How do you replace one of Bayern’s best ever players? Some would say the task is impossible, but it is a question the Bundesliga champions will have to answer when Philipp Lahm retires at the end of the season.
Bayern have plenty of players qualified to take the captaincy in Lahm’s stead, but a replacement at right back may be a little harder to find. Here are a few of the players Bayern might turn to.
Rafinha initially seems the obvious choice to replace Lahm, purely as a result of his place in the Bayern pecking order. The Brazilian is no stranger to filling Lahm’s shoes and he did just that in the 2013-14 season, when Pep Guardiola moved Lahm to center midfield. Rafinha is just two years younger than Lahm and only under contract until the end of the next season, but he would be a solid interim option as Bayern seek a long-term replacement.
That could be Joshua Kimmich, the player who replaced Lahm in the German backline after his retirement in 2014. Kimmich was a revelation for Germany coach Joachim Löw at the last European Championship in France, but Ancelotti has played him more in midfield this season. Whether his future lies in midfield in defense is still unclear, and whether his ability in the middle of the park casts doubts over whether Kimmich is the best replacement for Lahm in the long run.
Another versatile defensive reinforcement for Bayern will arrive after the season. Sebastian Rudy, who signed a four-year contract with the club in January, has also played on the right side of defense both for club and for country. But his performances at full back did not impress Löw enough to include him in Germany’s squad for Euro 2016, so it seems unlikely that Ancelotti will commit to the Hoffenheim man as a first choice defender.
Recruiting a replacement
German sports magazine Sport Bild reported that Bayern see Bayer Leverkusen defender Benjamin Henrichs as a possible heir to the 33-year-old. The 19-year-old came through the ranks at Leverkusen as an attacking midfielder but has played almost exclusively in defense in his first full season as a professional. He also won his first cap for the German national team in their World Cup qualifier against San Marino in November. Henrichs has a contract with Leverkusen until June, 2020, so Bayern would have to pony up some serious cash to pry him away from the Werkself.
Bayern has also reportedly shown interest in Hoffenheim defender Jeremy Toljan in the past. The 22-year-old started every one of Germany’s games at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and was becoming a regular at Hoffenheim before suffering an injury during the Bundesliga’s midseason break. Toljan, who like Lahm can play either side of the defense, is only under contract until the end of the 2017-18 season, which might make his recruitment a little less expensive.