At first glance the signing of another right-back in Alvaro Odriozola at Bayern Munich might seem like an odd one, but scratch beneath the surface and it soon becomes clear that the 24-year-old’s arrival on loan from Real Madrid offers Hansi Flick plenty of options for the second half of the season.
Odriozola only started four league games for Real this season, but he can expect to feature a lot more regularly in Munich after coming in for the remainder of 2019/20. bundesliga.com investigates why the German champions moved for the Spain international…
Bayern have been stretched in defence over the past few months. Centre-back Niklas Süle tore his cruciate ligament in October, while big summer signing Lucas Hernandez damaged his ankle the same month and is only now easing his way back to fitness.
Javi Martinez – another potential pick in central defence – suffered a thigh injury just before the winter break, while David Alaba also missed four matches through injury earlier in the campaign. Considering that Bayern also saw centre-back Mats Hummels and veteran full-back Rafinha leave the club last summer, their injury problems in defence meant another quality addition would be welcome.
While Odriozola immediately improves Bayern’s defensive cast, the San Sebastian native will also impact the team in other ways. Benjamin Pavard won the 2018 FIFA World Cup playing as a right-back with France, but now he could be used more often in central defence – where he has played most of his football at club level.
The latest arrival will also influence another versatile Bayern player. Joshua Kimmich is one of the world’s finest right-backs, but he has gone on record as saying he prefers to play in central midfield.
The 24-year-old starred for Germany in that position throughout their successful UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, and Bayern have started to use him in the holding role a lot more often this season. With more cover available at full-back thanks to Odriozola, we should now see Kimmich in the midfield mix more regularly.
Watch: See why Joshua Kimmich is so good at full-back
Used to the big time
January is a notoriously difficult time to sign players, so Bayern will have carefully weighed up the pros and cons before delving into the market. Could they make a signing without breaking the bank? Could that signing immediately help the team? Would he be able to cope with the pressure of being at such a big club?
On paper at least, Odriozola ticks all of those boxes. Before joining Real Madrid in the summer of 2018, the pacy full-back had two strong seasons after breaking into Real Sociedad’s first team. He soon left his home town club with expectations raised. While it hasn’t always been plain sailing since his move to the Spanish capital, he still made 21 starts in all competitions for Real last term.
The attack-minded player knows, then, what the demands are like at a giant club. He’ll have learned plenty in his 18 months in Madrid, and can use that to his advantage to meet the new challenge in Munich.
A likely hit
While a short-term loan signing is unusual for Bayern - Serdar Taschi was the last such player at the Allianz Arena when he arrived for the second half of the 2015/16 campaign - there is very little risk involved, and recent history suggests that players like him have a good chance of thriving in Germany.
Bayern’s playing style should suit their latest recruit, who will no doubt have sought the advice of the man who kept him out of the team at 13-time European Champions Real. Dani Carvajal spent the 2012/13 season on loan in the Bundesliga, and became a mainstay at Leverkusen that year.
Odriozola can also draw on the experience of another Real Madrid full-back who has had a successful time in Germany so far. Achraf Hakimi – currently into the second of his two-year loan deal with Borussia Dortmund – was named African Young Player of the Year in 2019 for his barnstorming performances in the UEFA Champions League in particular.
Odriozola, meanwhile, revealed after his first training session in Munich that he had already been given plenty of assurances that he wouldn't regret his move. The latest arrival at the club said that ex-Bayern players Xabi Alonso, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez had "nothing but good things" to say about the defending Bundesliga champions.
Bayern’s new number two will only be in Munich until the end of the season, so the record German champions will need him to settle in quickly as they target Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Cup titles.
Stepping into new surroundings and a new culture can be difficult, but the Spaniard will have some familiar faces to help make the transition smoother. Former Athletic Bilbao stalwart Martinez has been at Bayern since helping them win the treble in 2012/13, so he should be the first port of call if Odriozola is wondering what makes the five-time European champions and Germany different to what he is used to.
Fellow Spain international Thiago and on-loan Barcelona attacker Philippe Coutinho can help in that regard, too, while there will be no language issues if Odriozola lines up alongside former Atletico Madrid defender Hernandez in defence.
Bayern will hope that their latest signing can swiftly get used to life off the pitch in Munich, then, so that a hungry and talented player can start making a difference on it.