The biggest mistake Bayern Munich have made this season – probably the only major mistake they’re likely to make in what is sure to be another sublime campaign for the Bavarians – is opening the door, allowing the chasing pack a peek inside to the possible availability of one of Europe’s star midfielders.
Bayern Munich have allowed the contract negotiations with Toni Kroos to spill into the open market, not so much saying that they’re in an impossible position in the way Borussia Dortmund were with Robert Lewandowski, but just giving outside parties enough of a sniff to send relevant individuals scrambling in order to tell the 24-year-old what is available outside the walls of the Allianz Arena if Bayern don’t yield to his demands.
It’s still a little troubling that it’s gotten this far. Not that Manchester United and Chelsea are hot on Kroos’ trail and have reportedly offered him eye-watering figures that surpass what he’s asking for from his current club, but that there is an idea very much out there that Bayern would be willing to let a player of his importance go so easily.
Unlike Dortmund, Bayern sit atop numerous Bundesliga mountains: champions, status, financial. FC Hollywood, for the most part, get exactly what they want.
They were ruthless when dealing with Athletic Bilbao a little under two years ago in the chase for Javi Martinez. Where Manchester United were so feeble in their attempts to lure Ander Herrera from San Mames, the Bavarians stumped up exactly what was required to free Martinez from his contract, with the club later going on to admit that they had indeed paid over the odds for the Spanish international, but that he was worth it and was vital to their cause. A quick glance at Pep Guardiola’s side would show that Martinez was well worth the €40 million.
So the impression that Bayern would be so powerless in keeping Kroos on board just doesn’t fit with the image of the club. Kroos’ contract comes to an end in 2015, and while the player isn’t speaking out of grand new adventures elsewhere, his goal is clear: financial parity with those who he believes he’s on equal footing with in terms of importance to the club.
In terms of playing personnel – Pep Guardiola is on €17 million and well, well above the club’s next highest earner – it’s no surprise to know that Franck Ribery is the club’s top dog. After that Mario Goetze, and then the usual suspects of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Kroos is looking for €8 million a year, double his current wages, which would leave him on par with Thiago and Arjen Robben, who is said to be closing on a new deal.
And then come the reasons why Bayern simply won’t allow a player like the midfielder to leave at this time, no matter how much the Premier League’s best talk up a position of royalty.
The 24-year-old is one of the most complete midfielders in Europe. Not only that, but he’s ideally suited to the needs of this Bayern team. He’s an attacking midfielder who was aided in his development through a two-year loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen, where, naturally, he was one of the team’s best players during his second year, demonstrating not only his precision as a creator but his lethal touch from set pieces.
Now at Bayern, he’s learnt to drop deeper in the midfield, playing regularly in any three-man combination. His ball retention is phenomenal, so too is his calmness under the pressure of major European and domestic clashes.
But what is absolutely vital is his rightful place as one of Bayern’s own, another in the line of Lahm and Schweinsteiger, something Ribery, Goetze and Lewandowski obviously aren’t. For a club who pride itself on tradition and continuity – look to the positions of ex players in the club’s hierarchy – they won’t let a player like Kroos go over something he is unquestionably deserving of.
Bayern are a financial behemoth in the modern game, but they’re still well short of paying the kinds of fees Real Madrid have for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, or indeed Barcelona’s recently revealed total expenditure on acquiring Neymar from Santos in the summer.
If Bayern sell Kroos, and in spite of the strength of their midfield, they’ll have to replace. Even if money isn’t an issue, how do you find a player as well-rounded and influential as that?
For that, are we supposed to believe that the club will simply allow Chelsea or Manchester United to arrive in Germany, fling Kroos over their shoulder and carry him back to England?
Allowing the contract negotiations to drag is an unfortunate position Bayern have put themselves in. But it’s far from one they can’t easily wriggle out of.