Written by Charlie Ellis and Rhys Desmond
Having torn the league apart in 2021-22, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich look a shadow of their former selves this season. Dortmund and Union Berlin have topped the table in even amounts to the Bavarian giants this campaign, with Nagelsmann’s men scraping by since the turn of the year. Perhaps most notably, they’ve failed to truly replace the man who became a record-breaking goal-scorer in a variety of ways during his time at the club. Robert Lewandowski was still in the form of his life at the age of 34, and by the time he left the club remained a genuine candidate for the Ballon d’Or. Replacing a player of that magnitude is never easy, yet Bayern settled for only former Liverpool man Sadio Mané.Embed from Getty Images
Although the Liverpool man has always been clinical in front of goal, he’s never been an out-and-out centre-forward, or the type to lead the line in the commanding way of a Lewandowski type.
With that, we take a look at some of the best potential replacements if the Bavarian giants endeavour to fill the void that remains amiss.
BAYERN’S STYLE OF PLAYEmbed from Getty Images
Before examining the options, it’s important to assess Bayern’s style of play, and ensure an appropriate player-club fit. Robert Lewandowski made himself capable of fitting into Nagelsmann’s possession-based game, without ever needing to be on the ball. He played as the perfect foil for all the rampaging runners around him, while always being a natural outlet and ‘Target’ that could bring others into the game. But most importantly, he always knew where to be in the box to bang the ball into the back of the net.
While Nagelsmann might now be on his way out, his successor in Thomas Tuchel will supposedly deploy much of the same ‘press and possess’ principles.Embed from Getty Images
As a result, if Bayern endeavour for a player of a similar repertoire, that player must then be capable of filling that ‘Target’ void, playing possession-based football, and of course, they must be clinical in front of goal. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting has done okay whenever involved, but sometimes leaves more to be desired in the final third. He also happens to be the same age as Lewandowski (34), so he’ll slowly start to fade out of the side altogether. Nagelsmann often opted for a double centre-forward pairing between Thomas Müller and either Jamal Musiala or Sadio Mané.Embed from Getty Images
This incorporated much in the way of flair and interchange, without having that natural number nine up top to hammer home the finish. Thomas Tuchel previously played in a similar way at Chelsea, with two ‘floating 9’s’ who could roll in and out of the striker’s position as they pleased. But as Bayern slip away from the title race, a centre-forward of the Lewandowski mold should be a priority leading into next season.
With that, we now break down the top candidates for the job.
Aleksandar MitrovićEmbed from Getty Images
Aleksandar Mitrović has been the heart and soul of Fulham for years, but has only recently taken his game to new heights now at his peak age. Still only 28 years old, Mitrović has made headlines this season for the way he’s upped his dribbling through tight spaces, and his goal-scoring in what many consider the toughest league in the world. One of the leaders in Marco Silva’s side, Mitrović has everything you could want from a commanding presence up front. He’s absolutely fearless (sometimes to his own peril), strong as an ox, and has an astute awareness of what type of finish to use in different moments.
His 11 goals in 21 appearances amounts to nearly 30% of Fulham’s total this season, but his biggest asset remains his astounding strength in the air. The 6’2 Serb has won 4.6 aerial duels per 90 this season, to which only Chris Wood has managed more. What’s more? With 4 headed goals, only Harry Kane and Erling Haaland have topped his tally. Put him in the Bundesliga against defenders with the pace and precision but not necessarily the brute strength and force, and Mitro could be set up for success all the more.
The brute force that he exudes has the ability to pin opposition defenders back, creating more space for his midfielders to roam around as they please – in exactly the same manner that Müller achieved success in behind Lewandowski over the years. He’s never been the most mobile, but remains nearly impossible to dispossess due to his imposing frame and strong dribbling capabilities.
And while possessing that ‘Target’ persona, he’s also incredibly active and engaged all over the field – far more than Lewandowski.
Then when it comes to pressing and defending from the front, Mitrović possesses an aggressive engine, and again, never backs down from a fight. He wants to win every tackle, knows how and when to use his strength, and is completely comfortable bullying defenders off the ball. This fearless nature has culminated in a 61% defensive duelling percentage this campaign, a number that only Choupo-Moting bests among our candidate list.
So although this pick may seem like it’s out of left-field, there’s no reason why Aleksandar Mitrović wouldn’t be the perfect replacement for Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich.
Álvaro MorataEmbed from Getty Images
On the one hand, you could make the claim that Alvaro Morata has failed at every top-tier club he’s been a part of. On the other, he’s always scored goals at an underrated rate. This season has been particularly fruitful for the Spaniard, currently holding his best minutes per goal ratio (132) since 2017. Morata’s scored 10 goals in 26 appearances this season for Atletico, currently the team’s top goal-scorer.Embed from Getty Images
Perhaps most impressively, Morata has managed to make his presence felt for a team that play in a completely different style from his national side. Spain play in this beautiful possession-focused way, keeping the ball through tiki taka connections. Atletico Madrid on the other hand are more heavy metal in their approach, counter-attacking with verve and gusto. While both descriptions are vast simplifications, it’s still impressive that Morata has managed to adapt his game to fit each team’s system and style of play.Embed from Getty Images
Completely capable of leading the line on his own, Morata could then take his talents to Bayern Munich, for what would likely be a cheaper fee than all others on this list. Now 30 years of age, this move would be less likely to last. But then again, the Spaniard would offer his experience and play more similarly to Lewandowski, holding position and allowing others to garner the attention, as he lurks in the shadows.
