Manuel Veth –
It did not take long until after Philipp Lahm announced his retirement from football in the summer, for the rumour mill in Germany to kick into gear on who could replace the right-back at Bayern. Always prolific when it comes to producing news based on Germany’s Rekordmeister, the magazine, Sport-Bild, claimed that Bayern had geared up Bayer Leverkusen’s talent, Benjamin Henrichs, to replace Lahm.
Although Joshua Kimmich has demonstrated that he can play as a wing-back, there is no doubt that, with Lahm retiring, München will sign a new right-back next summer. We have listed a few players who could immidetely come in to replace Philipp Lahm:
Benjamin Henrichs, Bayer Leverkusen, Germany, 19 – The Favourite
According to Sport-Bild, Bayern have already opened negotiations with Bayer Leverkusen over signing the player next summer. The paper further claims that, originally, Henrichs was supposed to be brought in in the summer of 2018, which would have been the end of Lahm’s contract before he announced that he would retire prematurely in the summer of 2017.
Henrichs, who is under contract at Bayer Leverkusen until 2020, is currently worth €10 million. It is, therefore, expected that Bayern would have to pay around €15 million to €20 million for Henrichs, who debuted for the national team in November in Germany’s 8-0 victory against San Marino, and is considered the future when it comes to who will play right-back for die Nationalmannschaft.
Benjamin Henrichs debuted for Bayer Leverkusen in the second half of last season, and quickly established himself as Roger Schmidt’s number one choice on the right side. This season, Henrichs has featured in 17 Bundesliga games, and played all six Champions League group stage games. The downside to Benjamin Henrichs is the fact that he was not originally schooled on the right-back position, but actually played as an attacking forward at the youth level.
Furthermore, at just 19-years of age, replacing an icon like Philipp Lahm could be a tough ask for Benjamin Henrichs. Bayern München have always been a shark tank for young players, and it remains to be seen if Henrichs has what it takes to play at Germany’s biggest club.
Jonas Hector, 1. FC Köln, Germany, 26 – The Left-Back
Jonas Hector has been linked with a big money move to a big European side since he helped Köln fight off relegation in the 2014-15 season. Hector, who debuted for Germany in a 4-0 victory over Gibraltar on November 14, 2014, has stood out for his versatility. The native of Saarbrücken has played most of his professional career with Köln as a left-back.
But, starting last season, Hector was also used in midfield by Köln head coach, Peter Stöger. Intelligence and versatility are perhaps the biggest parallels between Philipp Lahm, and Jonas Hector. This season, Hector played eight games as a defensive midfielder, seven as a left-back, three as a left midfielder, and one game in central midfield.
National team coach, Joachim Löw, in the meantime, has used Hector primarily in the back four as a left back, or as a left midfielder when playing with three in the back. The problem, of course, is that Hector would not directly replace Lahm on the right side, but instead would just add another option to David Alaba on the left side. Futhermore, Hector has been reluctant to leave Köln, and has even stated that he would like to reach European football with the club that discovered him while he was playing amateur football in the Saarland.
Last summer, Hector extended his contract with Köln to 2021, reportedly rejecting a big money move to Bayern, Dortmund, and England. As a result, Jonas Hector is a bit of a long shot for Bayern when it comes to finding a replacement for Lahm.
Sebastian Rudy, 1899 Hoffenheim, 26, The Forgotten Replacement
It has been a month since it was first leaked that, in the summer, Bayern München would sign both Niklas Süle, and Sebastian Rudy from league competitor 1899 Hoffenheim. Süle, of course, has been signed to provide Carlo Ancelotti with another centre-back and, consequently, the ability to, perhaps, play with three in the back. Sebastian Rudy, on the other hand, was understood to be a versatile squad player, who could potentially replace Xabi Alonso, and act as a backup to Philipp Lahm.
Although Rudy prefers to play in central midfield, he has also demonstrated that he can play right back. With Bayer Leverkusen always a tough negotiation partner, it could be possible that Bayern will not sign a right-back at all, and will instead use Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rudy, and the Brazilian Rafinha. This solution would be the least attractive for Bayern fans, who expect their board to make extraordinary signings every summer—but it could very well represent the most sensible solution.
No right back at all
The signature of Niklas Süle shows that Bayern could look to switch to three in the back in the long term. Carlo Ancelotti has been somewhat reluctant to use that formation this season, however. But, with rumours that Hoffenheim’s head coach, Julian Nagelsmann, who prefers playing with three in the back, could take over at some point, signing no right-back at all could be a realistic scenario for Bayern as they move forward.
In any case the departure of Philipp Lahm has set the wheels in motion at Bayern, and it will be interesting to see how the decision makers will respond to the challenge of replacing one of the most prolific players of his generation.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.