Bayern Munich squad preview 2023/24: Central Midfield

Bayern Munich midfielder Konrad Laimer and Leon Goretzka. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)
Bayern Munich midfielder Konrad Laimer and Leon Goretzka. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images) /

When news broke, early on during the 2022/23 season, that then Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann had his sights set on signing Konrad Laimer from RB Leipzig on a free transfer ahead of the 2023/24 season, initial reactions were that the coach was seeking the player he needed to complete the midfield setup at Bayern. After all, Nagelsmann was familiar with Laimer’s game having previously coached him at Leipzig.

With the combative style of play and capacity to cover a lot of ground, one would not be unreasonable in thinking that Laimer could evolve into a stellar number six. Some have even compared him to N’Golo Kante.

Ryan Gravenberch had previously joined Bayern, on a five-year deal, from Ajax for a reported €18 million (plus €5 million in potential add-ons), ahead of the 2022/23 season, to provide both competition and cover for the established double pivot of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka.

Gravenberch endured a difficult debut season as he struggled to get consistent playing time. Things got better after the arrival of Thomas Tuchel for the Dutch midfielder, but he is eager to get assurances over playing time next season to make a decision on his future. As things stand, Gravenberch remains an option from the bench for Tuchel.

Roughly one year ahead of Gravenberch, Marcel Sabitzer had made the trek from RB Leipzig to Bayern for a reported €16 million, but he endured a disappointing 2021/22 debut season. Following a brief loan spell last season at Manchester United, Sabitzer has completed a permanent move to Borussia Dortmund this summer. Laimer has replaced Sabitzer in Bayern’s squad.

With Nagelsmann gone and Tuchel having taken over it appears to be a case of out with the old and in with the new with regard to the midfield.

Leon Goretzka is no longer an automatic starter under Thomas Tuchel.  On the dramatic, title-clinching final day of last season, he was subjected to the ignominy of being substituted after being brought on as a substitute himself during the second half. Tuchel later apologised to Goretzka, but the player would not have enjoyed the experience either way.

Not even Joshua Kimmich has been immune to Tuchel’s restructuring of the midfield. Though in Kimmich’s case, various reports suggest that, Tuchel believes that Kimmich would be more impactful for Bayern in a more advanced midfield role with a new player being brought in to play a more traditional holding number six role. Kimmich has never been shy to venture forward when playing in midfield or as a right-back and has scored in crucial games.

Should the scenario with Kimmich in the number eight role come to fruition then it’s understandable why players such as Englishman Declan Rice and Mexican Edson Alvarez were being touted as targets for Bayern before transferring to Arsenal and West Ham respectively.

As things stand, the first choice midfield pairing for Bayern is Konrad Laimer and Joshua Kimmich. Leon Goretzka and Gravenberch are the squad options in the midfield area, while Jamal Musiala can also slot in central midfield if needed. Tuchel still wants to add a number six to the squad, but it is likely to come at the expense of one midfield departure.

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Possible new additions

Currently, there still exists an element of mystery as to who would be the defensive midfield anchor for the upcoming season. Apart from the aforementioned Declan Rice and Edson Alvarez, players such as Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni, Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Fiorentina’s Sofyan Ambrabat, and more recently PSV Eindhoven’s Ibrahim Sangare have all been linked with Bayern amongst players under consideration for the number six role.

Should the mystery be solved with an incoming transfer, that would likely result in either Ryan Gravenberch or Leon Goretzka if not both, seeking greener pastures before the end of the current transfer window.