The new colleagues are full of praise. “This is really someone who can also lead, who has charisma,” says Manuel Neuer about Matthijs de Ligt. The FC Bayern captain is very happy that sports director Hasan Salihamidzic has hired an international star as the new head of defense for the record German champions. “Of course it’s important that we have responsible players on the defensive – not only verbally, but also in terms of body language,” said Neuer.
The Munich team has been missing a defensive boss since the departures of Jérôme Boateng and David Alabas. They paid 80 million euros to Atlético Madrid three years ago for French world champion Lucas Hernández, but the 26-year-old has not yet developed into the organizer of the backbone. Even Dayot Upamecano, who was bought from RB Leipzig for 42.5 million euros, did not succeed in his first season with Bayern.
The hope is now on de Ligt, for which Munich pays 70 million euros to Juventus Turin and who completed the medical check on Tuesday morning. With Hernández he could form the most expensive defensive duo in the world in the future. There is now enormous competition in the Bayern defense. Upamecano, Hernández, Benjamin Pavard, Tanguy Nianzou, access Noussair Mazraoui (arrived from Ajax Amsterdam), Bouna Sarr and talent Josip Stanisic – several of these professionals will have to be left out.
“From my feeling, as I’ve observed him lately, he’s someone who is very close to German football,” says Neuer about de Ligt. The goalkeeper and his team have been preparing for the season that begins in early August in the USA since the beginning of this week.
“I don’t think he needs a long period of adjustment,” said Neuer. “He just brings the qualities and values with him. It always worked well with the Dutch, I’ve already played with a few.” De Ligt reminds Neuer of Alaba: “It’s important to show presence on the defensive, also in terms of body language, David Alaba did a lot with that. Basically, as a defensive player, you’re grateful when you have players who lead from behind.”
Bayern’s expensive shopping spree will probably not be over for a long time even after the commitment of the new defense chief. So far they have paid more than 120.5 million euros for new players, more than any other club in Europe – and they are eyeing further arrivals.
“Everywhere the clubs continue to strengthen. The race doesn’t stop now,” says CEO Oliver Kahn in the team hotel in Washington, a 20-minute walk from the White House. Thursday (1:30 a.m., CET) there is a friendly against D.C. in the US capital. United, the side coached by legendary England striker Wayne Rooney.
It could be De Ligt’s first game in his new club’s shirt. On Sunday (1 a.m., CET) there will be a second friendly against Manchester City, coached by former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, at the legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, after which the Munich team will travel back to Germany.
They are interested in following the activities of other major European clubs in the transfer market: Real Madrid spent around 80 million euros for Aurélien Tchouameni from AS Monaco, FC Barcelona paid more than 100 million euros for Raphinha from Leeds United and world footballer Robert Lewandowski from Bayern . Manchester City also paid a three-digit sum for striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United.
“There is a lot going on. I mean, with us it’s similar to other clubs, there’s a lot going on,” says Neuer and refers nationally to BVB, who signed national defender Niklas Süle from Munich on a free transfer. The Westphalians paid more than 85 million euros for Sébastien Haller (Ajax Amsterdam), who was diagnosed with a testicular tumor on Monday, Karim Adeyemi (Red Bull Salzburg), Nico Schlotterbeck (SC Freiburg) and Salih Özcan (1. FC Köln).
Despite the high investment in the worst opponent, Neuer still sees FC Bayern as the number one candidate for the championship: “If we don’t do a lot with injuries and failures, we’re the favorites for the German championship again.” the Bayern captain: “It doesn’t mean that we won’t get anyone else.”
He probably meant primarily central defender de Ligt, but the hoped-for transfers from Konrad Laimer from RB Leipzig and Mathys Tel from Stade Rennes could work. At Laimer, Munich is said to have submitted the offer for a transfer fee of 20 million euros. 17-year-old Tel has been a fan of Bayern for some time, he plays for the French U18 national team. Rennes has so far rejected two offers from Bayern, but they are unlikely to give up.
The Frenchman is regarded as an outstanding storm talent in Europe. The transfer fee is around 20 million euros. “Tel is a very interesting player that we’ve been following for a long time. A super strong talent. The transfer window is still open for a while, so we’ll just see,” says Kahn.
“As far as offense goes, we have a lot of options. We have to make sure that we don’t overdo it now. It all has to make sense.” Defender Pavard is the first candidate for sale. “We’re not thinking about giving up one or the other at the moment,” said Kahn. “At the moment we’re not thinking in these categories because we’re always looking at what else the players can play. There’s nothing better than having flexible players.”
The goalkeeper legend says about de Ligt’s strengths: “He’s tall, good in tackle and headers and has a very, very good build-up game. Although he is only 22 years old, he likes to lead loudly and is present. These qualities are very, very important to us.”
If you get a “tick more stability” in the defensive area, “it is exactly this important piece of the jigsaw”, says Kahn.