerous one, and only time will tell if it proves costly.
On paper, Bayern’s first XI looks more than capable of winning the title. However, with the club still challenging in three competitions (Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Cup), it would appear that injuries could cause problems for van Gaal given his reasonably small squad. That leads many to believe that Bayern could be looking to make signings this January, and the central areas of the pitch, most notably the defence, could certainly do with some fresh faces. Whether Frank Ribery leaves to fund new signings is a debate that will continue to rumble on for the rest of the month. The Frenchman has said he will make a decision on whether he will stay or go before the World Cup, but with the out door at Bayern firmly open – some supporters may be starting to get twitchy.
Elsewhere, it appears Schalke’s young star Joel Matip is at the centre of a tug of war between Germany and Cameroon. The 18-year-old defender has been one of many revelations in Gelsenkirchen so far this season, and his eye catching performances have led to him being named in Cameroon’s squad for the African Cup of Nations. However, this has come after Germany Under-19 Coach, Horst Hrubesch, declared an interest in including him in his future squads. Matip was born in Germany to a Cameroonian father and his brother Marvin, who plays for K