Cologne - Bastian Schweinsteiger’s impending transfer to Manchester United represents the end of an era at FC Bayern München, but it’s not as though the record German champions are exactly short of top-class replacements.
bundesliga.com takes a closer a look at the eight midfield candidates more than capable of making Bayern tick in 2015/16 and beyond…
Captain Philipp Lahm has made a seamless transition from full-back to defensive midfielder since Pep Guardiola took the reins in summer 2013. As well as enjoying more playing time than any of his fellow central midfielders (3744 minutes), the 31-year-old has also completed more passes (3245), misplaced fewer passes (9.6 per cent) and covered more ground (an average of almost 11.3 kilometres per 90 minutes).
The utility man
Much like Lahm, Austrian international David Alaba has shown himself to be extremely effective away from his more familiar position of left-back. Be it as part of a back three, in the centre of the park or in a more advanced role, the 23-year-old readily delivers one A-grade performance after the next and it was his versatility, dynamism and understanding of the game that proved such a big miss during the business end of 2014/15.
The ball magnet
Unlike the injured Alaba, Xabi Alonso was at Guardiola’s disposal as the 24-time Bundesliga champions fell at the semi-final hurdle in both the DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League. The Spanish veteran recycles possession like no other player on the Bayern books, and enjoyed an average 138.5 touches per game last term. He’s also a dab hand when it comes to set-pieces, but if there is one downside to his otherwise polished game it is his lack of pace.
One of three Spaniards in Bayern’s engine room, Thiago Alcantara stands alone as the club’s only established box-to-box midfielder. With unparalleled vision and technique, the 24-year-old can decide a game with the most subtle of articulations, but he too has his own Achilles’ heel: his chequered history with injuries. Indeed, since leaving FC Barcelona two years ago, he has been restricted to just 23 Bundesliga appearances.
The battering ram
Injuries have also hampered Javi Martinez’s development. Now he’s fit the question is whether he’ll be deployed in midfield - as he was throughout Bayern’s 2012/13 treble-winning campaign - or as a central defender as Jupp Heynckes’ Catalan successor appears to prefer. Winning on average 65.7 per cent of his attempted challenges and 76.3 per cent of his aerial tussles, perhaps the former is the more favourable option.
Bayern also boast a handful of squad members with the potential to make a big impact in Schweinsteiger’s stead. Sebastian Rode, for one, has the raw energy, short-passing game and winning drive that Guardiola likes to see in all his players, and already has ample big-game experience, having turned out 23 times in the Bundesliga as well as on a further seven occasions in the UEFA Champions League last season.
The mecurial talent
Further down the pecking order, at least on paper, is Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg. The 19-year-old Danish international took his search for first-team football to FC Augsburg during the latter half of 2014/15, and having proved a runaway success in helping the Bavarian minnows qualify for the UEFA Europa League for the first time, will be determined to put his experience to good use now back at his parent club.
As has long been the case with the mercurial Höjbjerg, new Bayern signing Joshua Kimmich is expected to have a massive future ahead of him. The 20-year-old is reported to have been top of Guardiola’s wish list, thanks in no small part to his mature displays in front of the back four during a two-year loan spell at RB Leipzig and his tenacious tackling ability for Germany's U-19s and U-21s.