Having no phone signal or having to pay cash rather than go contactless are such First World problems. The Bundesliga equivalent for Bayern Munich is having an €80 million defender and not being able to find a space for him.
Not according to plan
When Bayern splashed the cash last summer on French World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez, he looked like a shrewd signing, who would help form the backbone of the Bavarian’s defence for years to come. A formidable central partnership with Niklas Süle was envisioned with the former Atletico Madrid player also versatile enough to cover at left back for David Alaba if and when needed. Fellow Frenchman Benjamin Pavard would occupy the right back slot, with Joshua Kimmich released full-time into the midfield.
Despite arriving with an existing injury, which ruled him out of pre-season, the 24-year-old recovered to take his place from matchday 2 against Schalke. Six of the next seven games saw him start moving between left back and centre back. Then came a serious ankle injury in the Champions League clash with Olympiakos in October.
It has been a season to forget for the Frenchman and he will already have his focus on getting himself back on track at Bayern next season. But there is a but!
With Hernandez out and Niklas Süle also suffering a season-ending injury on matchday 8 (ruptured anterior cruciate knee ligament), Bayern were forced into a defensive patch-up job with David Alaba moving into the centre to partner Jerome Boateng and teenager Alphonso Davies drafted in as a trainee left back.
As far as experiments go it has been about as successful as it could have been. Alaba has excelled in the centre making himself indispensable and staking a claim to be regarded as one of the Bundesliga’s best central defenders this season. Davies has taken to the new role like a duck to water and headlines claiming him to be one of Europe’s best left-backs are not hyperbole by any stretch of the imagination.
A settled back four of Pavard, Boateng, Alaba and Davies has been the cornerstone of what looks to be an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title for the Reds, and many observers are thinking this in fact the future (with Süle in for Boateng).
So where does this leave Hernandez? The press speculation that he was being lined-up by Newcastle or that he has been offered to both Manchester City and Inter seems hard to believe, but the fact that the speculation is there indicates that his place might not be secure next season.
Left back or left out?
“Lucas isn’t going anywhere and will definitely stay at Bayern” his agent Manuel Garcia Quilon told Sky Germany this week. Hernandez has a contract with Bayern which runs until 2024.
It would seem the immediate future of Hernandez relies very much upon what Hansi Flick decides to do with Alaba and Davies. Should he restore the Austrian back to left back, Hernandez could retake his place in the centre, but that causes a new problem in what to do with Davies. He could go back to his natural position as a winger, but the competition from Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and potentially Leroy Sané would limit his opportunities.
Based on his impact this season, ‘limiting his opportunities’ is not something Bayern will want to do.
Alaba’s contract runs out in 2021 and there remains some uncertainty as to whether he will extend. He has long been linked with a move to Barcelona and there would surely be no shortage of clubs wanting to sign him should he decide to try the waters away from the Allianz Arena.
Problem solved in as much as Hernandez and Davies would find their natural homes, but not in as much as Bayern don’t want to lose one of their star players and one of the few survivors from the legendary ‘triple’ side of 2013.
A third option would be for Bayern to just rotate Hernandez, Alaba and Davies a lot more, but star names at Bayern have traditionally not dealt well with being regularly left out.
It is a problem for Hansi Flick, but a problem most other Bundesliga clubs would dearly love to have.
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