COMMENT: So we have our ‘new Neymar’. Already. Just a fortnight since the deadline fell. Here we go again. He’ll go for between the €220m PSG paid for Neymar and the €180m they’ve committed to for Kylian Mbappe. Well, that’s what they’re saying in Germany…
The split is on. Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich. There’s no coming back from this. It’s staggering how it’s spiraled out of control. How Bayern’s board allowed it to happen. But it has and Europe’s biggest clubs are now circling.
It all began so innocently, “Bayern has to come up with something new and be creative,” declared Lewandowski, “if the club wants to keep luring world-class players to Munich”.
No calls to abandon transfer policy. No criticism of the club’s apparent fee ceiling of €40m. Just a humble suggestion in the wake of mega spending from the likes of PSG, Barcelona and Manchester City.
“And if you want to keep up at the very highest level, you need these players’ quality”, again, Bayern’s No9 was simply stating the bleedin’ obvious.
Yet, instead of playing diplomat, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern’s chief exec, for some reason took the suggestions as a personal insult and went on a rampage. Lewandowski’s loyalty was questioned. His respect for his teammates, for the Bayern support.
“It would be a pity, if he actually saw it that way,” declared Rummenigge. “Loyalty is part of Bayern’s DNA and very important to our fan”. Oh, but it went further, with Rummenigge even raising Lewy’s honesty.
“Whoever publicly criticises the club or his team-mates will get in trouble with me personally. He already made false claims last season following the Freiburg match, where he claimed he had not been supported enough.”
But it didn’t end there. The CEO also took aim at the striker’s agent, Maik Barthel and their relationship.
“Regrettably his agent often is his ‘Spiritus Rector’ [guiding light]. That was the case here, too. The interview was consciously organised around Bayern. He harms Robert with that.”
“…around Bayern”, as Rummenigge says, is code for an interview without the club’s permission – and made with the purpose to hurt them.
So there you have it. There’s no coming back from this. And the great irony is, if what Rummenigge is claiming is right, that Lewy and Barthel devised the original interview to push for a move away, he’s just played right into their hands.
No-one will blame Lewandowski should he begin speaking out more after Rummenigge’s meltdown. Loyalty? Honesty? Are you kidding? You’re going to question a player of Lewandowski’s standing and expect him to doff his cap and carry on?
But that’s just it, there has to be a suspicion that Rummenigge knows exactly what he’s doing. That his rant was all engineered with an eye on preparing fans for Lewy’s sale.
Y’see, they have previous, do Bayern. And you don’t have to go back far to find it. Bayern did the same with Douglas Costa. From the Brazilian quietly wondering out loud about a pay-rise, it escalated to him being offloaded to Juventus and Uli Hoeness, the Bayern president, branding him a “mercenary”. “We never liked him!” he declared with the ink not yet dry on Douglas Costa’s Juve deal.
So for Lewandowski. For Barthel. The split is on, with German sources already claiming at current market rates “a price of between €180m and €220m” can be legitimately demanded by Bayern – particularly after seeing Borussia Dortmund sell Ousmane Dembele to Barca for €150m.
No matter the price, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Lewandowski, willing to match his ambitions – and his contract demands. Spain, with Barca and Real Madrid long time admirers, is already being declared the Pole’s next destination in Germany. But both clubs would have to overcome major locker room politics to get a deal over the line.
In England, Manchester City have been mentioned. But again, if you just scratch the surface, it’s clear a lot of compromise would have to be found for Pep Guardiola to entertain having a centre-forward of Lewy’s ilk leading his line. Just ask Zlatan…
Real, Barca and City are the three most likely being pushed by the German press. But as a fit, there’s no better than Chelsea.
Shifting Diego Costa out. Failing to land Fernando Llorente. It’s clear Antonio Conte, the Blues manager, wants another centre-forward. And after a comparatively modest outlay this summer, Chelsea do have the spending power to bring Lewandowski to London.
And further north, there’s Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. Oh and FSG, the club’s owners. After resisting €100m-plus bids from Barca for Philippe Coutinho – and then slapping in a €90m deadline day offer of their own for Monaco winger Thomas Lemar, the transfer policy is shifting at Anfield. Add the relationship Klopp has with his former BVB striker and Liverpool don’t look such a rank outsider in this battle.
But no matter the offers, the foundations are in place. Forget Dembele. Even Neymar. Another huge name is ready to move between giants. Rummenigge and his gob has made sure of that.