After months of speculation, Schalke 04 confirmed that Alexander Nübel will join Bayern Munich this summer on a free transfer. The 23 year-old is the projected successor to Bayern’s current number one, Manuel Neuer. At the same time, however, Neuer looks set to sign a new contract that could see him stay at Säbener Strasse until 2023.
The move is less risky for Bayern. At 33, Neuer is not the keeper he once was. Age has taken its toll and a growing list of concerning injuries have kept him sidelined for months at a time. Bringing in one of Germany’s rising stars will strengthen an already deep squad.
However, one has to ask if this benefits Nübel’s development. Although he might become Bayern’s future number one, playing a bit-part role for two years could prove to be detrimental. This would negatively affect Bayern as well.
Alexander Nübel Has Taken a Risk by Joining Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer is Still Bayern’s Captain and Number One
While Neuer is clearly not what he once was, the former Schalke man is still one of the top five goalkeepers in Europe. It is hard to see a youngster with just 35 professional appearances unseat the German veteran. If Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen is number two to Neuer in Joachim Löw’s eyes, it is highly unlikely that Nübel will start in the Bundesliga or Champions League.
Bayern have stated that the plan is to have both goalkeepers split playing time in the upcoming season. This situation is similar to the two goalkeeper strategy that Luis Enrique employed in Barcelona’s treble winning 2014/15 campaign. Claudio Bravo was the La Liga keeper, while Ter Stegen played in cup matches and Champions League.
Neither of those players, however, have the personality or legendary status of Neuer. Multiple reports have claimed that he is uninterested in splitting playing time with any goalkeeper, a completely unsurprising revelation. If the two-keeper strategy fails, Bayern would be wise to immediately loan Nübel out to a side where he will play every weekend.
Bayern Have Been Snapping Up Germany’s Young Talents for Decades
Nübel’s decision to join Bayern is unsurprising to anyone that follows German football. For decades, Bayern have been enticed almost every single up-and-coming talent in Germany, often at the detriment to the player’s development. A future with the German national team, domestic dominance, and deep runs in the Champions League are temptations that many players simply cannot turn down. Neuer, Serge Gnabry, Benjamin Pavard, and Joshua Kimmich are all recent examples of this strategy working positively for both player and club.
In contrast, there are many examples of young Bundesliga talents seeing their careers stall after a move to Bayern. Freiburg striker Nils Petersen moved to Bayern after an impressive 2010/11 2. Bundesliga campaign. In the coming two years, the striker made just nine appearances in total before moving to Werder Bremen in 2013.
Lukas Podolski transferred to Bayern after being named the best young player of the 2006 World Cup over the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The decision proved disastrous for the young German’s development. Experienced strikers Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose were preferred by managers Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jürgen Klinsmann. Podolski returned to 1. FC Köln three seasons later, having spent vital years of his development wallowing away on the bench. The German never became the player that many had hoped he would.
Currently, 20-year-old Michaël Cuisance has played just 30 minutes of football for Bayern since his summer move from Borussia Mönchengladbach. The talented French midfielder made 41 appearances for Die Fohlen over the last two seasons. Cuisance seems to have taken a major step backwards. The midfielder is now playing for Bayern’s b-side in the 3. Bundesliga.
Will Alexander Nübel’s Decision to Join Bayern Prove Costly?
In the second half of the 2018/19 season, Alexander Nübel became Shalke’s number one, replacing Ralf Fährmann. Since February, he has played every minute of Schalke’s matches until his red card earlier this month against Eintracht Frankfurt. In those 15 league matches, Nübel conceded 16 goals and kept four clean sheets.
Many in the Germany media have dunned him the neuer Neuer, the “new Neuer.” Unlike Nübel, Neuer made over 150 appearances for Die Königsblauen before joining Bayern. Nothing is better for a young player’s development than to play as much as possible. Many ask the question as to why Nübel would leave Schalke now to play less. Staying for another two or three seasons would give him an incredible amount of top-flight experience. At the same time, Ter Stegen did not become Barcelona’s number one overnight, but after two seasons.
Bayern have often been criticised for raiding the Bundesliga of its young talent, but there are no signs of change. Neuer could severely drop in form or get injured, paving the way for Nübel to play consistently, but nothing is guaranteed. History has proven multiple times over that moving to Bayern while in the developmental stage is incredibly risky, but like so many before him, Nübel seems to be blinded by the rewards.