Rafinha announced his desire to leave Bayern in the winter transfer window. This presents a problem for die Roten, and there are a fair few options to tackle it.
While many might not consider Rafinha an integral part in the Bayern Munich machine, he does bring critical depth to both right-back and left-back. Indeed, he would be a considerable loss. Here is how Bayern can address the situation.
Not sell in January
This is perhaps the most unlikely scenario. Bayern, in general, is very good about letting players leave when they want to. They will even take a financial loss to satisfy a player who has been loyal and not caused issues when trying to make an exit.
A recent example is Mario Gómez. Mario Mandžukić benched him in Bayern’s historic treble season. Gómez patiently sat on the sidelines and acted as a model professional. The club later sold him to Fiorentina for a fee reported to be around €20 million. The club probably could have made more money if they had attempted to negotiate a deal elsewhere. Still, Florence was Super Mario’s preferred destination so Bayern took the loss.
This is part of the reason Bayern has a spotty reputation when it comes to selling players. They will try to make the player happy, even when leaving the club.
However, there is a precedent for Bayern forcing a player to stay as well. Perhaps the best and most recent case is when Franck Ribéry reportedly almost moved to Real Madrid in 2008-2009. Bayern received several big offers for the Frenchman but turned them all down. As we know, this turned out to be a good move.
This means the ball is in Bayern’s court and they will decide if they want to sell or not. But it is more likely that they will sell in January if Rafinha requests a transfer. He has been a loyal player and a positive impact in the locker room. He has not caused any problems as a bench player for the last several years. Because he is a bench player, Bayern will likely allow him to return to Brazil in January.
Use the squad at their disposal
Bayern are not known for spending big money in January. The Bavarians rarely conduct any business at this time. This year, they have signed Sandro Wagner. That is already a strange occurrence.
If Rafinha leaves, it is not impossible that Bayern decides to just work with the squad that they have already and attempt to cover the right-back spot. The team does have a number of players who can fill in as full-back, though it is playing them out of position.
Sebastian Rudy is a good example. Rudy is a player who has a history of playing as a right-back, both at Hoffenheim and with the German National Team. He would likely be Bayern’s first choice as a back-up to Joshua Kimmich.
Other players in the squad have a history of playing at full-back as well, such as Corentin Tolisso. However, the Frenchman’s history as a full-back is much spottier than Sebastian Rudy. It is likely that Jupp Heynckes will do whatever he can to keep Tolisso in midfield.
This is the trouble with not going to the market. Tolisso and Rudy are important pieces to Bayern’s midfield, even if neither is a lockdown starter. Rudy offers a certain stability that only Javi Martínez can also bring, and Tolisso has starter to grow more and more into his role at the club. Moving a player to right-back in case of a Kimmich injury (wow, that is a scary thing to type out) would limit Bayern’s options in midfield.
Of course there is also Marco Freidl. However, he has only made one sustitute appearance in the Bundesliga, as a left-back. For whatever reason, it seems as if Heynckes does not trust him fully yet. It is doubtful he would play him out of position ahead of someone like Rudy who has played as a right-back at a high level in the past.
Go into the market
This is Bayern’s best option if Rafinha leaves in January, but it is also something the club will likely be reluctant to do. But if they do not want to sacrifice midfield depth and still want to respect Rafinha’s wishes, they should look to the market to solve their problems.
There are two different routes to go down—they can look to sign a veteran player who does not mind sitting on the bench behind Joshua Kimmich, or they can try and sign a young talent who can potentially grow into the role. Considering that Bayern have made it very clear that they intend to use Kimmich as their right-back for the future though, signing a young player who will just want to leave in a few years does not make much sense.
The World Cup issue
Things are even more complicated in a World Cup year. Fringe players want as much playing time as possible on the off chance that they might get to play for their respective countries. It is virtually impossible for anyone to take Kimmich’s starting place barring an injury, given Bayern’s support for him.
The full-back market in general right now is pretty pathetic. It could be difficult to find someone who is willing to only play a handful of matches but still play at the level required for Bayern. But that does not mean there are no options and that Bayern should not be exploring them.
Media outlets reported some time ago that Bayern were monitoring players like Bruno Peres. Peres is unlikely to be going to the World Cup with Brazil even with the playing time he is getting at Roma. He is 27, experienced, and can play both right-back and left-back. He may not be the best player in his position, but neither is Rafinha.
This is the sort of player Bayern should target. Peres himself may not want to come to Munich, but Bayern should look at players who are in their prime, versatile, and probably not too worried about their national teams. If they can find a player willing to play back-up for several years like Rafinha did, they should not pass on the opportunity this January even if it means spending a little extra money. It would be a worthwhile investment.
Many options, little time
January is approaching fast. Bayern will need to be decisive and act fast. If they are going to start negotiating deals, they must do so quickly and get them wrapped up before prices are driven up even further.