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Bayern Munich celebrated a fourth Bundesliga title in a row on Saturday, albeit without beer, with a 1-2 win at Ingolstadt, but by Tuesday the work was being put in place to secure a fifth. Pep Guardiola, the manager who has delivered the last three triumphs, will leave for Manchester City this summer but the Bavarians are preparing to make the transition to his successor Carlo Ancelotti as smooth as possible by completing their transfer business early.
Renato Sanches, Benfica’s 18 year old winger who has long been targeted by Manchester United, will join for £27.5 million, while Mats Hummels joins from Borussia Dortmund in a deal that meets the €40 million “non-negotiable” price-tag that was placed upon him in Westphalia. Bayern have an 8 point cushion over second placed Dortmund going into the final game, 27 points separate them from third placed Bayer Leverkusen, and with the money already being flashed in Bavaria there appears no plausible end in sight to their hegemony.
Dortmund were the last team other than Bayern to win the Bundesliga, under Jurgen Klopp back in 2012, but now the last embers of that team are breaking up as Ilkay Gundogan looks set to be joining Guardiola in Manchester and Hummels joins back up with Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski at the Allianz Arena.
Dortmund have been refreshed under the innovative management of Thomas Tuchel and still have the chance to mark his inaugural year in charge with some silverware in the German Cup as they face Bayern in next week’s final, though it seems that any wishes to create a settled and successful team are being undermined by the same forces that blocked his predecessor.
The departure of Hummels will leave an unsavoury taste in the mouths of Dortmund fans who have listened to the defender respond to Gotze’s move south by saying “there is no footballing reason to leave Dortmund, I don’t feel I have to play at the biggest club in the world in order to win titles.”
He has since clearly changed his mind and last month openly told Dortmund he wanted to leave for their biggest rivals, furtherly opening up the wound by describing the club’s responding statement as “shitty”.
It is a move again symbiotic of the advantage Bayern have over their closest title challengers and a reminder to Tuchel of the hurdles he faces after the exits of Gotze and Lewandowski irreversibly damaged Klopp’s regime.
Like those transfers it will leave a bitter taste on the steep banks of the Westfalenstadion and Dortmund’s fans are set to let the defender know exactly how they feel about the move as the curtain draws on their domestic season against Wolfsburg on Saturday.
The recent reaction to the possibility of re-signing Gotze was indicative of the anger they still hold for him three years on and while the send-off for Hummels is likely to be similar, it is difficult not to have sympathy for the centre-half when his motives are considered.
Bayern of course can offer Hummels a salary in a whole different universe to the £55k-a-year he earned at Dortmund, there are eight players earning over £150,000 per year at the Allianz Arena while Marco Reus is Dortmund’s highest earner on £120,000, but it is easy to believe Hummels’ decision was far more studied than just having banknotes flash up in his eyes.
It is a matter of ambition; Dortmund have not won a major trophy since 2012 and now at the age of 27 time is running out for Hummels. “I would prefer one Champions League title with Dortmund to six with another club” he once said, but it has become obvious that dreams are not always realistic or ideal.
There is the motivation of proving he can make it at the club from which he was sold for just £4 million back in 2009 having joined the club as a 6 year old and broken through the club’s academy system. Hummels also has plenty of family living in and around Munich and it is said that his wife favours life in the Bavarian city.
With Bayern desperately needing to bolster a defence in which Mehdi Benatia has struggled, Holger Badstuber has rarely been fit enough to appear in and David Alaba has had to play as an auxiliary centre-back alongside Jerome Boateng, Hummels was the outstanding candidate.
“Mats is one of the best central defenders in the world. With him on board we’ll improve the quality in our team even more,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Ancelotti will now have the chance to reunite the central-defensive partnership that won Germany the World Cup in 2014 and with a stronger foundation than Guardiola managed to construct during his time in Bavaria, there will be designs to land the Champions League that proved elusive to the Catalan.
Dortmund meanwhile will pocket the massive £26 million profit they will make on Hummels but will struggle to find a replacement for the natural authority and experience, together with the ball-playing qualities their outgoing centre-half has.
Hard to replace
They will find it as hard to replace Hummels as they did Gotze and Lewandowski and in a league where Bayern’s grip has been tightened even further, they could be left floundering once more.
Tuchel’s first season may end with a trophy success, but it will end with the challenge of negotiating the latest harsh reminder of where Dortmund truly stand.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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