Had Marcel Sabitzer been sold in the summer, few eyebrows would have been raised amongst Bayern fans, or even Bundesliga fans in general. His first season at the Allianz Arena had been anything but a success and cutting losses and moving on would have seemed the obvious way forward.
With Leon Goretzka unavailable due to his knee injury (which required surgery) Austrian midfielder Sabitzer has been given a new lease of life with the Bavarians and has been an ever-present feature alongside Joshua Kimmich in the Bayern engine room, earning rave reviews from both teammates and onlookers. However, with Goretzka resuming full training it is only a matter of time before Bayern trainer Julian Nagelsmann has a tough decision to make as to whether to stick or twist with Sabitzer.
The fact that sticking with Sabitzer is even an option would have sounded absurd last season. Signed from rivals RB Leipzig for €16 million he looked a bargain, but soon it looked like money flushed down the toilet. He struggled to make an impact with Corentin Tolisso, and Jamal Musiala often picked ahead of him and when he did play, he provided neither goals nor assists. Former Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge referred to Sabitzer as “a luxury transfer” and added that he, “didn’t improve the squad the way you might have imagined.” Ouch !
With both Leipzig and the Austrian national team, he enjoyed most success playing as an attacking midfielder- a role he was not going to have with so many options ahead of him in the Bayern pecking order. The experiment to play him alongside Kimmich in the German Super Cup however proved inspired and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Last season was very unfortunate for him” Joshua Kimmich told Sport 1 after the Super Cup win. “But he’s developed really well, he’s always one of the best in training. He gives us a lot of qualities, especially in Leon’s absence. I like playing with him.”
Club CEO Oliver Kahn also went public following the positive start to the season. “At Bayern, you’re always very quick to condemn players or write them off after a season. I’m actually the best example myself. It took me a season or two here at Bayern Munich, but back then you had more time. Some players, like Sabitzer, have to be given a period of adjustment. Marcel is performing solidly at the moment; we can only congratulate him.”
There is the key phrase- ‘at the moment.’
With the World Cup in December, Leon Goretzka is not going to want to endanger his chances of making Hansi Flick’s final squad by sitting on the Bayern bench and playing second fiddle to Sabitzer. But with the Austrian continuing to impress, does Nagelsmann want or need to change a winning formula? Ryan Granvenberch also needs to be factored in as once he has fully settled in Bavaria, the summer signing from Ajax will be seeking his share of Bundesliga minutes. Sabitzer has done a very good job thus far, but is it enough to cement his place in the Bayern line-up on a regular basis?