Easy for Bayern to replace me: Alonso
Did last week's activities at Bayern HQ prompt these remarks from retiring star?
For the Bavarian faithful, Bayern Munich's 4-1 win over Freiburg at the Allianz Arena on Saturday must have felt as poignant as it was triumphant.
In his final match for Bayern, Xabi Alonso, who is retiring along with captain Philipp Lahm, showed just what the German champions will be missing.
The 35-year-old Spaniard showcased his legendary ability to pry open the tightest of backlines with his effortless pinpoint long balls, one of which led to Arjen Robben's fourth-minute opener.
Yet, Alonso insists it won't be hard for somebody to step into his boots.
He told The New Paper last Friday: "No problem, it will be easy for Bayern to find a replacement for me."
He was at a meet-and-greet session for players from the FC Bayern Youth Cup world finals.
Perhaps, he already knows of Bayern's shopping list.
The agent of Schalke's highly rated midfielder Leon Goretzka was spotted at Bayern's headquarters at Sabener Strasse on Thursday.
Goretzka, 22, can play in a variety of positions across midfield and, like Alonso, has the ability to pick out his teammates.
At 1.89m, six centimetres taller than the man he could replace, Goretzka is also adept in winning aerial duels.
There is also Germany international midfielder Sebastian Rudy, who is arriving on a free transfer from Hoffenheim, along with centre back Niklas Suele, who costs a reported 20 million euros (S$31.1m).
“I’m still alive. It was funny, but a bit cold.”Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was drenched after the traditional beer shower
Rudy, who can also play at right back, could also be vying with the versatile Joshua Kimmich to be Lahm's successor.
Whoever wins must be able to withstand inevitable comparisons to the Bayern captain, who was hailed by Pep Guardiola as the most intelligent footballer he has ever coached.
Bayern have not been afraid to splash the cash in recent years, even at the risk of upsetting their fans who took pride in homegrown talents such as Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller.
FC Hollywood have waved the chequebook to bring in Arturo Vidal, Kingsley Coman, Douglas Costa, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara, as well as youngsters such as Juan Bernat and Renato Sanches - with mixed results.
Sanches, the most expensive Portuguese player to leave the domestic league for an initial 35 million euros, struggled to settle in and is now linked to a move to Barcelona.
On the other hand, Vidal, scorer of Bayern's second goal last Saturday, has added some much-needed steel and graft in midfield.
Forwards Robben, 33, and Franck Ribery, 34, who also netted on Saturday, are still mercurial in the Bundesliga, but are inching towards the twilight of their careers, and it is not unforeseeable that Bayern will turn to agents again rather than their academy.
Bayern president Uli Hoeness admitted at Wednesday's naming of their new FC Bayern Campus, which opens in August, that their academy needs to improve.
He said: "In the last few years, the results of our work haven't been good. No player has even come close to making the first team since David Alaba.
"We were a little negligent and have to step on the gas. The board's demands will become even greater and we must try to be more successful in this field."
To sustain their dominance - a record fifth consecutive Bundesliga title was secured last month with three games to spare - they can't afford to neglect their own pipeline.
Sebastian Dremmler, Bayern's head coach of international programmes who had taken charge of the Under-10s to Under-17s during his 20 years with the club, urged patience.
The 41-year-old, who had coached the likes of Mueller and Mats Hummels in their youth, told TNP: "The press in Germany have been a bit cynical for us.
"We have always produced top footballers, but if you want to say that none have made it to the first team in the last three years, we acknowledge that.
"But you also have to recognise the reason is we have a top, top first team. An 18-year-old from the academy can't just say, 'Hey Ribery, you go out, I'm in'.
"We have developed top players like Liverpool's Emre Can and Schalke's Alessandro Schoepf.
"Players coming through our system, from the Under-9s to the Under-19s will have had very good football education, and they stand a very high chance to make it at Bundesliga level, even if not with Bayern.
"To play for a top team like Bayern, sometimes you need luck, opportunities, and a good coach. Mueller, Alaba, Hummels and Holger Badstuber are just some who have made it and there will be more to come."