The ideal for any coach is to have two top quality players available to cover each position and with a club of Bayern’s size and stature that is very much the case. However, when the established World Cup winner loses his place to his understudy, friction is often the result. In the case of the Rekordmeister, the battle between Benjamin Pavard and Noussair Mazraoui, is about to get tasty.
Julian Nagelsmann’s decision to start Moroccan Mazraoui in Bayern’s last two games against Barcelona and Mainz hasn’t gone down too well with Pavard and despite not saying as much, the Bayern trainer may be starting to favour the youngster over the Frenchman.
It has been quite the turnaround for Mazraoui, who signed from Ajax in the summer on a free. Kicker was reporting in August that he received early criticism for a lack of assertiveness and a deficit in defensive awareness. The opening weeks of the season saw him see just 33 minutes of action and his first start didn’t come until matchday 6 against VfB Stuttgart.
However, the consecutive starts and praise from Nagelsmann has seen him rise up the pecking order much to the apparent dismay of Pavard. “Nous is doing better and better” the trainer recently said. “I’m very happy with his development. It took him a bit of time at first, but he’s a lot more confident now.
“I think the distribution of playing time is equal between them. Nous did well against Barcelona. He’s very calm on the ball against aggressive teams. We also want to have Benji as an option at centre-back because Lucas (Hernandez) is out.”
The player himself is also relishing the competition with Pavard saying, “It’s a good competition, a healthy duel. We both bring out the best in each other, which is good for us. At the moment you can’t say one of us won this competition. It’s important we constantly improve and have this competition in the team.”
Pavard however was reported to be the first player out of the dressing room against Mainz and not happy with the fact he hasn’t been getting as many opportunities to play in his preferred centre back position.
Mazraoui, now settled and learning more German, offers Bayern a slightly different dynamic than Pavard. He much more proactive in the final third., although the Frenchman is probably better defensively. To have a headache like this is the ideal thing for coach Nagelsmann, but the question as to whether Pavard will sign a new deal at Bayern now they have Mazraoui is up in the air. His current contract at the Allianz Arena expires in June 2024.
The question of Pavard or Mazraoui won’t arise against Inter on Tuesday with Pavard expected to partner Dayot Upamecano in the centre in the absence of Matthijs de Ligt, but when Bayern face Hertha Berlin on Saturday in the Olympiastadion, it will be interesting to see who lines up at right back.