Compared to Lewandowski, Morata’s more of a skillful player, capable of dancing around defenses. Most of his goals don’t just come with his first touch, but his second or third as he beats his man.
He loves to fake and cut the ball back, and his goal-scoring record with both feet is quite consistent. But he’s also surprisingly useful as a ‘Target’. His aerial success of 60.7% betters Mitrović, and makes the Atleti forward more effective on set-pieces and long pass retrievals. When it comes to translating that over to a presence in the penalty area, he’s nowhere near as clinical as the Fulham man or some of our later candidates, such as Victor Osimhen. But more positively, he’s still efficient on the defensive end – a critical reason as to why he’s continued to excel at Atletico Madrid. With a current market value of just €25 million, he’d likely be the most bang for the buck on the list.
Victor OsimhenEmbed from Getty Images
Currently the top scorer of Serie A, Victor Osimhen looks likely to be the next big money transfer target across Europe. He’s been a focal point to Napoli’s enormous season, putting them nineteen points clear, with his 21 goals in 23 appearances. Only Erling Haaland has managed more goals or xG per 90 than Osimhen in Europe’s top five leagues, and few can compete with his commanding presence in the penalty area.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s be real, Victor Osimhen is a different player to Robert Lewandowski. He’s more of a ‘Channel Runner’ – someone tasked with buzzing about the pitch and holding off defenders in the half-spaces as much as staying central and pinning defenders back. He always makes his presence felt in the box, but it’s through his astute awareness of space as much as his physical presence and frame.
With Napoli’s energetic style of play, Osimhen has accumulated more touches in the penalty area (6.3 per 90) than the vast majority of forwards in Europe’s top five leagues (top 4%).
Typically players in that category are not only astute about receiving the ball in the penalty area, but dominate through physicality and dribbling. Here we see Osimhen to be a player that can hold up the play for others, attract all the attention in the box, and even burst past defenders before slotting one over for someone else.
On the defensive end, he’s not always the most active within Napoli’s pressing scheme. Particularly since Napoli tend to adopt more of a mid-block as they let their opposition have the ball lower on the pitch. This isn’t necessarily a problem given his strength and physicality, and the fact that his possession-adjusted defensive numbers compare well to other forwards on this list – and significantly more than Choupo-Moting and Lewandowski.Embed from Getty Images
The massive downside to Osimhen is through no fault of his own – his price tag. Napoli spent €75million on him three years ago, and his market value has only risen since that date. Bayern are never one to splash the cash unnecessarily, with the €80 million signing of Lucas Hernandez their most expensive transfer. They’re notoriously savvy at negotiating good deals, but Osimhen’s fee may be out of their grasp.Embed from Getty Images
Nevertheless, at the age of just 24, Osimhen has to be one of the top targets for Die Roten. The Nigerian has the greatest room to grow into the squad and develop into whatever type of forward a manager wants him to be, rather than the rest of the team needing to play a certain way to suit his characteristics. Instead, Osimhen himself can adapt, as he focuses his energies toward causing havoc and scoring goals.
Lautaro MartínezEmbed from Getty Images
Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martínez is the most unique candidate on our list, given the variation in his attacking play. Ultimately, we are searching for a centre forward that will stay tight to the opposition’s centre backs and act as an outlet player, but Lautaro frequently moves away from the defensive line to help progress the ball behind the final line.
This is often a consequence of playing in a two-striker formation, and not being the tallest, most robust of centre-forwards. But having still scored 14 league goals (not to mention consistently being one of Serie A’s top scorers), the Argentine has proven that he doesn’t have to be a typical ‘Target Man’ to score goals.Embed from Getty Images
More of a ‘Creative Link’, Lautaro sweeps the rest of this shortlist in assists, progressive passes, through passes and passes into the final third. This isn’t the worst thing in the world from a Bayern perspective, but it would be a different way of playing. Lautaro has historically played as the foil to the ‘Target’ in the side, rather than acting as the focal point himself. It could allow the likes of Sadio Mané or Serge Gnabry to sprint in behind, and suit Tuchel’s previously used tactics at Chelsea, but would be a departure from the days of Lewandowski.
Lautaro Martinez is not the most ideal candidate when it comes to replacing Lewandowski, but he is one of the best candidates when it comes to finding a forward who will guarantee goals.
VerdictEmbed from Getty Images
Rhys – Rhys would sign Aleksandar Mitrović. He’s significantly cheaper than most options on the market, still at his peak age, and perfectly fits the mold of what’s been missing since the days of Lewandowski. The Fulham man is a useful ‘Target’ who commands the penalty area, but also someone who scores goals for fun.
Charlie – Charlie would splash the cash on Victor Osimhen, recognizing that if they want to compete for the Champions League, Bayern Munich need to sign one of the world’s best strikers again. Although different from Lewandowski, he both stylistically and statistically fits Bayern’s motto, while coming closer to matching Lewandowski’s eye for goal.
Embed from Getty Images
So there it is! Our analysis of how to replace Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich. Be sure to check out more of our Transfer Market Analyses, more on the Bundesliga, and follow on social media @mastermindsite.
Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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One thought on “Replacing Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich – Transfer Market Analysis”
Rasmus Höjlund for me.