Joshua Kimmich's knee injury could see Corentin Tolisso partner Leon Goretzka (l-r.) in the Bayern Munich midfield. - © imago images
Joshua Kimmich's knee injury could see Corentin Tolisso partner Leon Goretzka (l-r.) in the Bayern Munich midfield. - © imago images
bundesliga

Who will replace Joshua Kimmich in the Bayern Munich midfield?

Joshua Kimmich faces a spell on the sidelines after turning a knee against Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker. It's a blow for Hansi Flick and Bayern Munich, but the record champions do have options...

Ordinarily, Kimmich would line up alongside Leon Goretzka in the midfield double pivot. In terms of skill set, he's the full package - conceivably the most complete central midfielder in world football today.

Kimmich's defensive prowess - honed during a world-beating spell as a right-back - and attacking range drive home his importance to the cause. The 25-year-old has won more challenges than any Bayern midfielder in 2020/21, and has already been involved in a league-high 32 passes from open play leading to a shot.

Watch: Joshua Kimmich - a tactical analysis

Jose Mourinho recently described the Germany international as "a top right-back, left-back, centre-back, number six, number eight, number 10," while Flick has stated how Kimmich is "well on his way to being one of the players that shape this club."

Both accurate assessments of the only central midfielder in the Bundesliga so far this season to have had a direct hand in at least five goals. Suffice to say a clone army of Kimmichs would be every coach's dream.

That doesn't mean Flick will be having nightmares in light of Kimmich's projected lay-off following a typically full-hearted tackle on Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

"Josh is a key player and losing him would not be easy to compensate," the Bayern coach admitted afterwards. Difficult - but not impossible for a coach blessed with the deepest top-level squad in Europe.

Option 1: Corentin Tolisso

Against Dortmund, Corentin Tolisso stepped in to fill the Kimmich void.

The 2018 France World Cup winner has battled his own injury troubles since joining Bayern from Lyon in summer 2017, but has looked the real deal when fully fit.

This season alone, he has made 10 competitive appearances, scoring twice. He boasts a passing range right up there on the Thiago-Kimmich scale for surgical precision, can operate as No.6, 8 or 10 and, while not as vocal as the gladiatorial Kimmich, is one of seven Francophones in the side.

"Coco's in very good shape," commented Flick after Tolisso spied countryman Benjamin Pavard with a sensational diagonal pass, paving the way for Goretzka to break the deadlock in Bayern's 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow in UEFA Champions League Group A.

"We've worked on his cross-field passes from deep to find the likes of full-backs in training. He also has the quality to go box-to-box, is a good runner and can score from range.

"He's playing with freedom, and is full of confidence right now."

Option II: Javi Martinez

Tolisso in the Kimmich role appears to be the logical choice, but the 26-year-old cannot play every game for a team with titles to defend in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League. Even if he could, there will be times when he is deployed in an advanced central position behind Robert Lewandowski, as he was against Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv.

In either instance, Javi Martinez would be the likely beneficiary.

The battle-hardened Spaniard is among the longest-serving players at Bayern - one of five surviving members of the 2012/13 treble winners. He has fallen down the pecking order with age, but continues to get regular minutes as a substitute in a season more back-breaking than any before.

At 6"2 tall, Javi Martinez (2nd.r) is a sizeable physical presence at both ends of the pitch. - imago images/MIS

Martinez's only start so far in 2020/21 came alongside Kimmich in the 2-1 win at Cologne on Bundesliga Matchday 6. He completed 79 minutes, maintaining his 90 percent average for pass completion and winning as many challenges as the whipper-snapper to his right - a team-leading seven.

Even at 32, Bayern's Basque enforcer remains one of the most effective battering rams in the business, and offers the ideal counterweight to the more attack-minded Goretzka or Tolisso.

Option III: Marc Roca

Marc Roca falls somewhere in-between.

On average, the summer signing from Espanyol won seven challenges per 90 minutes in La Liga last season - more than any Bayern midfielder in the Bundesliga - whilst his 89 per cent pass completion was only narrowly shaded by ex-resident metronome Thiago (92 percent).

He doesn't have the box-to-box instinct of Goretzka - the UEFA Euro U21 winner registered three goals and six assists in 121 competitive appearances for Espanyol - but neither did Xabi Alonso.

Having only played once for his new employers to date - starting alongside Martinez in the DFB Cup first-round win over minnows Düren - Kimmich's absence presents the 23-year-old with a welcome opportunity to show exactly why he has been compared to Bayern's former pass master and another touchstone of dirty work and distribution, Sergio Busquets.

A future Spanish great? Marc Roca can expect to make his Bundesliga debut in the months ahead. - imago images

One to watch: Tiago Dantas

Roca wasn't Bayern's only piece of midfield business towards the end of the summer transfer window. The record champions also acquired Portugal U20 midfielder Tiago Dantas on a season-long loan from Benfica.

Dantas had a direct hand in six goals during Benfica's run to the UEFA Youth League final last term and, while currently bedding in with the Bayern reserves in Germany's Third Division, could find himself on the first-team fringes sooner rather than later.

"Tiago is a very good footballer, who we have been watching for two and a half years now," said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic of the 19-year-old string-puller.

"He has to improve physically, but like everyone else will have the opportunity to recommend himself for the senior side by training and playing well in the third tier. Let him surprise you."

The verdict

Losing Kimmich to injury would be a crushing blow to most teams in the world, but Bayern are no ordinary unit.

Goretzka and Tolisso are two world-class midfield operators. There is still place in the modern game for a weapon of mass disruption such as Martinez. Roca and Dantas have the world at their feet, and no one does man management quite like Flick.

This is not a case of reluctant parent letting their newly qualified offspring take the sports car out for a spin. The keys to Kimmich's baby are in safe hands.

Chris Mayer-Lodge