Bayern fight to keep hold of Champions League-winning squad
Bayern Munich are already fighting to stop their Treble-winning squad breaking up in the wake of their Champions League triumph despite sweeping all before them in Europe this season.
The German giants partied through the night in Lisbon after Kingsley Coman’s second-half header – Bayern’s 500th Champions League goal – sealed a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s (Aug 23) hotly-contested final.
"The best team in Europe wears red,” boasted Munich-based newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung on its Monday front page, yet Bayern are already in danger of losing some stars.
Both central midfielder Thiago Alcantara, 29, who has made it clear he wants a fresh challenge and has been linked to Liverpool, and centre-back David Alaba, 28, have stalled over extension talks with a year left on their contracts.
“I don’t know,” admitted head coach Hansi Flick when asked if Alcantara had played his last Bayern game.
“He doesn’t know himself because all the concentration has been 100 per cent on the Champions League final.”
Flick expects to know more in the “next few days” while board member Oliver Kahn is “very, very” optimistic of keeping hold of Alaba, the only Bayern academy product in the first team.
Alaba, one of the first to console PSG’s weeping star Neymar after the final whistle, has been linked to Manchester City.
One Bayern star has already left with Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho heading back to Barcelona after a year-long loan deal.
“I will work to make sure that the things that haven’t happened so far will happen for me next season,” vowed Coutinho, now seeking to reboot his career in a Barcelona side rebuilding after the 8-2 thrashing by Bayern in the quarter-finals.
Bayern became the first club to win all 11 matches in the course of their Champions League campaign, scoring 43 goals, a tally second only to Barcelona’s record haul of 45 in 1999/00.
Under Flick, Bayern finished the season with a 21-game winning streak to sweep the Treble of an eighth straight Bundesliga title, also lifting both the Champions League and German Cup trophies. In his first role in charge of a Bundesliga club, Flick is the only coach to win his opening eight Champions League games.
Several of his players underlined their world-class status.
The competition’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski finished with 15 Champions League goals, two short of Cristiano Ronaldo’s record set in 2013/14. The Lisbon final was the only European match in which Lewandowski started but failed to score this season – not that he cared much.
“Never stop dreaming. Never give up when you fail. Work hard to achieve your goal,” Lewandowski wrote on Twitter having lost the 2013 final – against Bayern – with ex-club Borussia Dortmund.
Likewise, Bayern captain Manuel Neuer – voted the world’s best goalkeeper four years running up until 2016 – emphatically proved he is back to his best.
“Manu made two very important saves,” said legendary goalkeeper Kahn.
“He isn’t often kept busy all game, but he’s always there in the key moments.
“When you look at everything he has won – a World Cup, now two Champions Leagues – and the contributions he made to those wins, you can say that, yes,” Kahn replied when asked if Neuer is Germany’s best-ever goalkeeper.
Canadian teen Alphonso Davies started 2019/20 as a back-up winger, but the 19-year-old – nicknamed “Bayern’s Roadrunner” by teammate Thomas Mueller due to his phenomenal pace – has excelled at left-back.
“Who would ever have thought a guy from Canada would win the Champions League? Two years ago, if someone had told me this, I never would have believed it,” said Davies.
At the end of a heavily disrupted season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bayern now have just a handful of weeks to rest before launching their assault on a ninth-straight Bundesliga title on Sept 18 at home to Schalke 04.
New reinforcements will stake their claims including ex-Man City starlet Leroy Sane, who will give options on the wing. Likewise, former Germany Under-21 goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel, signed on a free transfer from Schalke, has the unenviable task of trying to usurp Neuer between the posts. – AFP