Munich - When quintuple-winning tricenarians Philipp Lahm, Dante, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery eventually decide to hang up their boots, they will forever be remembered as FC Bayern München’s golden generation.
All four played a pivotal role in the Bavarians’ rapid ascent to the top of the club football ladder in 2013, so how exactly will the 22-time Bundesliga champions acclimatise to life without their decorated quartet in the not so distant future? bundesliga.com has the answers…
Talismanic and versatile, 30-year-old FC Bayern captain Lahm could well enjoy a prolonged spell at the apex of the German game in a position he has made his own during the 2013/14 campaign: defensive midfield. He wouldn’t be the first natural full-back to do so, and he certainly will not be the last (exhibit A: F.C. Internazionale Milano’s 40-year-old veteran battle-axe Javier Zanetti).
If that were the case, the Bavarians, based on their current squad, would be left with two options, the most viable of which is Rafinha. The Brazilian is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance under Pep Guardiola and, two years Lahm’s junior, still has plenty of time on his side. Beyond that, Bayern may look to 19-year-old Mitchell Weiser, who is comfortable in either position on the right wing, making 13 loan appearances for Bundesliga 2 side 1. FC Kaiserslautern last term.
Although apparently well covered at right-back, Bayern’s options at the heart of the back four appear far more limited, with their ability to sustain their all-conquering charge hinging, from a defensive perspective, on two factors: Dante’s longevity and 24-year-old Holger Badstuber’s capacity to overcome a serious knee ligament injury that has kept him on the sidelines for almost 15 months.
The aforementioned Brazilian international has scarcely missed a trick since joining the club from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2012, but once age kicks in, Bayern’s only proven top-level partner for 25-year-old Jerome Boateng would be waylaid Germany international Badstuber. After that, Guardiola’s options are limited to 23-year-old Jan Kirchhoff (currently on loan at FC Schalke 04) and 24-year-old holding player-come-part-time-centre-half Javi Martinez.
Any such move involving the Spaniard, however, is likely to be well compensated for by a multi-talented midfield no longer having to rely exclusively on the goal threat posed by Messrs Ribery and Robben. The latter initially joined Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos on the bench for Matchday 19’s 5-0 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt, with Thiago Alcantara, Mario Götze and Xherdan Shaqiri instead delivering an ominous insight into Bayern’s red-hot future, before the Dutchman’s second-half cameo.
Let’s not forget Guardiola is still to welcome vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger back into the fold, too. At 29, the unmistakable midfielder, currently nursing an ankle injury, remains the go-to guy in his position; it’s just these days he is not the only one. Be it next week, next month or in three seasons’ time, there is every reason to believe Bayern’s next generation will be the proud authors of their very own chapter of football history by the time they reach club 30.