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Lewandowski loss leaves Bayern light, but will it be Mane or a new signing who fills the void?
Lewandowski
Lewandowski loss leaves Bayern light

BEST OF THE REST

Put simply, Bayern surely cannot match those numbers with one player alone. If it is a pure goalscorer the German champions are after to fill the void, the aforementioned Benzema would be their best bet, the Real Madrid striker having scored 44 goals in 46 games last time out.

Persuading Madrid to let go of their focal point in attack would be nigh-on impossible, of course, likewise with Kylian Mbappe – Europe’s third most prolific player in the 2021-22 season (39 goals in 46 games) – at Paris Saint-Germain.

Next on that particular list is RB Leipzig’s highly-rated talent Cristopher Nkunku, who scored 35 goals in 52 matches last season and also chipped in with 16 assists. When purely weighing up goal involvements, Nkunku was only five short of Lewandowski last season, in a team with far less quality.

Indeed, Nkunku’s 35 strikes last season came from an expected goals (xG) value of 28.23, meaning that he found the net 6.77 times more than he should have judging by the quality of the chances. Only Benzema (9.9) can better than across Europe’s top five leagues.

Nkunku is not strictly a number nine, though, and his arrival – even if Bayern could tempt Leipzig into selling – would mean Julian Nagelsmann having to adapt his system in the final third of the field.


FORGET KANE… GO FOR KALAJDZIC

The likes of Timo Werner, Patrick Schick and Harry Kane are other names to have been touted as possible replacements for Lewandowski. Kane in particular would suit Bayern’s system, and Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn admitted last week it would be a “dream” signing – while at the same time completely dismissing a move for wantaway Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

With another couple of years to run on Kane’s contract, however, and Tottenham demanding a nine-figure sum from Manchester City this time last year, the Bavarians would have to spend big to bring in the England international.

For a club that has only once spent in excess of €40m on an attacking player – Leroy Sane from Manchester City two years ago – and having already splashed the cash to bring in Mane from Liverpool, that seems unlikely to happen.

There is more than goals alone to judging just how good a striker is, of course, and some players are certainly more attainable than others. Look no further than Sasa Kalajdzic, who boasts a number of qualities suited to Nagelsmann, not least his presence in the box.

At six foot and seven inches, Kalajdzic is one of the tallest players around and knows how to put that to good use, with exactly half of his 22 Bundesliga goals coming via his head.

Despite playing just 22 top-flight matches since his Stuttgart debut at the end of the 2019-20 season, those 11 headed goals are bettered only by Andre Silva (12) and – him again – Lewandowski (13), who have played 45 and 83 games in that period respectively.

Kalajdzic may have missed most of last season through injury, but six goals in 15 games for a side involved in a relegation scrap suggests he is a player with plenty of potential and, just as importantly, likely to be gettable, as Stuttgart director Sven Mislintat recently admitted given the 25-year-old is out of contract next year.

MANE AND GNABRY TO STEP UP?

Away from the dream options and outside picks to take over from Lewandowski, Kahn himself said last week that in Mane his side already have a ready-made replacement.

Position wise that is not technically true, of course, but there is no doubt that Mane’s goals return across his six seasons with Liverpool was mightily impressive.

With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, he averaged a goal every 189 minutes – exactly one every two matches. Mane also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes. 

In the Premier League, only Kane (134), former team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (104) scored more goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.

Unlike with Liverpool’s front three, Bayern have been used to having one focal point up top in Lewandowski.

Serge Gnabry, who recently signed a contract extension at the Allianz Arena, can also play through the middle if called upon, and has done so to good effect for the Germany national side.

If reports from the German media are to be believed, that is the route Nagelsmann will have to go down for the 2022-23 season until a big-name number nine can be recruited further down the line.

Whether it will work will be intriguing to see, with the only certainty in all this being that Bayern can no longer turn to go-to man Lewandowski in their time of need.

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