Mueller, Lahm extend, but questions remain
Despite rumours of Munich's players faltering loyalties from... well, everyone... Bayern's Philipp Lahm and Thomas Mueller have extended their contracts until 2018 and 2019, respectively, as first reported by Bild's premium-site Tuesday -- with the official press release coming from the club on Wednesday morning via the Bayern website. And not a moment too soon for many Bayern fan's tastes, as the sharks have certainly been circling since manager Pep Guardiola brought his new system to the Allianz Arena after Jupp Heynckes had won the treble the year previous.
- Report: Lahm and Mueller extend contracts
Lahm, the diminutive right-back/holding midfielder -- as captain of FCB, and also "the most intelligent player I've ever coached" according to Guardiola -- would never want away elsewhere (and why would he?), but for Mueller the matter is finally put to rest. Despite being a homegrown Bavarian (like Lahm) -- Weilheim, his hometown, is just 50km from Munich -- he's been with Bayern since 2000, and has been targeted on everyone's hot list. Especially Manchester United's.
Mueller's confessed love for Louis van Gaal -- going back to their time spent together at Bayern -- might have fanned the flames of a transfer: "It's not a secret that [he] and I have a relationship that goes a bit further than a normal trainer-coach relationship," Mueller said to Sport Bild regarding the current Netherlands head coach and new Man United boss. "[But] I really enjoy playing for Bayern. There's not really anything better than this."
Not all at Bayern Munich feel the same loyalty to the club as Mueller and Lahm do, however, and the reasons are varied. In Toni Kroos' case, it's all about money. Out of contract with Bayern Munich in July 2015, around midpoint last season, Kroos' agents began to try to pressure Bayern into offering wages commensurate with Mario Goetze, Franck Ribery and other Bayern superstars by using a transfer to Man United as bait. The Bayern brass offered a raise -- rumoured to be between four and five million euros, pre-tax -- but the offer was rejected by Kroos' people, and the stalemate began.
In April, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: "[He] is sure to wear Bayern Munich shirt next year," and Volker Struth -- one of Kroos' handlers told Bild: "There is no need [for Manchester United] to make an official offer, because Toni Kroos will play at FC Bayern at least until 2015." But, as the situation now intimates, will the club let Kroos leave for free at the end of the 2014-15 season?
The case for letting him walk stems from health issues with Thiago Alcantara and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The young Spaniard has suffered a number of setbacks since joining the club, and the aging German is doing just that -- aging. Bayern can certainly afford to not make any money on Kroos, but that's also the case against. The club's finances, and the way they run their business, are admired around the world. Would they take the loss of tens of millions to keep him around for one more year? Only time will tell, as lately Real Madrid is rumoured to be sniffing around.
The issue for Croatia's Mario Mandzukic is not money, but playing style under Guardiola. Despite coming in second to Robert Lewandowski for the Bundesliga's top scoring prize on the season, he and Guardiola were not able to see eye-to-eye as he told Croatian newspaper Sportske Novosti: "I met Karl Heinz Rummenigge before the cup final and told him I wanted to leave the club. I've had a fantastic time at Bayern. It's a great club and I never thought I'd want to leave, and especially not at this point in time. "But, let's be honest, I cannot play to my strengths under Guardiola's style -- no matter how hard I try.... It's best for all parties that we go our separate ways."
- Report: Manzukic: Pep's style doesn't suit me
If he were being perfectly honest, Mandzukic might have mentioned that Lewandowski's imminent move to Bayern unsettled him. A lot. And while he still performed very well throughout the season, the signs he wanted out began showing early. He was disciplined mid-season by the club for not giving his all at practice, before mocking Guardiola in the dressing room after Bayern's 4-0 home loss to Real Madrid. And that would be the last straw, as the Bayern coach held Mandzukic out of the German Cup final. "He is capable of playing, but that is my decision [to leave him out]. That's all," Guardiola said in the pre-match press conference.
Although the testy Croatian and his agent had hoped to have a new deal settled before the start of the World Cup, it looks unlikely that will happen now. Regardless, he'll fit perfectly in England with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United reportedly all interested in the big goal poacher.
The player that I'd thought would most definitely leave for greener pastures, Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, now is looking likely to stay. After only getting eight starts in the league last season, and spending two months sidelined with injury, his brother/agent told Blick in March: "Xherdan is 22. You need to win regular minutes at this age and that, right now, is not the case."
Five days later, Shaqiri would back-track on his brother's statement, telling Sport1: "I have never said I am unhappy being at Bayern Munich, I never said I want to move on. I like it very much and I am not thinking about leaving.
"My brother's opinion was written a bit differently to what he actually said. But, of course, if a top club comes in, then you've got to consider it -- but every player is like that."
But the fact remains that Shaqiri requires more regular playing time -- when healthy. And while I'm sure he would never be happy about Ribery's recent rash of injury troubles -- the Frenchman now unfit for the World Cup -- he does stand to gain the most from them.