Bernat offers another left-side option
Bayern Munich's signing of left-back/winger Juan Bernat from Valencia goes down as a transfer coup that flew completely under the radar,
The 21-year-old spent his entire youth and senior career at Valencia, while featuring for every Spanish youth team from under-16 through under-21. Bernat becomes the third Spaniard at the Saebener Strasse, joining compatriots Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez.
At only 5-foot-7, Bernat is not physically intimidating, but he makes up for it with incredible speed up the flank. Given his young age, this looks to be a smart move for Bayern moving into the future.
Why sign Bernat now? After all, Bayern has David Alaba, one of the most dynamic left-backs in the world. Put simply, manager Pep Guardiola is enamored with having two starting players in every position for competition and for insurance in case of injury. This move means the club has a viable backup for the Austrian, and Bernat is an upgrade on the previous reserve, Diego Contento.
30-year-old Franck Ribery is not getting any younger-- or seemingly any healthier-- so shoring up the left side of the pitch with the addition of Bernat, plus the possible promotion to the first-team squad of United States international Julian Green, gives Guardiola and Bayern Munich some flexibility in the upcoming season.
Alaba can be utilised on the left wing in Ribery's absence or moved to a more central-midfield role -- as he's accustomed to playing with his national team -- while Guardiola gets different tactical tools going forward, as he slowly moulds this Bayern squad into his vision.
Of course, all of this likely spells the end for Contento's time at the club. Underutilised in the past few seasons, the 24-year-old has been rumoured to be looking for a summer move away regardless of the Bernat transfer, with SSC Napoli among those clubs linked.
So far this summer, Bayern have signed Robert Lewandowski, Sebastian Rode and Juan Bernat for a measly net spend of 10 million euros. When compared to other clubs' high-flying deals, it looks like FCB's reputation for outstanding business acumen is still intact; however, there's still the matter of selling Mario Mandzukic, and possibly Toni Kroos, at a profit.
Between them, the pair could bring in as much as 70 million euros. The Croatian should fetch close to his market price, but Bayern is still on the fence about letting Kroos walk away for free after the 2014-15 season or trying to get as much as possible for him now. Perhaps the Bernat transfer is a catalyst for a departure, as Guardiola seems to be stocking up for eventualities at this point.
Things look to be almost set -- barring the fates of those two -- going forward into a very short summer, with the rumoured transfer of Costa Rica and Levante keeper Keylor Navas another possibility. Manuel Neuer's current backup, Tom Starke, is to spend another season with the Bavarians, but Navas' arrival would see him claim the spot behind the German international.
If it does happen, it would be an odd move. Given Navas' World Cup heroics, it would be strange for him to move to a club he won't start for, but stranger things have certainly happened. He'd be welcomed with open arms, for sure, but how long would he be content to stay around?
Susie Schaaf is longtime blogger for ESPN. She co-hosts the only English-speaking Bayern Munich podcast @Rekord_Pod and talks Bundesliga on BBC World Service and SiriusXM FC. Follow her on Twitter @fussballsusie.