While the bulk of Europe’s elite clubs enjoy quiet January transfer windows, Bayern Munich have moved to sign two of Germany’s brightest young talents. The arrivals of Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy from Hoffenheim may have raised eyebrows given their lack of profile outside of the Bundesliga, but this is yet another example of the Bavarians mastering the transfer market.
Sule – who had been heavily linked with Chelsea since the summer – arrives for a reported €20 million, but with Bayern not having to pay a penny to bring in Rudy alongside the centre-back, the cost of signing both suddenly does not seem so daunting. The pair have played key roles in Hoffenheim’s unbeaten league season to date and will boost a squad that is yet to hit top gear consistently under Carlo Ancelotti.
But where will they fit in among a roster of world stars?
Sule is widely regarded as one of the two most naturally gifted young defenders in Germany alongside Jonathan Tah, and though Bayern can boast a wealth of talent in his position in the shape of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez, there are still likely to be opportunities for Sule to make a name for himself in Munich.
Boateng has been plagued by injury problems for well over six months while speculation is beginning to grow that Martinez is looking to return to Spain in the near future. Sule is a ready-made replacement for either while he quickly fills the gap left by Holger Badstuber’s departure for Schalke earlier in the month. At 21, Bayern could easily get 15 years of service out of the defender and in turn nurture a player who has the potential to go on and become a regular at international level.
And while Sule is undoubtedly the more talented of the two new arrivals, Rudy could well become far more important when it comes to being a key squad member. At 26 he is entering the prime of his career and looks set to fill a series of gaps that could emerge over the next two years.
Rudy’s best position is in a defensive midfield role, and with Xabi Alonso out of contract at the end of this season then it is in that role that he could find himself in most often. The hope at Bayern remains that Renato Sanches will be able to prove his worth following his big-money move from Benfica, but Rudy offers an insurance policy should the talented Portuguese fail to fulfil his potential.
If he is unable to hold down a regular place in midfield, he could still have a future at right-back. Phillip Lahm is the current incumbent, but retirement is just round the corner for the World Cup-winning captain. The common belief is that he will hang up his boots in 2018, but Rudy’s arrival could hasten that decision and move it forward 12 months. His back-up, Rafinha, is 31 himself and is unlikely to get any better.
While some will tag Rudy as a ‘utlity player’ who lacks the talent to hold down one particular role, he has the potential to become a key squad member under Ancelotti as Bayern begin to undergo a rebuild with a series of experienced stars heading towards the end of their careers.
Both he and Sule have enough talent time on their sides to help ensure Bayern can sustain their levels of recent years, and at a combined €20m may well be seen as a snip in a decade’s time. A new Bayern is on the way, and their two latest signings have what it takes to help spearhead the changing of the guard.