Bayern 'competitive' despite few changes

No big-name signings for Bundesliga giants, but CEO Kahn confident of team's options

BARCELONA • Bayern Munich start their Champions League campaign today with a mouth-watering clash at Barcelona, as the Bavarian giants confidently head into Europe having plundered reinforcements from Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig.

While Paris Saint-Germain snapped up Lionel Messi and Manchester United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo, the nine-time defending Bundesliga champions raided last season's league runners-up for talent.

Bayern head into Europe buoyed by results, with 10 points from their first four league games, and confident in their current squad despite no big-name signings this summer.

"We are very, very well positioned, we have options. We are definitely competitive," chief executive Oliver Kahn said.

They made sound and proven acquisitions in the summer, landing France defender Dayot Upamecano for €42.5 million (S$67.3 million) and versatile Austria midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, at a bargain price of around €16 million.

Ironically, Sabitzer made his Bayern debut off the bench in Saturday's 4-1 win at Leipzig, where he began the season as club captain.

Bayern also reportedly paid the same team around €20 million to lure highly rated Julian Nagelsmann to Munich as head coach after two successful years in Saxony.

However, Kahn has rejected the notion that the six-time European champions deliberately set out to destabilise Leipzig, who have lost three of their first four league games and look like a shadow of their usual selves.

"We always have a clear idea of the players and coaches we think are good," said the former Germany goalkeeper.

"When an opportunity arises, we try to make it possible. That has nothing to do with weakening an opponent. We don't force anyone to come to Bayern."

Nagelsmann, who has inherited a far stronger squad than the team he had at Leipzig, has already won his first managerial trophy - the German Super Cup - and is eyeing more silverware this term.

With Benfica and Dynamo Kiev their other two opponents in Group E, Bayern and Barca are strongly fancied to progress to the next round.

Today's clash at the Nou Camp will be the first time both sides have clashed since the unforgettable 8-2 thrashing the Germans handed out in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2019-20.

Bayern have retained seven of the side who started the historic rout in Lisbon, while Barca have become weaker, failing to get past the round of 16 last season and losing their talisman in Messi.

This will be the Catalans' first Champions League season since the departure of their captain, with whom they last lifted the trophy in 2015, and not much are expected from the hosts after a summer of financial prudence. With the club's debt amounting to €1.35 billion, Barca could sign only three players for free - Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia - while the only player they bought, Emerson Royal, was just as quickly sold to Tottenham to raise funds.

Gerard Pique last season said they were "no longer able to compete in Europe" and there is more of an acceptance now, an awareness the pinnacle is almost certainly out of reach until their financial woes get better.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'Bayern 'competitive' despite few changes'. Subscribe